Written by: Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star
ANDERSON, Ind. — I felt like a wide-eyed little kid approaching the bank teller with my first-ever lemonade-stand deposit.
“Ummmm, I think I want an exacta box with the 1, 3, 5 and 7 horses,” I told the nice lady at Hoosier Park.
She smiled, and not just because she was taking my $12 bet.
“This is your first time, isn’t it?” she asked, fully knowing the answer.
What gave me away? The sweating? The fact I had to read the words right off my notebook? Perhaps she could hear my internal conversation:
Pick-4 . . . no, that’s not it. What’s an exacta box? How many horses do I need to finish in the top three? How’s all this different from a superfecta? When will my brain explode, and can’t I just go play blackjack in the casino?
“Maybe you’ll have beginner’s luck,” she said, still smiling.
Yeah, beginner’s luck.
Two of the horses I picked battled it out for last place. The other two finished only a little closer to the winner.
Life as a gambler. And one heck of a wonderful day, and night, at Hoosier Park.
I’ll be honest here: I’ve been to only one horse track in my life — Churchill Downs, which isn’t a bad one if you’re going to attend one track — but had absolutely no idea what was going on at that Kentucky Derby. If memory serves, I wrote that day about hats and my failed attempt to get to the Queen of England’s private box.
You can take everything I know about horse racing (and several other subjects), pour it into a thimble and still have plenty left over for a martini with three olives.
In fact, it wasn’t until I showed up Thursday that I came to understand the difference between thoroughbreds and standardbreds, the difference between pacers and trotters.
Go ahead, quiz me:
What’s the difference between a thoroughbred and standardbred?
To put it in basketball terms, or something I understand, a thoroughbred is Kevin Durant: long, lithe, capable of great speed and power but a little bit brittle.
The standardbred, which ran in the night’s harness races, is like Kendrick Perkins, but without the scowl: tough, muscular, sturdy, capable of going greater distances and running more frequently at less breakneck speeds.
What’s the difference between a pacer and a trotter?
A pacer’s right legs go in one direction while the left legs go in the other direction. It’s an odd gait, not unlike our friend Kendrick Perkins. But that’s how they’re bred to run, just as I’ve been suitably bred to drink beer and lie around the house.
How do you like them horse apples?
Speaking of which, I am happy to report that the horse who took me on my first harness ride, along with driver Trent Stohler, has a very solid, high-fiber diet.
Tearful Reunion, who is now my horse, left a hefty trail of manure on the limestone track. I have no way of proving this, but I think it made him run faster. Horses in competition get up to about 30 to 35 mph. For my ride, Tearful Reunion was going about 20.
Not exactly a two-seater at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but thrilling nonetheless.
“Here, you take the reins,” Stohler told me. “Pull on the left one, he’ll go left. Pull on the right, he’ll go right. Pull on both, he’ll slow down.”
Which seemed simple until I tried to guide Tearful Reunion, who seemed to be interested in running off track and into the giant lake in the middle of Hoosier Park. “I think something spooked him,” Stohler said.
Yeah, like the idiot holding the reins.
I discovered that horses are like teenage kids: The more you try to set them in a certain direction, the harder you pull on the reins, the more likely it is they’ll do whatever the heck they want.
“Here,” Stohler said, “I’ll take them.”
At which point, Tearful Reunion behaved and returned to a safe pace around the seven-eighths mile long track.
By the way, Tearful Reunion is a stud. So we had that in common.
I’ll be honest again here, too: My completely ignorant impression of horse tracks was that they were populated exclusively by degenerate gamblers who don’t appear to have showered since the Carter administration.
I expected a certain cross section of our population, old men with cigs dangling from their lips, ratty clothes, and a far-away look in their eyes.
Maybe that’s true at some places, but at Hoosier Park?
“We’re the best track for families going,” said Hoosier Park’s Tim Konkle, my gracious host for the day.
There were families, and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my family at some future date. The clientele was decidedly middle class and upper crust (based totally on first impressions). It was almost disappointing; I was expecting whacked-out railbirds with dirty hands and rolled-up racing forms in their back pockets.
No such luck. I hate when my preconceived notions are blown to smithereens.
