A Splash of Royalty wins first Quarter Horse race of 2017

Indiana Grand’s 2016 Leading Owner Tony Cunningham picked up where he left off at the conclusion of the 2016 season at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. The Clarksville, Mich. native finished one-two in the first Quarter Horse race of the season Tuesday, April 18, scoring the win with A Splash of Royalty in the final race of the day, which was dedicated to the sprinters.

A Splash of Royalty and Giovanni Vazquez-Gomez got the win in the final step of the first Quarter Horse race of 2017. (Photo by Linscott Photography)

Starting from post eight, A Splash of Royalty didn’t show quick speed from the gate, but quickly got into gear for jockey Giovanni Vazquez-Gomez just a few steps into the 300-yard dash. The four-year-old gelding found his best stride midway through the race and began closing the gap on the race leader Rhea Fire and Cesar Esqueda, also trained by Cunningham. In the final step of the race, A Splash of Royalty got a nose in front to take home the top prize over Rhea Fire, giving Cunningham a one-two finish in the first Quarter Horse race of the season. Sheza Rare Treasure and Reynier Arrieta rounded out the trifecta.

“Before the race, I really thought Rhea Fire would outrun this horse (A Splash of Royalty),” said Cunningham. “She is a little better at this distance and he is a little better going a little longer. But he kicked into gear late and even though it was a close photo, I thought he caught her right at the wire.”

A Splash of Royalty earned his first career win in the $16,000 maiden in a time of :15.674. The Indiana-sired gelding was making his 18th career start and his first of 2017 for Cunningham, who also owns the son of Royal Evening Snow.

“I bought this horse (A Splash of Royalty) out of the fall sale last year and ran him one time before the end of the meet and he came running to finish second and paid for himself,” said Cunningham. “From there, we took him home to the farm and just turned him out to let him be a horse for a while. He’s been back in about six weeks and I brought him in today from the farm.”

Cunningham, who has raced in Indiana since pari-mutuel Quarter Horse racing began in 1997, is based at his farm in Clarksville, Mich. He has 14 horses on the backstretch at Indiana Grand and keeps the rest at his farm, rotating them back and forth. In all, Cunningham currently has 55 horses in training.

To officially launch the 15th season, Indiana Grand is hosting a kickoff celebration on Saturday, April 22 with evening racing and fun for the entire family. Saturday’s festivities will start at 6 p.m. and include a free live performance by Jai Baker Band, free face painting and airbrush tattoos, and an appearance by the world’s tallest jockey. To conclude the evening, Indiana Grand will host free fireworks following the last race. Guests are also encouraged to pick up a free 2017 Racing Fan Guide featuring promotions and events throughout the season as well as more than $100 in free offers.

Live racing is conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:05 p.m. and Saturdays beginning at 6:05 p.m. Thursday racing will be added in July and August with a post time of 2:05 p.m. through Thursday, Aug. 24. The 120-day meet concludes Saturday, Oct. 28.