Grand Swan a delightful surprise for Joe Yoder

Queen Mom was purchased in foal to Swan For All, and the resulting foal has already won an Indiana Sires Stakes final and surpassed $50,000 in earnings in just four career starts.

by James Platz

Joe Yoder is accustomed to buying and selling horses. The Howe, IN resident used to move as many as 300 buggy horses a year, so he is used to looking for the next opportunity. When he purchased Big Hit mare Queen Mum in foal to Swan For All, he couldn’t have envisioned what was in store. When the resulting filly named Grand Swan crossed the wire first on July 10 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, Yoder found himself the proud owner of an Indiana Sires Stakes final winner.

“She was entered to go to the Delaware sale in foal to Swan For All,” Yoder said of the dam, Queen Mum. “I went and looked at her. The guy said to me, ‘Why don’t you just buy her.’ I did, and I’ve loved her ever since.”

Yoder is relatively new to racing, active in only the last five years. Taking a page out of his previous practices, he is always looking for reclamation projects. Right now he is working with two other Swan For All progeny, one a $55,000 yearling purchase and the other bringing $22,000 at auction. He is hoping he can succeed where others before him struggled.

“I buy them and sell them,” Yoder said. “I like fixing them up.”

When the owner purchased Queen Mum, he acquired a broodmare that was anything but a dud. Preceding the filly, the dam had produced six previous winners. The most accomplished was her second foal Lord Darby, a Davanti gelding with 35 wins and $327,066 in career earnings. Queen Mum has also produced three Indiana-sired geldings that have reached the winner’s circle.

Whereas Yoder has always taken on project horses and made them race ready, Queen Mum’s filly is the first he has raised from a foal and developed to race himself. Grand Swan trained on a farm track that is not quite a half-mile in configuration. Prior to lining up behind the starting gate at Hoosier Park, the freshman got her first racing experience on the Indiana fair circuit. Competing at the Converse fair on June 7, LeWayne Miller sat behind the filly, starting fourth in a field of five.

“She made a break in the first turn,” Miller said. “She caught back trotting, but she was last. I was able to work my way up, but she was parked the whole mile. She trotted all the way through and almost won. She showed that she was tough and didn’t give up.”

Grand Swan recovered and finished a head back in second that day, trotting in 2:13. After a successful qualifying effort at Hoosier Park, a 2:03.1 clocking, the freshman made her pari-mutuel debut, finishing a neck short of victory in an overnight contest for 2-year-old fillies. Now racing at the Anderson oval, Grand Swan was sent to Miller to train.

“I like training them, but he’s got five minutes to the track, I’ve got three hours,” Yoder said.

Grand Swan would get her first taste of Indiana Sires Stakes competition in her second Hoosier Park start, winning her $20,000 elimination July 3 with a 1:56.4 performance. Starting from post two, Miller sat in the two hole patiently through fractions of :28, :57.2 and 1:28.1 before trotting a :28.2 last quarter to secure a three and one-quarter length victory. In the $85,000 final one week later, Grand Swan drew post nine. Despite being saddled with the outside starting position, Miller sent her to the front after the quarter. The betting public’s third choice set the rest of the fractions on the way to a one-length victory in a time of 1:56.

“I knew I wanted to float out of there and find a hole if I could, but if I couldn’t find one I was okay going to the front,” Miller said. “I wasn’t sure what she would do when a horse came at her. At home when a horse comes at her, she responds.”

She did respond, going about her business and completing a series sweep for the connections. The victory was affirmation for Yoder, who had believed in Grand Swan from the very beginning.

“I think she’s special. I knew she had a lot of ability when I started training her,” Yoder said. “She’s never taken a lame step and she’s never been sick a day in her life.”

As is often the case, Grand Swan’s early success garnered attention. Yoder found himself fielding calls on a filly that was not for sale. The wheeler-dealer was now on the receiving end of offers from interested parties. And the offers were substantial. Yoder ended up taking on partners, retaining a 25-per cent interest for himself. One of the conditions of the sale was that Miller would continue to train the filly.

“That was a hard one,” he said of selling a significant stake in Grand Swan. “I want to be along for the fun part.”

When Grand Swan lines up behind the starting gate Tuesday, July 24 for the second round of ISS eliminations, she will do so for an ownership group that now includes Yoder and Miller (Grand Swan Racing), Go Fast Stable of Powell, OH, and Leslie Cahn, of Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The filly has already banked $50,125 in four starts, and looks to race her way into the next $85,000 final of the season.

With her victory in the first final of the season, the filly is locked in for the $220,000 Super Final this fall. Between now and then, Yoder, Miller and the rest of the partnership hope for several more return trips to the winner’s circle.