Hoosier Park isn’t just a horse track and a casino. It has concerts. It has fireworks. It has a pristine-looking clubhouse with white table cloths and menu items like seared ahi tuna, Kobe beef burgers and Chilean sea bass. I was expecting nachos with ersatz cheese.
Nope. Not on the menu.
But I came to win money.
“You have a hundred bucks,” my wife told me. “Remember, we just dropped a bunch of cash on our daughter’s open house. We’re tight this week.”
Now, I’m not in the habit of simply giving away money, so I dutifully scanned the horses’ past performances. Why, I don’t know. There were lots of acronyms and numbers, and it might as well have been written in some obscure Ukrainian dialect. All I understood were the odds, which, in the end, change as the pari-mutuel bets come in from across the country.
So I relied on my two betting studs, Konkle and Hoosier Park publicist Emily Gaskin.
Konkle, I was told, couldn’t miss last Saturday. And Gaskin knows horses so well, she picked out a $900 horse as a graduation gift, and that horse won more than $200,000 in harness racing.
Then we promptly got our brains beat in.
We tried exactas, superfectas and a couple of bets that I couldn’t even begin to describe, and things didn’t go well.
“We just lost to a 39-1 shot,” Gaskin groused.
At one point, I had so many losing tickets, you could have lit them and started a small forest fire.
One time, on a $30 bet, we won. I was totally excited. My first win ever.
Except the horses paid $28.75, so I won and lost $1.25.
Don’t spend more than $100.
“You should do a pick-4,” Gaskin said. “Pick the next four winners in the next four races.”
So I put my handicapping skills to work, skills not unlike those owned by my late mother, who used to pick NFL games based on how well she liked the team’s uniforms. She usually crushed me.
I took Getontheway in the first race, since my driver, Trent Stohler, was on that horse.
I picked Canadian Justice in the second because I’m a huge hockey fan and used to spend lots of time in Canada.
I chose Amy Jo’s Angel next because, well, I was in love with a girl named Amy in high school. Sadly, she was not aware I existed as a life form at the time. Her loss.
Finally, I picked Bluebird Kidsqueen, the rationale being that I spent many idle hours at the Bluebird in Bloomington during my college years. Actually saw a young John Cougar there, but that’s another story.
I didn’t win any of them.
Ultimately, I probably broke even, although over time, I started to impress the nice cashier with my improving knowledge of superfectas and exacta boxes. (And it’s not brain surgery; if you don’t know the game, there is lots of information available to guide you through the various bets. And they’re very nice to newcomers, likely because they enjoy taking and investing your cash.)
“Sorry we couldn’t help you pick more winners,” Konkle said.
You kidding? This was one of the most enjoyable days I had all summer.
I wasn’t done, though.
With most of my original $100 still in hand, I hit the casino and played video blackjack with a dealer so nice, she fist-bumped players every time they beat her hand.
I’m used to Vegas dealers, who chortle every time they turned a 3 into a five-card 21.
I ran my winnings from $50 to $200 but didn’t have the ability to walk away. A half-hour later, I’d lost it all. Which proves that with gambling, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you do or don’t know what you’re doing, you’re probably going to leave your money in Anderson.
The truth, though? It was worth every lost penny.
Rockincam and driver Pete Wrenn used a valiant stretch drive to overtake a field of nine opponents in the 19th installment of the $200,000 Dan Patch Invitational Pace on Saturday (June 2) at Hoosier Park. Driven by Pete Wrenn, the 5-year-old horse stopped the timer in 1:51.1 for his fourth win in six starts in 2012.
Starting from post nine in the nine horse lineup, Rockincam was unhurried out of the gate to find a spot in eighth. The heavy betting favorite was the first to get the call as Dave Palone fired Golden Receiver out of the gate from post five to reach the first marker in :26.3. Ideal Choice and Sam Widger got away well in second as Ok Commander followed intently in third. Golden Receiver continued to dictate the fractions down the backside and reached the half mile marker in a soft :55.0. Special T Rocks and Daryl Bier were the first to commit as they pulled first over heading into the final turn with Ricky Macomber Jr. and Atochia in tow. Rockincam and Wrenn were poised for the stretch drive third over around the three quarters in 1:23.4.
