Hoosier Darling

After earning $200,000 as a freshman, Chris Beaver-trained trotting filly Custom Cantab has dominated the Indiana Sires Stakes as a sophomore thanks to talent, speed and remarkable consistency.

by James Platz

How do you improve upon a $200,000 freshman campaign? Sophomore trotting filly Custom Cantab has managed to do so by dominating the Indiana Sires Stakes this summer with nine wins in 11 seasonal starts. The Chris Beaver trainee now drops into Grand Circuit company for the second time in her career next Friday in the $150,000 Moni Maker.

In 2017, the Mr Cantab—Custom Model lass hit the board in each of her 12 freshman starts. The trotter managed two wins while finishing second seven times, often to ISS rival O So Easy. Custom Cantab earned $214,486 last season for owners Beaver, Donald Robinson and R.B.H. Ventures, Inc.

“She’s extremely consistent. You don’t have to worry about having a different horse every week when you race,” Beaver said of his pupil. “Every time I race her she’s exactly the same. It makes her very easy to train. Besides that, she’s got just about everything in a good horse; she’s sound, she’s smart, she takes care of herself, and she’s fast.”

For all the consistency of her freshman campaign, Custom Cantab began the 2018 schedule with an obstacle. That obstacle was an entrapped epiglottis, and it produced breathing issues for the filly. With the Indiana Sires Stakes set to begin, the trainer set about preparing his charge without knowledge of the restriction.

“Going into the first elimination I trained her up. She had a few weeks that she wasn’t racing, and I thought she trained well, but I told my vet to stick a scope in her anyway just to check her out,” recalled Beaver. “We were four or five days out from the first elim. He saw it then and he did not think she would race any good. Once we found it, the plan was to go ahead and take care of it once we got through the first elimination and final.”

The veterinarian was not optimistic for good results, but Custom Cantab won her $24,000 ISS elimination by a nose in 1:54.4 as the second choice. Returning for the first $85,000 of the season, the filly raced third, recording a 1:54.1 effort. Despite the impairment, the 3-year-old had managed to prove competitive in the state’s top program.

“It’s just a testament to how good she is. The vet thought she wouldn’t have anything coming home with that type of airway problem,” the trainer said. “She was pretty darn good.”

Surgery was performed after the May 30 final, and the filly was ready for action when the second round of eliminations kicked off June 27. Custom Cantab lined up behind the gate without a qualifier in the weeks between starts, but that did not present a problem for the trotter. With regular driver Peter Wrenn in the bike, the sophomore reached the winner’s circle via a 1:54.2 performance. That victory began a string of successes, as Beaver’s filly reeled off seven wins in eight starts, including five straight. Her latest victory came Sept. 12 in the last $85,000 final of the season. Tabbed the favorite, Custom Cantab circled Hoosier Park’s oval in a time of 1:54. The win pushed her career earnings over the $400,000 threshold, while seasonal earnings are now $197,550.

With the last of the points-paying finals in the books, the filly will enter the $200,000 Super Final next month as the prohibitive favorite. Before then, however, Custom Cantab will take on open company in the Moni Maker at Hoosier Park on Sept. 21. Last season, she dipped her hoof into Grand Circuit action in the $240,000 Kentuckiana, finishing second and collecting a cool $60,000.

“I’m pointing her to the Super Final, but we’re racing the Moni Maker along the way,” Beaver said. “I made the decision because she’s there every week (Hoosier Park), racing there, and it’s not taking her out of her normal routine. The way it fits into the schedule, I would need to race her or train her very hard anyway to keep her good for the final.”

The list of eligibles for the Moni Maker includes 31 fillies, headlined by superstar Manchego. Outside of the Jimmy Takter-trained trotter, Beaver feels his entry can mix it up with any from the group that drop in the box this week. Custom Cantab also staked to the Elegantimage at Mohawk, but the trainer decided to stay home and focus on finishing out the Indiana Sires Stakes season strong.

“I see one horse coming in that might be clearly better than her, but other than that, it’s going to be a lot of the same kind of horses that she’s been racing with and beating,” he said. “Once you get past Manchego, Atlanta, and a couple of those other fillies in the Elegantimage that aren’t staked to this race, I think she does look really good in there. I had her staked to the Elegantimage, but I decided not to take her there because I knew how good the competition was there, and I wanted to keep her good for the races here at Hoosier Park.”

The Buckeye trainer has not started Custom Cantab anywhere outside Hoosier Park during her two campaigns. The familiarity with the track could provide home field advantage and play in the filly’s favor in the Moni Maker. Win or lose, through two seasons and 23 starts, the trotter has shown she has all the attributes of a champion.

“We love her. She’s a fantastic racehorse,” Beaver said. “It’s nice having one that when you race them you get their best every time.”