Just four races into this career, sophomore pacer Always A Prince is undefeated and racing impressively for trainer Bill Dailey.
by James Platz
The 2018 race meet at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino is just under a month old and one of the early storylines to watch this summer is a relatively green sophomore that is thus-far undefeated. Shelved as a freshman out of concern for soreness, Always A Prince has started the season a perfect four-for-four. The most recent victory for the Always A Virgin gelding was a 1:51.2 triumph in the $15,000 final of the Jerry Landess Series. It was the latest in a string of impressive miles for the Bill Dailey-trained pacer.
“We qualified him twice and he was a little sore his first start. We ended up scratching him,” Dailey said of the freshman campaign. “He had a left hind issue. We had him bone scanned and x-rayed and never found anything. It could have been a bone bruise or something. We just elected to wait on him.”
Based on his early returns, Always A Prince has been worth the wait. Bred by Emerald Highlands Farm, the gelding is out of The Panderosa mare Glorious Princess. The dam, a sister to Rock To Glory p,2, 1:52.4s; 3, 1:50.1s; 1:49.2f ($807,323) and Bound For Glory p,2, 1:55.3; 3, 1:52s ($317,709), had produced two winners in her first three foals when Dailey plucked the then-colt from the 2016 Buckeye Classic Yearling Sale for a price of $30,000. The owner and trainer didn’t have to look far for partners on the pacer, reaching out to his old friends Carl and Melanie Atley.
“I went to school with Carl. He and I have known each other since we were kids,” said Dailey. “We started buying a few horses together a few years ago and this is one of them.”
Atley is a farmer by trade, growing 7,500 acres of corn and soybeans each year in Xenia, Ohio. He and his wife owned harness horses in the past, but when Ohio’s racing fortunes headed south, he left the business. Once slots arrived, he returned to racing, and the last few seasons have produced incredible results. Atley was involved in the partnership that owned 2016 Breeders Crown Mare Pace champion Lady Shadow. He also teamed with Dailey to capture a pair of Ohio Sires Stakes championships that same year with freshman pacing colt Scotch McEwan and sophomore pacing filly My Tweed Heart. Always A Prince is one of 31 horses the Atleys own solely or in partnership with others.
“It kind of added up pretty quick. I’ve been in it for about three years or four years,” Atley said with a laugh. “We’ve been very, very fortunate.”
With Always A Prince, the partnership may have their next champion in the making. After qualifying at Miami Valley in late March, where he romped by 15 lengths in a time of 1:56.2, the sophomore shipped to Hoosier Park to make his debut. Racing over the Anderson, IN oval for the first time, Trace Tetrick guided Always A Prince to a 1:52.4 score. Since that first start, the gelding has competed in the Landess Series exclusively. In the first leg, he won by more than four lengths with a 1:52.3 clocking in the wire-to-wire performance. Always A Prince followed that with another dominant effort, this time stopping the clock in 1:51.1. Friday night, April 27, he completed the Landess Series sweep, this time capturing the event in a time one-fifth of a second off his best one week earlier.
“He seems like a very nice colt. He’s very professional; he does all the right things and has a great attitude. He acts like an old horse in a young horse’s body,” Tetrick said of the 3-year-old. “He’s done all the hard work so far and went some big miles, pacing all the way to the wire.”
Training down this winter, Dailey felt he had a horse capable of big things. In only four starts, Always A Prince has shown his ability and reinforced his trainer’s assessment. As some of Indiana’s top freshman colts from 2017 begin to return to the track as sophomores, the question is where this relatively inexperienced speedster fits into the division. In late May as Indiana Sires Stakes get underway that question will be answered.
“I knew I had a nice colt. I don’t know how nice, and I still don’t. But I knew he was kind of a high-end horse. He’s real intelligent, big-gaited, and willing to do the work. I’ve been real high on him all winter,” Dailey said. “I think he’s a very versatile colt. I think he’ll race any way right now. He certainly trained that way. You never know until you do it. He’s a real professional colt for as green as he is. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be competitive in there (sires stakes). He’s going to have to pace in 1:50 pretty quickly.”
One of the top horses coming back from last season is Always Bet De Grey, another son of Always A Virgin bred and owned by Emerald Highlands Farm. The colt captured last year’s $220,000 Indiana Sires Stakes final for trainer Brian Brown. Tetrick was in the bike for that victory, and more recently steered the reigning champion to a 1:51.2 qualifying win Saturday morning (April 28) at Hoosier Park. The track’s leading driver feels Always A Prince is on par with the best young Indiana-sired pacers from last season.
“I think he’s a top-tier colt just because of how handy he is,” Tetrick said. “He could be one of the better ones, it’s hard to say just yet until they all match up. At this point he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and he’s done it in the correct manner.”
With $18,000 on his card this season, Always A Prince may not have earned back his purchase price yet, but he stands to do that, and more. With a little racing luck, this prince could become king of Indiana’s three-year-old division. For Atley, having another horse of this caliber is exciting, and something he savors.
“I’m pleased to death. Bill’s done an excellent job getting him ready and Trace has done a heck of a job driving him,” he said. “Having one this nice, they are few and far between.”