Month: April 2016
Prior to the start of racing Saturday, April 30, a special presentation was made to Trainer Dawn Fontenot in honor of her father, Larry Fontenot Sr. Fontenot’s owner, Rick Plaskett, presented Dawn with a brand new set of aerodynamic silks by Speed Silks in the stable colors of her father.
“In late 2015, Dawn lost her father, legendary Graded Stakes trainer Larry Fontenot,” said Plaskett. “Unfortunately she was unable to be with him prior to his passing. In addition, she missed the birth of her new grandson because she was busy training and racing our horse at Fair Grounds Race Course over the winter in Louisiana. We wanted to do something for her to show how much we care and that she is like family to us.”
Plaskett and his girlfriend, Jen, flew into Indiana from their home in Atlanta for the presentation. Joining Fontenot for the presentation was her daughter, Morgan. Plaskett had the yellow and white silks in a display and also presented Fontenot with a smaller memento of the silks.
“We have a horse in the seventh race tonight (Banksy) and I hope you can have our jockey, Sammy Bermudez, wear these silks tonight,” Plaskett told Fontenot in the special winner’s circle presentation.
“I thank you so much for this honor,” said an emotional Fontenot.
Indiana Grand has a new wager for 2016. The “Grand High 5,” also known as a pentafecta, is offered daily on Races 4 and 8. Racing fans must choose the top five official finishers in order to cash in on the “Grand High 5” wager at Indiana Grand.
The “Grand High 5” is a single race wager that begins daily with Race 4. As long as the race offers eight different begging interests at the start, the wager is valid. It is a 10 cent minimum straight wager, and the takeout is the same as all other exotic wagers at Indiana Grand with a 21.5 percent takeout.
The “Grand High 5” is not a jackpot pool. If there are multiple winning tickets, the pool will be split amongst the winning tickets. If there is no winning “Grand High 5” wager, then the pool goes into a carryover for Race 8 on the program, as long as there is a minimum required starters in that race. If there is no winner after Race 8, then the entire pool is carried over to the next live racing program for Race 4. There is no consolation payout for the “Grand High 5.”
If there are scratches in any of the “Grand High 5” races, there will be a refund of bets involving the scratched betting interest.
Victor Olivo has been a successful Quarter Horse jockey in Indiana for the past decade. He won the title at Indiana Grand in 2012 and is currently ranked in second place on the list of all-time leading Quarter Horse jockeys at Indiana Grand. However, at the end of the racing season in 2015, he rode his last horse back to be unsaddled. He knew it was time to pursue another avenue in Quarter Horse racing.
Olivo took some horses to Hialeah to race this winter and went through the process to become a Quarter Horse trainer, receiving his license in Florida. He returned to Wilkinson, Ind. this spring as he always does, ready to race at Indiana Grand, only this time, he will have a different vantage point during the races.
“It’s more exciting I think to be a trainer rather than a jockey,” said Olivo. “And I get more nervous. As a jockey I was always relaxed and went into every race the same, whether it was a claimer or a stakes race. Now, they all feel like stakes races to me.”
Olivo didn’t wait long to visit the winner’s circle. He got his first training win with Carters Success in the final race Tuesday, April 26. He was mentored into training by Paul Martin. Olivo has been the jockey for all of Martin’s horses over the past four or five years, including the stable’s standout WH Design By Dash, who is nearing $300,000 in earnings. Martin also had an entry in the race, finishing third behind Carters Success with Rock This Candy Tree ridden by Cristian Esqueda.
After the first six days of competition, Rodney Prescott has jumped out to an early lead in the Quarter Horse standings. The native of Portland, Ind. won the first race of the year Tuesday, April 19 aboard One Baad Chick and the second race of the season Wednesday, April 20 aboard HF Paint Me A Storm. Both horses are trained by Randy Haffner.
