Esqueda gets first stakes win aboard Powerfull Stone in Speed Sale Stakes

Powerfull Stone and Leading Quarter Horse Jockey Cesar Esqueda rallied home to win the fourth running of the $35,520 Speed Sale Stakes at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino Friday, Aug. 12. The duo covered the 350-yard dash in a time of :17.254 seconds, marking the first career stakes win for Esqueda.

Powerfull Stone gave jockey Cesar Esqueda his first career stakes win Friday, Aug. 12 in the Speed Sale Stakes. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Powerfull Stone gave jockey Cesar Esqueda his first career stakes win Friday, Aug. 12 in the Speed Sale Stakes. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Starting from post seven in the nine-horse lineup, Powerfull Stone broke alertly and was among the front runners from the start. The two-year-old daughter of Brimmstone used the center of the track to find a winning path to the finish line, easily defeating her opponents by three-quarters of a length as the favorite of the field. Sheza Classy Bay and Berkley Packer finished second over Kids Bright Image and Leonel Bolanos for third.

Powerfull Stone was making only her fourth career start for Tony Cunningham, who owns and trains the Indiana sired filly. Although she’s been close in every outing, she could never quite land the top spot in the end.

“She’s (Powerfull Stone) been a little green in her previous starts,” said Cunningham, ranked second on the list of leading Quarter Horse trainers at Indiana Grand this season. “The first three times she was all over the track. We put blinkers on today and that seemed to really help her. She ran very well today.”

Powerfull Stone paid $4.40, $3.00, $2.40 across the board. She increased her career bankroll to more than $30,000 for the win.

The Speed Sale Stakes is a little unique in that all horses in the field must have been purchased either as a weanling or a yearling from the Speed Sale. Cunningham acquired Powerfull Stone as a yearling through the 2015 Speed Sale.

Tony Cunningham and his wife (right) accept the trophy for Powerfull Stone from Dianne Bennett of the QHRAI. Cesar Esqueda recorded his second win on the afternoon aboard the filly. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Tony Cunningham and his wife (right) accept the trophy for Powerfull Stone from Dianne Bennett of the QHRAI. Cesar Esqueda recorded his second win on the afternoon aboard the filly. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

“I liked her (Powerfull Stone) family,” said Cunningham, who is based out of Michigan and has competed in every year of Quarter Horse racing in the state of Indiana since its inception in 1997. “I ran her sister and really liked her. Plus, Miller’s (Sheri Miller) breeding program has been doing really well so we wanted to buy out of it.”

Powerfull Stone had not raced since mid June. The break didn’t seem to faze her and Esqueda is very familiar with her. He has ridden her in all of her starts on the track and also assists Cunningham in the mornings.

“She (Powerfull Stone) is good everywhere,” said Esqueda. “She is a nice horse to ride. Every time she’s been close. It was a nice race today.”

Esqueda is in his second year riding at Indiana Grand. The Mexican-born jockey was among the track’s top three riders last season and recently moved into the lead in 2016. He has scored 17 wins total for 2016, earning a riding double Friday, Aug. 12. He also guided Edens Candy Lane to a win in the afternoon’s ninth race for Cunningham, who also scored a training double on the day.

The Speed Sale Stakes leads into the third all Quarter Horse program in 2016 set for Saturday, Aug. 13. The 9-race card includes trials for the $75,000 Bob Woodard Memorial, the $100,000 QHRAI Stallion Service Auction Futurity and the $50,000 QHRAI Stallion Service Auction Derby. All finals will be held Saturday, Aug. 27.