Beach Mercedes grabs win in final stride of Harley Greene Derby

It was a fight to the finish in the fourth running of the $90,100 Harley Greene Derby Saturday, June 2 as Beach Mercedes and Jose Beltran snagged the win away from Kitty Sixup and Samuel Mendez in the final stride of the 350-yard dash. The race was the featured event on the eight-race card, marking the first all-Quarter Horse racing night at Indiana Grand.

Beach Mercedes and Jose Beltran prevailed in the final stride of the Harley Greene Derby Saturday, June 2. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Starting from post nine, Beach Mercedes broke well from the outside in the 10-horse lineup but it was the inside horses that appeared to be strong on the lead. Beach Treat and Aron Hunt had the early advantage over DNA Dalesblackbueaty and Rodney Prescott and Sixes Loaded to Fly and Cesar Esqueda. Beach Mercedes was alone on the outside and began making her move midway through the stakes. It appeared she would roll by the competition with authority until Kitty Sixup also had the same strategy in the center of the track.

Jockey Jose Beltran brings Beach Mercedes back to the winner’s circle following her win in the $90,100 Harley Greene Derby Saturday, June 2. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Kitty Sixup had the lead and was rushing toward the wire as Beach Mercedes had more ground to cover to get to the lead. But her move was timed just right by Beltran as the duo took the lead in the last stride to win by a neck over Kitty Sixup. Sixes Loaded to Fly won a close battle for third. Two and one-quarter lengths covered the entire 10-horse field at the wire, showing the competitiveness of the Harley Greene Derby.

“From the first day I came to work for Randy (Smith), I liked Beach Mercedes,” said Beltran, who won the inaugural running of the Greene Derby in 2015. “She is a nice filly. She was not standing well in the gate tonight. Last time (in the trials), she was very good. But when they loaded the last horse she settled down. She likes to run and she was ready to go. She broke well tonight.”

The winner’s circle was filled with friends and family of Harley Greene. Greene helped present the trophy to Sheri Miller (center) for her win with Beach Mercedes in the race named after him. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Beach Mercedes completed the stakes race in a time of :17.774 seconds. It was the fourth career win for the Escondido Beach filly in nine career starts. She now has in excess of $90,000 in earnings for trainer Randy Smith and owner-breeder Sheri Miller of Shipshewana, Ind., who owns and stands Escondido Beach at Miller Ranch.

Miller names a lot of foals each year, so when asked what inspired Beach Mercedes name, she replied, “I like fast cars and fast horses and I liked the name. My dad races cars so it was just a name we picked out.”

Rachel McLaughlin talks with Jockey Jose Beltran, who is holding his daughter Aitana, following his win with Beach Mercedes in the Harley Greene Derby. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

After sweeping the Greene Derby, the future looks bright for Beach Mercedes. The Indiana-sired filly has many stakes ahead of her for 2018.

“We thought she was a standout early on,” said Smith. “But, she had some soundness problems last year and it took her until late in the year to get going. This year, she’s a lot better. She’s just a late bloomer and carrying on now.”

Smith, a three-time leading Quarter Horse trainer at Indiana Grand, is well on his way to another training title in 2018 with 17 wins thus far. The Broughton, Ill. native is the track’s all-time leading trainer and owner and established several records over the past few years, including most wins in one night, winning seven races in 2016. The win with Beach Mercedes was his fourth of the night in only eight races on the card.

The win was also the fourth of the night for Beltran, a native of Mexico. Beltran has led the race for Leading Quarter Horse jockey from the start of the meet. With 15 wins this season, he is 10 wins ahead of the second place Quarter Horse jockey this season. Beltran is among the track’s all-time top five jockeys and the win in the Harley Greene Derby was his ninth career stakes win at Indiana Grand.

The win in the Harley Greene Derby was also special for Smith as his grandfather, Burtis Brazier, of Shawneetown, Ill. Brazier, who was a farmer in Gallatin County, Illinois, raced horses with Greene in the 1960’s and 1970’s and were longtime friends.

Greene, who is one of the most well-respected individuals associated with Quarter Horse racing in the state of Indiana, was joined by numerous friends and family for the fourth running of the stakes race named in his honor. He touched many lives over a five-decade period and has many accolades for his service to the industry, including a longtime board of director for the Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana, being one of the first inducted into the Indiana Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, and the first recipient of the chairman’s award presented by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.

“It is truly an honor and makes me feel very proud to have a race named in my honor,” said Greene. “And, it’s so great to have so many of my friends and family in the winner’s circle with me. There are a lot of them from Sullivan, Ind. There is one friend that drove up all the way from Atlanta, Ga. just for this race. He’s been here for every one of these stakes races so far.”

The next all Quarter Horse racing night is slated for Saturday, July 7. The evening will feature an appearance by Kevin Cox known as the Bronx Cowboy. Cox will provide additional handicapping advice during the night and will also pass out $2 race wagers and t-shirts courtesy of the Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana (QHRAI) while supplies last. Other all-Quarter Horse racing nights are Aug. 11, Sept. 15, Oct. 6 and Oct. 27.