Special T Rocks and Rockincam were the two strongest contenders for the title halfway down the homestretch as Golden Receiver began to tire. In the final strides, Rockincam charged home the quickest to win by one and three-quarter lengths over Special T Rocks who fought a tough first-over journey. Atochia took advantage of a perfect second over trip to get up for the third place finish. Rockincam paid $10.60 to win as the bettors’ third choice.
“To be honest with you, at the quarter pole I was excited with the way the race was working out,” Wrenn noted of his trip. “ Nifty (Norman) told me not to leave real hard with him so I didn’t, but I had two nice horses to follow and carry me down the lane. It really worked out the way you always hope it would. He took right off after I tipped him like a good horse would. He really raced great.”
Trained by Nifty Norman, the 5-year-old son of Cambest pushed his lifetime earnings over the $490,000 mark with the lion’s share of the purse. Owned by Stephen Farrell of Ocala, Fl, Rockincam has now won 19 starts in 34 outings.
Jolenes Pinehonker overcame a tough post position to capture the second round of the $30,000 Indiana Gold Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Tuesday (May 29). Starting from post eight with driver Mark O’Mara, Jolenes Pinehonker reached the wire in a lifetime best effort of 1:58.0 to score his third win of the season.
As part of a three-horse trained entry, Jolenes Pinehonker patiently sat behind stablemates Martz Time and Dc-Chug-a-lug who led through opening splits of :28.3 and 1:00.1. Ricky Macomber Jr. had a Royal Peck well placed in fourth. O’Mara gave the three-year-old son of Pinetucky the green light just before the half and Jolenes Pinehonker secured the lead as the field made the turn for home. A Royal Peck and Ricky Macomber Jr. joined the outer flow and were first over through the three-quarter clocking in 1:29.2. The bettor’s second choice, Dontfusswithruss, was third over following live cover from Josh Sutton and My Muscleman. O’Mara and Jolenes Pinehonker were able to hold off any threats as they saved the best for last and powered home with a :28.3 final panel to earn the win by two lengths over Martz Time and Pete Wrenn. Dontfusswithruss was able to get up for the third place finish in the final strides of the mile. Jolenes Pinehonker paid $3.80 for the win.
Owned and trained by Lester Raber, Jolenes Pinkehonker picked up his fourth lifetime victory in his 17th outing. The victory was also his third win in four starts of his sophomore career. The brown gelding now has career earnings in excess of $55,000.
Sweetasmusic captured the second round of the $30,000 Indiana Gold Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday (May 31) to remain perfect in sire stakes action this season and retain her four-for-four win streak.
Over a sloppy rated track, Sweetasmusic left from the rail for trainer/driver/co-owner Walter Haynes Jr. to wind up third along the rail through a :30.4 first quarter. She’s Country and Charlie Conrad led the field to the half with Antie M closely behind in second. She’s Country’s lead was short lived as Conrad yielded the front to the post time favorite, Sweetasmusic just before the half in 1:02.3. The daughter of Gut Instinct began to trot away from the field to reach the wire first in 2:01.3. She’s Country held on for the second place finish as Honeyinthepine trotted home evenly to get up for third. Sweetasmusic paid $2.40 to win.
It was the fourth consecutive victory in five seasonal starts for Sweetasmusic at Hoosier Park. Owned by Walter Haynes Jr and the Y-Not Racing Stable, the sophomore filly has bankrolled over $45,000 this year. As last year’s Indiana Sire Stakes Champion for two-year-old trotting fillies, she has made over $250,000 in her short career.
Blueridge Abigail and Pete Wrenn capitalized on a break by the heavily favored, Cincinnati Star to win in 2:03 in the second division of the Indiana Gold Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies. Wrenn sent the Keystone Savage filly to command from post two and led through fractions of :29.4, 1:03.1, and 1:33.4. Lakeview Angel and Dan Shetler benefitted from a pocket trip in second. Cincinnati Star recovered well from her early miscue and was the first to reach the leader’s wheel around the last turn. After a hard fought battle down the homestretch, Blueridge Abigail dug in gamely to hold off Cincinnati Star and win by a neck. JS Foxy Lady and Jason Dillander rallied from off the pace to round out the trifecta. Blueridge Abigail returned $9.20 to her backers.
