quotes by James Platz / story by Keith McCalmont
Brittany Farms and Val Dor Farms’ Perfect Sting book-ended a perfect season for Hall of Fame trainer Joe Holloway with dead-heat scores by sharing honors with longshot Summa Cum Laude in Friday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown juvenile pace at Harrah’s Hoosier Park (Perfect Sting also dead-heated in his July 28 pari-mutuel debut at the Meadowlands).
The Breeders Crown final brought the unstoppable force that is Perfect Sting to meet the immovable object in the shape of the Ron Burke-trained Southwind Gendry on a clear and chilly evening.
Neither pacer had lost a race in the last two months but something had to give on this night as the two phenoms squared off for the first time with year-end honors hanging in the balance.
Although eight other colts lined up to solve the intriguing paradox, only the 1-2 Perfect Sting and 2-1 Southwind Gendry were less than double digits on the tote board with the remainder of the field seemingly resigned to roles as extras in a showcase of two protagonists, who had dominated their division throughout the season.
The regally-bred Perfect Sting was the result of a pairing of two former Holloway trainees in Hall of Famer Always B Miki and champion Shebestingin. He entered last week’s facile elimination victory over the Burke-trained Summa Cum Laude from scores in the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship ahead of wins in divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes.
Southwind Gendry, also by Always B Miki, brought a record of nine wins from 11 starts to the Breeders Crown final, including the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship as well as divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes.
The stage was set for a heavyweight fight of epic proportions with Southwind Gendry, from post 3 in rein to Yannick Gingras, commanding the early lead through a quick quarter in :25.3 as Perfect Sting, from post 2 for David Miller, made sure his rival earned the point.
Miller and Perfect Sting pulled the pocket down the backstretch to take control through a half-mile in :54.1 and led the field into the turn with Abuckabett Hanover looming large.
Perfect Sting held sway down the lane under persistent pressure from a stubborn Southwind Gendry as Abuckabett Hanover broke stride from a threatening position. Perfect Sting, dead game and flat out through three-quarters in 1:22.4, put away his co-headliner late in the lane but from out of the clouds came the Brian Sears-piloted Summa Cum Laude — the other Burke charge — with the duo hitting the wire together in a final time of 1:50.2.
In a photo review, that took longer than the race itself, the judges could not separate Perfect Sting and 21-1 Summa Cum Laude, providing the first dead heat in Breeders Crown history. Southwind Gendry made the photo but had to settle for third.
Holloway, who had to share the spoils on this night, regardless declared his horse a champion following the race.
“It means a lot. I had the mother, the father. We talked the talk early and said he was going to be the best and he backed it up. He raced really huge tonight,” said Holloway, who also conditioned three-time Breeders Crown-winner and two-time Pacer of the Year Jenna’s Beach Boy. “Early on I said (Perfect Sting) could be the best one I’ve ever had, and I think he’s proven it. None of my others ever went undefeated at 2.”
In last week’s elimination, Miller guided Perfect Sting through more moderate splits of :26.3, :55.1 and 1:24.3 en route to a four-length victory over the chasing Summa Cum Laude in 1:50.4. There were no easy fractions for Perfect Sting in the final and Miller tipped his cap to the young horse for battling to the wire.
“Well, his dad and Wiggle It Jiggleit, they used to go at it like that all the time. Neither one of us, Yannick or me, wanted to give our horses any breathers,” said Miller. “I kind of figured it was going to be a battle, but (Perfect Sting) held strong. He battled a long ways and he held on. He showed his guts there.”
The veteran reinsman said he only realized Summa Cum Laude was in the mix for a result of the highest distinction at the final moment.
“Right at the wire I looked over and saw him,” said Miller. “I was still kind of judging Gendry and I looked over at the last second and saw Brian right there and it looked like he had momentum.”
While Miller was looking for the wire, Sears was searching for just a little more racetrack with the on-tilt Summa Cum Laude.
“Getting away fourth, I didn’t take the worst spot,” said Sears. “Yannick was pushing the pace a little bit going to the half and I thought the way this horse could follow along pretty good, I sat in fourth and figured I could shake loose. I was following the right horses and it worked out.
“I was just counting them as I was going by. I knew I was closing in. The stretch is really long here, so I thought I was never quite out of it until it’s over.”
For Burke, it was a tale of two stretch drives with Southwind Gendry perfectly placed to go by if good enough, only for the longer-priced stablemate to provide late drama.
“The other horse got stung 25-and-a-piece, so I’m not embarrassed at all by him and then this colt, like, it was great. He angled him out late and was airborne,” said Burke. “F – – – ing Perfect Sting is hard to get around! You just can’t get around him. I thought we had him with the other colt and this colt, I don’t know, to be honest, to be fair to Perfect Sting, if he ever saw us coming.”
Owned by Burke Racing Stable, Phillip Collura, J and T Silva – Purnel and Libby and Weaver Bruscemi, Summa Cum Laude had to settle for completing the exacta behind Perfect Sting in the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes.
“He’s a young horse and he’s getting better and better,” said Burke. “He’s going to be a good colt next year. He’s a good colt now, but the big track has helped him a lot. He just had to get off those small tracks.”
By Somebeachsomewhere, Summa Cum Laude returned $11.30 for a $2 win ticket, while Perfect Sting’s backers were rewarded with a $2.20 payoff.