It’s on to the Breeders Crown for the 5-year-old pacing mare.
by James Platz
A dozen new Indiana Sires Stakes (ISS) champions were crowned Friday evening (Oct. 15) at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. Rockin Nola once again added her name to the list of final winners in the state by virtue of a 1:48.4 triumph. The victory not only secured the pacing mare’s fourth Super Final score, but it also earned her a return trip to the Breeders Crown for the partnership of J P Racing LLC and Suttons Bay Racing.
“Having a horse of that caliber and that consistency over the years is amazing. It’s a tribute to Joe and Joey and LeWayne (Miller) when she was 2,” said Mike Johnson, who, with trainer Joe Putnam, comprise J P Racing. “We’ve always taken care of her. We didn’t over-race her. That’s why I think she’s good now. She’s really good right now.”
Just how good is Rockin Nola? Racing is predicated on the progression of a horse. Trainers hope to turn babies with potential into young racehorses. Then the goal becomes developing a good 3-year-old. Next is the transitional 4-year-old campaign followed by open class racing should your pupil continue to move forward. Consider that at each stage, Rockin Nola has earned a Super Final victory. There are several Indiana-sired trotters and pacers that have collected multiple finals wins during their careers, but the only other horse to record wins at 2, 3, 4 and 5 in ISS finals competition was the great pacing mare Go On BB.
Friday night, Rockin Nola collected her 30th career trip to the winner’s circle, reaching the wire nearly two lengths in front as the favorite in the $70,000 event. Only Little Rocket Man’s 1:48.3 victory in the final for older stallion and gelding pacers was faster. Bred by Mahlon Lambright, the 5-year-old Rockin Image—Gottogetoutmore mare has pieced together an impressive racing resume. Making her 63rd start, the pacer has hit the board 50 times. The win added another $35,000 to her bankroll, which now sits at $727,007. Rockin Nola was a $15,000 purchase at the Hoosier Classic sale.
“What we do for a living with the horses, this is what everybody dreams of, having a champion horse. ABC Mercedes, when he came along, he was a phenomenal trotter and had an incredible career,” said Putnam. “You’re kind of looking for the next one, and here comes Rockin Nola. It is just another blessing to have her in our barn.”
With her success, Rockin Nola is drawing comparisons to a former Putnam trainee, millionaire trotter ABC Mercedes, as well as another seven-figure earner, Bridge To Jessie’s. Over the course of his career, ABC Mercedes won Indiana Sires Stakes finals at ages 2, 3, 5 and 6. Friday evening, Bridge To Jessie’s raced second in the $50,000 final for stallion and gelding trotters while in search of his fifth title.
“Keeping her at that level for that long, Bridge To Jesse’s comes to mind. He’s been a great horse for a long time. ABC Mercedes for Joe was a great horse for a long time. Nola, hopefully we can keep her going like that,” said Johnson. “She enjoys racing and she’s very fit. I think she’s got a lot left in the tank, hopefully.”
The mare has a lot left in the tank due to her careful management. This summer’s slate is a prime example. Putnam was strategic in setting up the calendar for his star, pointing toward Friday night and the Breeders Crown that lies ahead. To do that, he gave her a month-long rest from mid-July to mid-August in order to help her stay sharp when it mattered most.
“She’s been great all year, but we gave her a month off in the heat of the summer. As the year has worn on, she’s gotten, in our opinion, better and better. The speeds are fast now, but the most incredible thing about her, in my mind for this year, all nine of her wins have been sub 1:50. Even as a horseman that has done this for a few days, it’s just amazing,” the conditioner offered.
Since returning to action Aug. 21, Rockin Nola has proven tough to beat. With regular driver Joey Putnam in the bike, the 5-year-old established a new Hoosier Park track record in her first start back, pacing in 1:48.4. She relinquished the record a week later, finishing a quarter length behind Mystical Carrie in 1:48.3. Including the Super Final tally, Rockin Nola has won four of her last six attempts, including three in a row. Heading into the Breeders Crown she is in fine form. Last season, the mare made her Crown debut as Hoosier Park hosted the fall championships. She finished sixth.
“She had a few minor foot issues going into the Breeders Crown last year. All in all, we still thought she showed a good effort. We felt like if it works out again and she’s racing great, we’ll give her another opportunity,” Putnam said. “She’s arguably had a better 5-year-old year than a 4-year-old year, so here we are, going to New Jersey.”
This week the connections will focus on the Crown while also turning their attention to yearling shopping at the Hoosier Classic sale after purchasing babies in Lexington. The journey with Rockin Nola is not complete, but that doesn’t stop Johnson from trying to find the next great horse. He appreciates the fact they don’t come around that often.
“It’s still fun looking for the next Nola. That’s the game, right? You try and find something that will even make the sires stakes. Just making the sires stakes is a big deal,” he explained. “To win the sires stakes final four years in a row, you don’t even think of that when you’re picking one out; it’s almost impossible. We’re just very grateful to have her. It’s been quite a ride.”