Trained by Jim Arledge Jr., Blueridge Abigail scored the first win of her sophomore season for owners Thomas King and Thomas Chadwick. With five career wins to her credit, Blueridge Abigail has bankrolled over $120,000 in career earnings.
Forever Showin Off and Charlie Conrad swept by their rivals late in the stretch to pull of the 15-1 upset in the featured $24,000 Fillies and Mares Open Pace at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday (May 25). Forever Showin Off prevailed for the second time of the season in the Open ranks at her home track as trainer-driver Charlie Conrad placed the 8-year-old mare in the pocket early before tracking down the bettor’s second choice late in the mile.
Forever Showin Off began her journey from post four in the ten-horse lineup. Josh Sutton sent last week’s race winner, Hoponit, to command through early fractions of :26.3 and :56.4. Gran Gabriel made a bid to the front just past the half as the rest of the field began to follow suit. Forever Showin Off remained along the rail in third with the heavy favorite, Moonlite Delite, first over through a three-quarter clocking in 1:25.3. As the field turned for home, Conrad was able to move Forever Showin Off into the outer flow and tip three wide to coast home a winner in 1:53.4. Carmen O and Terry Cullipher found racing room late in the stretch to get up for the second place finish as the betting favorite, Go On Bb, and driver Ricky Macomber Jr. rounded out the trifecta. Forever Showin Off returned $32.80 to her backers.
With 27 career wins, Forever Showin Off has now earned over $265,000 for owners and breeders, Roselea Conrad and Fred Schroeder. The daughter of Allamerican Ingot improved her seasonal mark with the victory while her lifetime best remains at 1:51.4, a record she set last year at Indiana Downs.
Leaving from post three, Surclasser settled seventh along the rail while Trace Tetrick sent Jersey As to take the quick lead and dictate fractions of :27 and :55. Joe Putnam had the slight betting favorite Abc Mercedes along the rail in the sixth. Jersey As continued to cling to the lead around the three quarter mile marker in 1:23 with Abc Mercedes and Putnam closing in. As the field turned for home, Surclasser came furthest from off the pace to reach the wire first by a neck over Abc Mercedes. Proud Yankee benefitted from a ground saving trip to finish third.
The 5-year-old son of Jailhouse Jesse notched his second win in a row and sixth victory of the season. Trained by Ron Burke, Surclasser has bankrolled over $40,000 for his connections of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.
Park Lane Deputy and Sam Widger were able to overcome a tough post position to upset a field of nine in the co-featured $24,000 Open Pace. Widger used the same off the pace tactics as he had the six-year-old veteran sixth along the rail through fractions of :26.1, :55.3 and 1:23.4 before coasting home a winner in 1:51.4. Park Lane Deputy was able to overcome Get It Now who endured a tough first over journey and early pace setter Allthatgltrsisgold. Get it Now held on gamely for second as Robin I Scoot rallied late in the stretch to round out the trifecta. The public’s choice, Washington Hanover, was unable to take advantage of a pocket trip and finished fourth.
Trained by Nelson Willis, Park Lane Deputy pushed his career earnings over $330,000 for owner Shirley A Le Vin. It was the third win of the season for Park Lane Deputy and also the third win on the night for driver Sam Widger.
“I was really happy with the trip we worked out, “Widger said of the race. “Although the post position is always a factor, I was pretty confident this horse would be good tonight. He has been good here before and Nelson (Willis) has done a great job with him.”
A duo of $30,000 Indiana Gold Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies were the featured attraction at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday (May 18).
Taking the rail route to victory, Sheza Cool Cookie was able to overcome a tough post and traffic trouble to win the fastest division of the stakes action in 1:53.3.
