The Wonder from Down Under dominated his North American pari-mutuel debut with a 1:48.4 victory Friday in the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park.
story by Dave Briggs
Trainer Jimmy Takter was forced to watch his pupil Lazarus’ North American pari-mutuel debut via FaceTime video feed while out at sea, but even on a tiny screen it was obvious the New Zealand-bred horse known as The Wonder from Down Under was mighty impressive while winning the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes on Friday at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in 1:48.4.
“(My wife) Christina and I are on a cruise ship and we had a problem seeing the race,” Takter wrote via text, adding that his assistant trainer Per Engblom used FaceTime to send the feed to his boss.
“This horse is a real champ to do what he did tonight in his first start and with only one qualifier. That’s an amazing performance.”
Social media tended to agree and was buzzing about the horse’s debut victory on U.S. soil.
Winning driver Yannick Gingras said it’s likely only the beginning for what Lazarus can accomplish in North America.
“Is he going to get better? Of course he will,” Gingras said. “The next start, and the start after, he should be even better. I thought he was really good (tonight).”
Despite starting from the nine-hole, Lazarus dispatched a tough group of older pacers relatively easily in the 25th edition of the Dan Patch. He made the front past the first quarter, was slowed somewhat by driver Yannick Gingras in the middle half and sprinted home in :26 to defeat Split The House by one length. McWicked was two lengths back of the winner in third.
“Any time you get to drive a great horse it’s always special, no matter which one it is,” Gingras said. “It’s his first race. You want to do well, you don’t want to kill the horse, you want to win the race, but you don’t want to take too much out of him. There was definitely pressure that way, but we got the job done.”
Lazarus, who was supplemented to the race for $25,000, is owned by Taylor Made Stallions of Nicholasville, KY, who purchased the horse in May from New Zealand interests and hope to establish the horse’s reputation in the northern hemisphere.
The 6-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight out of the Christian Cullen mare Bethany was a winner of 35 of his 45 lifetime starts at the variety of distances raced in Australia and New Zealand under the tutelage of trainer/driver Mark Purdon. Lazarus is the richest standardbred stallion of all time from the southern hemisphere with earnings of more than $3.8 million. Lazarus set seven track records at multiple distances and won a number of Group 1 events Down Under, including The Inter Dominion, the New Zealand Cup (twice) and The Hunter and Victoria Cups. The son of Bettors Delight—Bethany was named Pacer of the Year Down Under at ages three, four and five and Horse of the Year at age five.
“We started looking into it and studied how many mares they thought they could breed to (Lazarus) in New Zealand, because I guess he’s like King Kong down there,” said Duncan Taylor CEO of Taylor Made Sales and Stallions in a June 8 HRU story (full story here) “What he can stand for up here is still to be determined because, if we get lucky up here and he comes to top form, then I think he could be one of those international sires going both ways.
“So, the upside intrigued us, if he did come up here and really raced well.”
Gingras said having the nine-hole in Lazarus’ pari-mutuel debut in the U.S., “definitely was not ideal. I’m not going to lie about that. The three or four would have been really nice. But when you have a good horse, one of the better ones in the race, people tend to give you a spot somewhere along the mile or you don’t have to work as hard on the front. So, I wasn’t that worried about it. It was just a matter of being smart and seeing what was happening in front of me.”
The victory gives Lazarus $156,500 in North American earnings and $2,822,050 in total for his career when his earnings are converted to U.S. dollars.
If Lazarus comes out of the race healthy, Takter said the pacer’s next start will be Aug. 25 in the eliminations for the $615,000 (Cdn) Canadian Pacing Derby at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Ontario.
— Yannick Gingras quotes by James Platz