Freshman and sophomore Super Finals
Harrah’s Hoosier Park press release by Emily Ratcliff:
Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino played host to Hoosier Champions Night Friday (Oct. 15) and the 15-race program provided a fitting conclusion to the 2021 ISS season. The summer-long ISS culminated with the crowning of 12 new champions with purses offered exceeding $2.4 million. Light showers and coolers temperatures marked the evening but did not slow the tempo as the evening was highlighted by exciting racing action and a track record performance.
Two-Year-Old Filly Pace
After scoring in the opener in the older trot with Whata Swan, Trace Tetrick continued his hot start, teaming up with trainer Brian Brown and Trick Of The Light in the first $270,000 Super Final of the evening for 2-year-old filly pacers. Trick Of The Light settled in third in the early stages of the race before she made a backstretch brush to the front. Once getting to the front, Trick Of The Light wouldn’t relinquish the lead from that point forward, holding off a host of challengers in the stretch to score the victory in 1:51:1. Ms Quick Sand and Brandon Bates got up for second at a price of 77-1, with Always Gonna B You and John De Long rounding out the trifecta.
“She has been racing pretty well heading into tonight, we though she had a pretty good shot,” Brown said in the winner’s circle. “She was really good early in the season, we went in :51 in her second start and that may have taken a bit out of her, but she’s a nice strong filly and she dug in and fought hard tonight.”
With the victory, Trick Of The Light finished her freshman campaign with three victories in nine starts and $227,250 in seasonal earnings for owners Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocoo and Kirk Nichols. Bred by Adam Eicher, the daughter of Odds On Equuleus out of the Dragon Again mare, Gordjus established a new lifetime mark with the 1:51:1 score.
Three-Year-Old Filly Trot
The $250,000 Indiana Sire Stakes Super Final for 3-year-old filly trotters would serve as race five on the 15-race card, with favoritism falling to eventual race winner, Shirley Goodness. Driver Peter Wrenn put Shirley Goodness into play early in the mile, quickly landing in the second spot behind LeWayne Miller and Country Girl Charm. Country Girl Charm led the field through hot early fractions. As second choice Swift Swanda launched her bid on the final turn, Shirley Goodness waited for room up the inside before exploding home with a powerful :27:2 final fraction to score in 1:53:3. Doug Rideout trainees Queen Of All and Four Under Par rounded out the top three with John De Long and Yannick Gingras in the bike respectively.
“We were really excited about racing this filly tonight,” trainer Melanie Wrenn said. “We added Lasix a few starts back and that really seemed to turn her around a bit and she’s been sharp heading into the Super Final.”
Owners Bill Beechy, Bradley Maxwell and Kenneth Frieder now face the decision of potentially entering the daughter of Swan For All into the Breeders Crown eliminations on Oct. 23. With tonight’s score, Shirley Goodness has won five of 11 on the season, and catapulted her career earnings to $364,445.
Two-Year-Old Filly Trot
Sire Swan For All scored his third Indiana Sire Stakes final victory with M-M’s Dream in the $270,000 2-year-old filly trot Super Final. Regular pilot Sam Widger had his work cut out for him as he navigated traffic trouble throughout the entire mile. Widger waited until the far turn to put M-M’s dream into play, slipping into what would appear to be the perfect second over position behind the cover of Jusmakinyalook and Jordan Ross. Into the stretch, Jusmakinyalook and Ross made a costly break in front of Widger and M-M’s dream, causing Widger to take evasive action in the lane. Even with the slight detour, M-M’s Dream powered home with a :27 final quarter to chase down race favorite Fleurie and Peter Wrenn to score the victory in a lifetime best 1:55. Fleurie held on for second with Simply Right and Hall of Famer Tim Tetrick finished third.
“She was a bit hot tonight, hotter than I like her to be,” Widger said after the race. “I really just wanted to get her flat through the first turn and let her settle into the race, from there even with the breaker in front of her in the stretch, she still had a target to shoot at and she’s a fighter. She loves her job.”
It was the fourth straight victory on the season for the Henry Graber Jr. trainee, and sixth in eight seasonal starts for the freshman filly. Owned by the Eleven Star Stables, Frank Baldachino and the Hillside Stables, the $18,500 Hoosier Classic purchase was bred by Mervin J Miller and has now banked $268,462 for her connections.
Two-Year-Old Trotting Colts
Dover In Motion provided a fitting conclusion to his freshman stakes season with a dominant, track record setting 1:53.2 score in the $250,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final for 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings. With Ricky Macomber Jr. in the bike, Dover In Motion made his move to the lead just before the three-quarters and never looked back. The 1:53.2 time established a new track record at Harrah’s Hoosier Park for 2-year-old trotting geldings, a mark that was previously held by former Indiana Sires Stakes champion TJ’s Top Pick. Ponda Adventure and Trace Tetrick were second best while Swan Captain and John DeLong finished third. With the win, Dover In Motion is Harrah’s Hoosier Park’s newest track record holder and remains undefeated in Indiana Sires Stakes action this season.