Starting from post eight in the 8-horse field, Sheza Cool Cookie and Sam Widger were not quick out of the gate, watching as Don Eash sent E R Sister to the lead through a :28.2 quarter mile time. The duo continued to lead the way to the half in :56.1 before seeing a challenge on the outside from Royal Passion and Trace Tetrick, who endured a tough first over journey. Soaring Honey, the heavy betting favorite, was nicely placed along the rail in fourth. As the field shifted heading into the last turn, Widger found racing room up the rail and Sheza Cool Cookie advanced nicely. Royal Passion was able to put a nose in front of the leader around the three-quarter mark in 1:25.1 with Soaring Honey following her closely second over. Using her rail position, Sheza Cool Cookie pushed by her rivals in the stretch to win by a neck in a lifetime best effort. Soaring Honey came on for second while American Girl staged a big rally late in the lane for the show. Sheza Cool Cookie paid $8.20 for the win as the public’s third choice.
The three-year-old filly has now hit the board in 9 of her 10 career starts while banking $96,200 for trainer Rod Lorenzo who co-owns the filly with Souren A Hovsepian.
Robert’s Ideal extended her win streak to three as she moved into stakes company for the first time this season with a 1:54.1 victory. Leaving from post four, driver Ricky Macomber Jr. settled the 2-1 second favorite along the rail in second as Tyler Smith had Lima Calliope setting the early tempo in :28.2. Macomber made his trademark move down the backside as he had Robert’s Ideal out and firing just past the half mile marker in :57. Insatiable Desire and Kayne Kauffman made a costly break trying to follow that cover. Springhouse Waltz was left no choice as Sam Widger pulled the betting favorite first over around the last turn through a third panel of 1:26.0. Robert’s Ideal sat comfortably on the lead as Springhouse Waltz staged her attack. Macomber pushed the pedal on Robert’s Ideal as the field turned for home and she responded, stepping away to win convincingly by a length and ¾. Springhouse Waltz found her best strides down the lane but only made up enough ground to finish a game second. Lima Calliope held on for the third place finish. Robert’s Ideal returned $6.20 to her backers.
“Of course we’d like to race from off the pace this time of year,” said Jamie Rucker, who oversees all training responsibilities for the division of the Burke Stable racing at Hoosier Park. “But Ricky does what he has to do out there and luckily this filly responded very well.”
Sired by I Scoot Hanover, the sophomore filly has now won three of her seven starts this season as she pushed her lifetime earnings over $110,000. Trained by Ron Burke, Robert’s Ideal is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, E. Smith and Frank Baldachino.
Dontfusswithruss picked up right where he left off last year as he returned to victory in the first round of the $30,000 Indiana Gold Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Tuesday (May 15). The 2011 Indiana Sire Stakes Champion covered the one-mile event in gate-to-wire fashion, stopping the clock in 1:57.1.
Driven by Joe Essig Jr., the son of Elegant Man took control of the lead with ease from post seven as they reached the first quarter mile marker in :28. Allstate Norm and driver Sam Widger found a seat along the rail in second as Velten San Siro followed closely in third. The slightly favored, three horse entry trained by Lester Raber that included DC-Chug-a-lug, Martz Time, and Jolenes Pinehonker sat mid pack through the opening splits. Dontfusswithruss continued to dictate the fractions of :57.3 and 1:26.3 before ever being contested.
Reaching the final turn, the field began to tighten as Ed Hensley sent Jolenes Pinehonker first-over with stablemate, Martz Time, in tow and were only four lengths off the tempo-setter reaching the three-quarter mark. As the field turned for home, DC Chug-a-lug and driver Mark O’Mara charged hard from the back of the pack but to no avail as Dontfusswithruss dug in gamely to win the lion’s share of the purse and hold off the post time favorite. Dc-chug-a-lug finished second as Jolenes Pinehonker got up for the third place finish. Dontfusswithruss paid $1.20 to win as the public’s second choice.
After a sensational two-year-old campaign, the Melissa Essig trained gelding celebrated his first seasonal victory in his sophomore debut. Owned and bred by Jacalyn Beeman, Dontfusswithruss now sports a bankroll in excess of $230,000 as he won six of thirteen starts last year.
Indiana Gold Sire Stakes action continues at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Wednesday, May 16 with two $30,000 divisions for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings.
