The time by the freshman pacer was more than two seconds faster than the sophomore pacers.
by James Platz
The Hoosier State’s fair circuit champions are traditionally crowned during the Indiana State Fair in mid-August. However, the COVID-19 pandemic altered or suspended many traditions this summer across many racing jurisdictions. Instead, this year’s championships took place Thursday (Sept. 10) at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, absent the customary sights, sounds and grandstand crowd. The program capped an abbreviated 2020 Indiana fair program, where 36 days spanning early June to October were trimmed to a 20-date calendar, which began July 4.
Over the course of the pandemic-shortened season, 175 freshmen and 130 sophomores registered points in fair starts, with 92 2-year-olds and 77 3-year-olds logging the necessary six starts to qualify for the championships. New for this season, the finals were renamed the Governor’s Cup Series, with trophies handed out for each division. During Thursday’s championship octet, progeny of eight different sires reached the winner’s circle.
Undefeated freshman pacer Big Gulp turned in the top performance of the day to capture his $20,000 Governor’s Cup championship. In reign to trainer Jay Cross, the Always A Virgin gelding romped by six and one-half lengths, stopping the clock in a lifetime best 1:52.4. Big Gulp’s winning time was seconds faster than sophomore Governor’s Cup winning Straight Shooting gelding Vel Charlie (1:55), also steered by Cross, and Jereme’s Jet filly Ivanna Ivy (1:55.2), driven by Logan Loney.
“They were at him. He didn’t get much rest during the mile. It was a good mile,” Cross said of the win. “They were testing him I thought. He didn’t catch many breaks. But, that’s to be expected when you do well like that, you have a target on your back.”
It was the ninth seasonal win for the gelding, bred by Ben Yoder, who shares ownership of the pacer with his wife, Anna, daughter, McKenzie, and brother, Michael. Out of the Armbro Mackintosh mare Astra Destiny, Big Gulp is a half-brother to 2012 3-year-old fair champion Legal Transfer and 2013 Indiana Sires Stakes Gold final winner Mandy’s Mattjesty.
“The mare has been just unbelievable for me. He’s the last foal that I’ll probably get out of her,” the breeder said. “The last two years I haven’t been able to get her back in foal. As far as this win, it’s a race. You never know when a horse is going to have an off day. When you turn to go behind the gate anything can happen; anything is possible. It was a good feeling to win it.”
In any other season, Big Gulp would not be racing on the fair circuit after mid-August. Following the championships, a second series is usually conducted with an earnings cap in place. The top horses are excluded from the remaining schedule to give others on the circuit a chance to compete for purses and points leading into a $10,000 championship held in October. The revamped calendar eliminated that second series and focused on offering the most racing opportunities possible.
“In prior years, there is a good possibility we would have been eliminated at the state fair because of the money cap. We benefitted this season because the good horses stayed,” said Cross. “This colt could have raced at Hoosier and been competitive. When you race those sires stakes colts in today’s world they are all out every step from the first leg. You see a lot of them that don’t come back at 3. The owners are of the mindset of making a racehorse and they were more interested in having a 3-year-old.”
Trainer Doug Rideout swept the freshman trotting divisions, capturing the $20,000 championships with filly Heres Devotion and gelding Jessies Outlawed. In the filly final, Rideout sent out two starters, with Robert Taylor guiding the Here Comes Herbie lass to a six-length triumph with a 2:00 clocking. Bred by W R L Stables, the trotter scored her fifth win in 10 starts for owners Bill Webb, Diamond D P Standardbreds and Rideout’s wife, Julie.
In the Governor’s Cup final for trotting colts, Rideout and Jessies Outlawed surged late to push a nose in front of J-S Hopscotch and Alex Udell in a time of 1:59.3. The son of Jailhouse Jesse, bred by Harvey Fry and Alvin Fry, collected his sixth win in 12 starts. The 2-year-old has finished no worse than third this season for the partnership of Julie Rideout and the Glider Stables.
“The colt, he’s been kind of a nice colt all year. He just goes out and does his job. He trots all the time and just does his business. The filly has been racing tough lately. She raced at Hoosier Park and won. She was really good. She’s just been sharp lately and feeling great,” the trainer said of his pair of winners. “We’re going to give them a shot in the sires stakes and see what happens. I don’t know if they are good enough for them, but they deserve a chance to see if they can go with them.”
Rideout is a fair circuit regular each summer, and admits this year’s slate of events had a different feel than previous years.
“It was tough because it was jammed in within a short period of time. It was different, that’s for sure. We didn’t have a week between any of the stops, having to go twice a week sometimes,” he offered. “We had to make the best of what we had. They tried to do as much as they could for the horsemen, and I think it turned out very good. I’m sure people would love to have the second series, but they got as many opportunities for people as they could, and I think we all appreciate that.”
Rounding out the Governor’s Cup winners were freshman Time To Roll filly Rollonbeauty (1:56), trained and owned by Curtis Rice, 3-year-old Guccio filly Just For Us (1:59.2), owned and conditioned by Bonnie Mattingly, and the Jack Myers Racing Stable-owned Big Stick Lindy gelding J-S Jasper (1:58.2).