A jockey since 1995, Prescott has competed in all 22 seasons of Thoroughbred racing in the state of Indiana. He grew up with Haffner in his hometown of Portland, Ind. and they both attended Jay County High School. Both also had a love for horses early and Prescott even competed in contests at area horse shows before venturing into horse racing. He first began as a full time Thoroughbred jockey and was an apprentice during the first year of racing at Hoosier Park in 1995. When Quarter Horse racing began in 1997, both Haffner and Prescott teamed up and have fared well over the years in the Quarter Horse ranks.
Out of the first seven Quarter Horse races carded over the first six programs, Prescott has won three of them and earned one second. His third win was recorded Wednesday, April 27 aboard HF Cmon Man for Trainer Matt Frazier.
Several types of sports have been talked about on the national level in the past year about the affect of concussions on players. Horse racing also falls into this category, and Indiana Grand is working to put a system in place to detect the first signs of concussions, even at the mildest form of symptoms.
Steve Cahill, clerk of scales, and SEALS Ambulance Service, which supplies the EMTs at the track, are part of a new medical movement that is being implemented at Indiana Grand. Cahill and the EMTs will be attending a special class for “Concussion Recognition” to become certified in providing concussion tests on all of the jockeys.
“With all the talk about concussions and sports that is in the news these days, the Jockey’s Guild is working in cooperation with the University of Kentucky to develop some safety precautions for jockeys,” said Cahill. “It will be just like the NFL. When a player takes a hit, they are given a concussion test on the sideline to determine if they can return to the game, retained for a while to be evaluated, or sent for medical attention. We will do the same with the jockeys when one of them is involved in a situation where they are unseated or they take a fall of any kind, we will now be able to evaluate them right in the jock’s room.”
Cahill said the system will be based on a number scale. Each jockey will be given the test to see what their number is when they begin riding at Indiana Grand. This information is retained, and when a jockey is involved in an incident that might cause any concussion activity, either Cahill or the EMTs will administer a concussion test. If the results of that test do not equal the initial test score on file that is considered the normal state, then the jockey will be “benched” for a race or two and retested. If at that point, they still have not recovered to match their initial score, they will either be taken off the rest of the horses for the day or sent for further evaluation by medical personnel, depending on the severity of the score.
After competing in 11 weeks of the 2016 Road to the Derby contest, James Ross emerged as the winner, taking home the top prize of $1,500. Ross, a native of Indianapolis, took over the lead after the fourth week and never looked back to win his first handicapping contest of his career as a horseplayer.
“I’ve been betting on horses since the late 1960’s,” said Ross. “I came to the races with an old buddy of mine. I prefer Thoroughbreds and my favorite racetracks to play are Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn. I don’t come out to the live races a lot, but I follow the Kentucky Derby prep races each year, so this is a nice bonus.”
Ross took over the top spot on his selection in the Tampa Bay Derby March 12 by choosing Destin to win with a payout of $9.20. Ross returned the next week to select Cupid in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, pulling in a win payout of $7.80 to solidify his lead, continuing to hold his own at the top until the final week.
In the final week of the Road to the Derby contest, only one person could have defeated Ross for the top prize. Kenny Peacock was sitting at 38 points behind Ross’ tally of 41 points. Also, FL Carrier was in third with 36 points and could have tied Ross. However, all three top players didn’t have the longshot that came in for the Arkansas Derby so the results stood as they did heading into the final week with Ross in first, Peacock in second and Carrier in third.
“I got lucky on the last race,” said Ross, who is retired from the construction business in which he was a partner in the company. “I didn’t know what other people had taken. Not a sole had that race.”
Indiana Grand has seen numerous upgrades over the past few years, but sometimes it’s the ones that aren’t as noticeable that make the biggest impact. Several additions and upgrades have been added to the Jockey’s Quarters, both inside and out, that will create a better working atmosphere for everyone.
The Silks Room received a new industrial washing machine that will greatly assist Silks Attendant Randi Fowler. The machine has a capacity of 45 pounds and two new industrial dryers were also installed to quickly dry silks, saddle towels, and other laundry produced daily to create a racing program. A concrete pad inside the silks room was poured to support the large machines and new plumbing and a vent system were also implemented. The old standard washing machines were retained to add support to specialty items.