Indiana’s richest female pacer of all time made her return to the winner’s circle on Friday (May 11) in the featured $24,000 Fillies and Mares Open at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Accompanied by Ricky Macomber Jr., the eight-year-old mare found racing room late in the stretch to score in 1:54.0 to win by a head.
Go On BB and stable mate Red S driven by Pete Wrenn were sent postward as the 4-5 favorites in the field of ten. Starting from post two, Go On BB was able to grab position behind the early race leaders Red S and Forever Showin Off with driver Charlie Conrad. Following along through fractions of :27.2 and :56.4, the seasoned veteran sat patiently for her to turn to strike as the field began to shift. Josh Sutton was the first to commit CR Hope to the outer flow as they reached the front heading into the last turn. The new race leaders quickly felt pressure from Gran Gabriel and Jason Dillander as they were able to put a nose in front at the three-quarter mark of 1:25.1. As the field began to fan out across the track, the veteran mare put her class on display as she was able to fight through heavy traffic and wear down her rivals to reach the wire first with a :28 closing panel. Forever Showin Off tracked the top two the entire mile to finish a game second while Cadie’s Gotta Gun benefitted from a second over trip from driver Tyler Smith to get up for the third place finish.
“BB’s getting older and we are trying to race her from off the pace now,” said Jamie Rucker, who oversees all training responsibilities for the division of the Burke Stable racing at Hoosier Park. “The trip worked out for her and tonight she did what she was supposed to do. My entire barn has been sick and was really sick last week so hopefully she’s better and on her way to making a comeback.”
Go On BB now sports a bankroll in excess of over $1.3 million in career earnings for Frank Baldachino, who purchased the mare as a yearling for trainer Ron Burke. The daughter of Dontgetinmyway-Challo B B is now two for fourteen in 2012. Her career record of 1:50 was established as a four-year-old at The Meadows race track. Go On BB now has a total of 66 wins in 156 career starts and was Indiana’s first ever Indiana sired female millionaire.
Hoosier Park Racing & Casino played host to a trio of Indiana Silver Sire Stakes divisions for three-year-old trotting fillies on Thursday (May 10). Offering purses of $10,000 each, they were the featured event on the 14-race card.
My Sweet Shiela and driver Robert Taylor made quick work of the nine horse field as they made the front just past the half and never looked back. Dictating fractions of 1:00.2 and 1:32.1, My Sweet Shiela remained uncontested as the field turned for home. Trace Tetrick was the first to commit as he had Dock A Da Bay first over. My Sweet Shiela began to sprint away from the rest of the field as she posted a :28.2 final kick to win by three lengths in 2:00.3. Bacfromthedge and Rick Farrington staged a big rally late in the lane to get up for the second place finish as Dock A Da Bay held on to finish third. Sired by Southwind Elian, My Sweet Shiela posted her first win of her sophomore debut. Owned by La Bella Vita Stables, the brown filly bankrolled over $58,000 in eight starts last year. My Sweet Shiela paid $5.20 to win.
This Kid Cant Wait made her first start for a new stable a winning one as she captured the second split of the stakes action in a lifetime best 1:59.4. Driven by Trent Stohler, who recently took over the training duties of the three-year-old filly, This Kid Cant Wait left alertly from post eight to reach the lead through an opening panel of :29.0. Stohler opted for the pocket trip as Josh Sutton had Js Miss Linda aimed for the front just past the half mile marker in :59.4. This Kid Cant Wait tipped from the pocket down the homestretch to easily overcome Js Miss Linda and win by six lengths in 1:59.4 Pretty Ann Savage found late racing room and made her way through heavy traffic to finish a game third for driver Robert Taylor. This Kid Cant Wait paid $9.20 to win.
The final division for trotting fillies was won by American Idol and Ron Wrenn. Tabbed as the public’s second choice, the Super Ben Joe sophomore filly wired the field to find the finish line in 2:01.4. D K Sadie and Iwill Bd Leader rounded out the trifecta. Trained by Ron Wrenn, the chestnut filly earned her second win in five starts this season. American Idol returned $5.60 to her backers.
Indiana Sire Stakes Action continues at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, May 11 with six $10,000 divisions of the Silver Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies.