Rockin Serena carrying Indiana’s flag into Jugette

The Rockin Image filly will be testing Grand Circuit competition for the first time for the trainer/driver duo of Melanie and Peter Wrenn.

by James Platz

Next week’s Jugette at the Delaware County Fair will offer an Indiana flavor as Rockin Serena is slated to compete. Trained by Melanie Wrenn, the sophomore pacing filly has won three of 11 starts in 2017, and looks to mix it up on the Grand Circuit for the first time this season. The Rockin Image—Day Lily Hanover lass will enter the Jugette after a 1:52.2 victory in an Indiana Sires Stakes consolation and subsequent qualifier Sept. 13 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

Purchased out of the Hoosier Classic sale for $82,000 in 2015, Rockin Serena has put together a solid campaign in 2017 for her connections. She has finished worse than fourth only twice, hitting the board seven times for the partnership of The Kales Company LLC, Dolne Farm Services LLC, S&R Racing Stables and Wrenn Racing LLC. That’s a significant accomplishment when competing against a very competitive group of Indiana-sired fillies.

“I don’t think anybody has totally dominated the group. I think anybody, in a good week, can pick up some pieces,” said Rockin Serena’s driver Peter Wrenn. “There is a lot of depth. I give any one of them a lot of credit. I think it’s going to be an exciting final.”

Through four rounds of eliminations and $75,000 finals there has proven to be no clear leader. A different filly has reached the winner’s circle each time, with Rockin Serena getting her chance on Aug. 2. In that event, Wrenn and his filly were sent off at 11-1 odds, but they managed to make it to the wire first in a lifetime best 1:52.1. That night, a full second was all that separated the winner from the last place horse. The victory, paired with a third-place effort in another final, gives the three-year-old enough points for the $220,000 Super Final next month at Hoosier Park.

“I think she’s a real usable filly. I don’t know how in-depth she is,” the driver said. “She’s not going to overpower any of them on her own, but she has enough ability to follow and pick up some pieces if things go wrong.”

Rockin Serena’s progression this season is what Wrenn hoped to see after a 2016 season that showed glimpses of brilliance. As a freshman, the pacer made five starts for her connections, finishing on the board four times and banking $56,525. She registered victories in an Indiana Sires Stakes elimination and final, but the filly also missed most of August and September.

“She had some immaturity issues. Her bone density just wasn’t filled in completely in her hind cannon bones, so we didn’t push her,” Wrenn said. “We never did anything exotic with her, but we did the right thing. Coming back this year she’s been good so far, and she’s matured up.”

Racing exclusively at Hoosier Park this season, Rockin Serena has developed into a filly that can contend for the division in Indiana. Before she takes on her in-state rivals, however, Wrenn will test her at Delaware next week. It won’t be her first time over the famed oval, as she’s had several training opportunities in anticipation of entering the Jugette.

“We’ve had her on a different training program prepping her for her stake next week in Delaware,” Wrenn said. “She has trained over that track many times, and she seems to be pretty good on the track.”

Rockin Serena, now a winner of just over $130,000, will carry the hopes of the partnership into Delaware off a 1:56.2 qualifier Wednesday morning. In that race, the filly controlled the pace through fractions of 27.2, 58.1 and 1:28.2 before crossing the wire six lengths in front.

“I decided to qualify because we don’t race for a while,” said Wrenn. “I wanted to make sure she had some sort of workout a week prior.”

The veteran driver has tasted victory in the Jugette before. In 1996, he steered the Chuck Sylvester-trained Paige Nicole Q to a 1:53.1 elimination win before following with a 1:55.3 triumph in the $164,592 final. That day the Beach Towel—Turn To Stone filly received every call on the way to a nearly two-length victory as the second choice.

The Jugette will provide Rockin Serena the chance to compete against some top-caliber fillies. She has shown she can produce speed, now it’s a matter of seeing how that translates over Delaware’s speedy half-mile configuration. Wrenn said that the Jugette may determine whether the sophomore competes in other stakes in the next two months.

“I thought she deserved a chance. She’s been healthy and sound and feeling well. She gets over a small track well,” he said. “She’ll be in against quality fillies in a prestigious race, possibly going two heats. She’s a big filly that carries a lot of depth to her. I don’t think that (heats) will hinder her.”