“The new washing machine and dryers will reduce the wash time by half,” said Cahill. “The dryers are also equipped with sensors. Once the load is dry, it will shut down automatically, which is a cost saving measure. The old machines will also provide increased efficiency on busy days.”
Also, for the first time in the 22-year history of pari-mutuel racing in the state of Indiana, the jock’s room has a female valet. Brittany Waugh joined the staff of valets for the 2016 season and has been placed in the rotation to assist in saddling horses in the paddock and coordinating equipment for jockeys. Waugh, a former assistant trainer for both Marvin Johnson and Randy Klopp, has a long history working with horses and brings a lot of knowledge to her new position. A new work station has been added inside the jockey’s quarters for her to utilize for preparation during the races.
The 14th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing opens up with three brand new water trucks on the track. The trucks, specially designed for Indiana Grand, join six new John Deere tractors to kick off the new meet.
The water trucks were designed by Batts, Inc. based in Advance, Ind., just west of Indianapolis. The company specializes in unique equipment used for various job details, including de-icer vehicles utilized at airports. The trucks are larger than past models used at Indiana Grand and are International brand.
“The new trucks have a 4,000 gallon capacity apiece,” said Roy Smith, track superintendent. “There is a 30 foot boom off the passenger side and we now have capacity to water 40 feet of racetrack at one time. In the past, the capacity to water was only 20 feet, so we have doubled our capabilities with the new trucks.”
In addition, track maintenance has two new mowers they utilize for the infield and turf course upkeep. The turf course also got a boost earlier this year with the addition of more thermal blankets, which promote early and stronger growth of the bluegrass on the course.
Thermal blankets were first implemented by Smith last year at Indiana Grand. Additional blankets were added in 2016 and now, almost all of the seven-eighths mile turf course can be covered by the specialty blankets at once, leaving only a few feet exposed at one time.
It didn’t take Lady Fog Horn very much time to get back to the winner’s circle as a four-year-old. Indiana’s Horse of the Year in 2015 found just the room she needed to stride out to victory in the afternoon’s eighth race, an allowance optional claiming event running at a distance of one mile.
Guided by regular jockey Albin Jimenez, Lady Fog Horn showed just enough speed to maintain her inside post in the reduced field of six starters. Lizzie Belle and Tommy Pompell were the pacesetters of the race, and the field was tightly bunched heading into the final turn.
In the final turn, it was evident that Lady Fog Horn had reserved speed for the stretch and only needed a little room to advance. The four-year-old daughter of Zavata was able to squeeze between horses at the top of the lane and hit another gear, rallying home to a one and one-half length win over Luvthatmustang and Cheyanna Patrick, who was in town only for a few days to ride before returning to college at University of South Florida at Tampa where she is studying pre-law. Bethany Belle and Marcelino Pedroza moved up for third. The time of the one mile event was 1:38.32.
Lady Fog Horn paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10 as the heavy favorite of the field. The start was her first of 2016 for trainer Tony Granitz, who is in the process of relocating his family and his operation to Central Indiana. Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group owns Lady Fog Horn, who increased her career bankroll to more than $425,000.
A recent claim by Trainer Genaro Garcia proved to be a quick return for owners Jana and Daniel Spears and Garcia’s Southwest Racing Stables in the season opener at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino Tuesday, April 19. Posture, ridden by Apprentice Jockey Eduardo Gallardo, rallied home in the stretch to win the claiming event and kick off the 14th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing.
Posture began his journey from post five in the seven-horse lineup running one mile. Gallardo was able to establish good positioning from the start between horses, keeping close to pacesetter Prado Dash and Richard Eramia. Around the turn, Posture began to pick up the pace and was in full gear for the stretch drive.
In the stretch, Posture dug in and rallied home the winner between horses by one-half length. Arboretum and Leandro Goncalves moved up the inside to finish second while Stormin Greeley and Jack Gilligan stayed close for third.
“He (Posture) really picked it up in the stretch,” said Gallardo. “He kept going. It’s a good feeling to get started with a win. I was here last year and I like it here.”