“There can be a lot of pressure with a colt like him,” trainer Jamie Macomber said in the winner’s circle. “But he makes it easy. He’s just good at everything he does and we are lucky to have him.”
Owned by M&M Racing and Norbert Joseph Maza, the gelded son of Dover Dan—Keystone Sadie has now won eight of 9 lifetime starts. With the win, Dover In Motion now sports a lifetime bankroll of $309,400. Dover In Motion was bred by Lyle Dean Slabach.
Three-Year-Old Filly Pace
All eyes were on the Panther Hanover filly Hot Mess Express as she looked to put the finishing touches on an undefeated Indiana Sire Stakes campaign in the 3-year-old filly pace division. John De Long was aboard the 1-9 Tony Alagna trainee as they floated out from the three hole, taking the first turn wide as the Tetrick Brothers threw down the gauntlet in the opening quarter. Tim Tetrick and Pure Cotton came out on top over Trace Tetrick and Skyway Brittney through the blistering 25:4 opening panel. Hot Mess Express cleared briefly to the lead up the backstretch but was quickly covered up by 2020 Indiana Sire Stakes Champion Somethingbeautiful and LeWayne Miller to the half in :54:1. De Long waited patiently before marching up the inside in the stretch, taking advantage of a :27:2 final quarter to score by a length and a half in 1:50:0. Kobe’s Gigi closed from the clouds with Matt Krueger following a miscue behind the gate to get up for second, Somethingbeautiful held on for third.
“She’s just a sweetheart, you can do anything you want with her,” DeLong said following the victory. “The trip did make me a little nervous, it got tight there for a bit, but once she found room she paced hard right down to the wire.”
It was the 11th victory in 13 starts for Hot Mess Express and former second overall NBA Draft Pick Samuel Bowie who owns the star pacing filling. The victory vaulted the filly’s career earnings beyond the $700,000 mark, now boasting a bankroll of $713,199. Hot Mess Express will complete her sophomore season with remaining Grand Circuit Stakes at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
Three-Year-Old Trotting Colts
The trainer/driver combination of Melanie and Peter Wrenn made a clean sweep of the sophomore trotting divisions after Swingforthefences turned in a near gate to wire effort to score in the $270,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Stopping the timer in 1:53.1, Swingforthefences held off a late charge from Illini Earl and Brandon Bates to get the victory.
“He’s a been a very nice horse for us,” trainer Melanie Wrenn said in the winner’s circle. “I didn’t expect him to be that dominant tonight, but he’s been racing well and seems really good right now. He’s got a few of the stakes left here at Hoosier Park and then he will be done for the year. It’s been a great year for him.”
With the win, the gelded son of Swan For All—Sunday Yankee recorded his seventh win from 14 starts this season. Owned in partnership by David McDuffee, and L&L Devisser LLC, Swingforthefences has now won 10 of 24 lifetime while bankrolling $452,940 in purse earnings. Swingforthefences was bred by Concord Stud Farm LLC.
Two-Year-Old Pacing Colts
The biggest upset of the evening was found in the $270,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings when Dalby Hanover and Joey Putnam crossed the wire first at 58-1. After very hot first-half fractions, Dalby Hanover came storming home from off the pace to score in 1:50.2 over Thunder Country and John DeLong. The 1:50.2 clocking was a new lifetime best for the Britney Dillon trainee.
“I felt good coming around the last turn,” Putnam said in the winner’s circle. “With a really hot tempo up front, I loved the set-up of the race.
“When I asked him turning for home, I knew he had plenty of pace. I kept asking him and he kept pacing all the way to the wire. He’s a really nice colt.”
The gelded son of Rockin Image—Don’t Deny Me recorded his third win from nine seasonal starts. Owned by Charles Stein and bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, Dalby Hanover has now earned $200,962 in lifetime purse earnings.
Three-Year-Old Pacing Colts
The final $270,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final of the evening was the 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers and it was Roll Em and Tim Tetrick who took home top honors. Staging a big rally late in the lane — a :26.2 closing quarter to be exact, Roll Em tracked down the pace-setting Virgo and Trace Tetrick to get the win by nearly two lengths.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about the horse coming into tonight,” Tetrick said in the winner’s circle. “They told me he was a little bit lazy and wasn’t super quick but would just keep coming and that’s what he did tonight.
“I was hoping for a little more action up front. It worked out for us though because once he got straightened out he just kept coming.”
Trained by Ron Burke, Roll Em recorded his seventh win of the season from 18 trips behind the gate. The gelded son of Time To Roll—Feetonthedashboad is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and Beasty LLC. Roll Em was bred by David and Karen Arrenholz.