Divine Thunder wins first turf race of 2016

Rain has plagued the Central Indiana area for the past three weeks, moving several races off the turf course at Indiana Grand. However, the sun was out bright and the first turf race of the 2016 racing season was contested Wednesday, May 18, giving Divine Thunder and Jockey Malcolm Franklin the nod for the win.

A field of eight assembled on the turf course for the $34,000 Allowance event running five furlongs. Divine Thunder broke in mid pack and quickly retreated to the back as race favorite Flying Eagle and Leandro Goncalves quickly moved into the lead from the inside. There was constant pressure applied to the top spot of the tightly packed field with Rojo Mojo and Cory Orm sitting in second early on followed by Read the Cards and Ron Hisby three-wide in third.

The field became even more tightly packed around the turn and in the stretch, Dynamite Stick and Marcelino Pedroza took over the top spot. Divine Thunder was in full gear and began to chase down Dynamite Stick. The two matched each other stride for stride in the final steps of the race. Dynamite Stick was not giving up any ground. However, Divine Thunder got the head bob at the end to win by a nose in a time of :59.01. Andy Po Po and Richard Bracho rallied from the back to finish third.

Owned by Marshall Gramm’s Ten Strike Racing, Divine Thunder was making his first start since early April and his first start over Indiana Grand’s turf course. The six-year-old son of Divine Park added his third win of the season in five outings for trainer Randy Matthews. It marked the first start aboard Divine Thunder for Franklin, who earned the 2013 Leading Jockey title at Indiana Grand.

“I was a little surprised he (Divine Thunder) ran so well today,” said Franklin. “He’s a big horse and coming off route races at Oaklawn Park, I thought he would be farther back. But Randy (Matthews) said he’s been training good. He came up on Marcelino’s horse (Dynamite Stick) and I thought he was going to draw away from him, but Marcelino’s horse dug in. I had a little momentum and this horse wasn’t giving up. He really dug in late.”

Divine Thunder now has eight career wins in 26 career starts. He boosted his career earnings to more than $135,000 with his latest win at Indiana Grand, his first over the turf.

“I galloped him (Divine Thunder) two times but this is the first time I’ve ridden him in a race,” said Franklin. “He’s pretty tough to gallop, but I like him.”

Divine Thunder paid $7.00, $3.40, $3.00 across the board. Franklin also provided his thoughts on the turf course for the 2016 season following the excessive amount of rain in the area during the month of May.

“It (turf course) wasn’t as soft as I expected it to be,” said Franklin. “I would call it a good turf. It wasn’t fast. But, the times were decent and the rest of the field got over it good, so I’d say it is ready to go.”

The second turf race of the season was held in the seventh race on the card, giving Classy Student and Fernando De La Cruz the win in the one and one-eighth mile claiming event. Classy Student prevailed against inside foes in the stretch and held off a late rush by Sapphire Spitfire and Orm to win in a time of 1:50.37. Quality Street and Declan Cannon rounded out the trifecta.

Classy Student paid $13.20, $6.20, $4.20 across the board. The four-year-old filly also earned her first ever win over the turf for owners Linda and Ed Fisher and Mark Cristel’s Cristel Racing Stable. Cristel also trains the daughter of Student Council, who was claimed from her last start at Oaklawn Park in early April.