How opportunity knocked for Texsong Soprano and Joe Yoder

The owner astutely plucked the trotting colt with the strong maternal line from last year’s Northern Indiana Yearling Speed Sale for just $9,000. Texsong Soprano has already earned nearly 10 times that amount.

by James Platz

Joe Yoder did not anticipate leaving last September’s inaugural Northern Indiana Yearling Speed Sale with a horse. However, as a self-professed bargain hunter, he is accustomed to capitalizing on opportunities when presented. Today, he is reaping the rewards of such an opportunity. Texsong Soprano, a trotting colt he acquired at the Topeka, IN sale for $9,000, has quickly accumulated $87,222 in five career starts, the latest a 1:56.3 victory in Indiana Sires Stakes action at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

“I wasn’t really in the market to buy any. I had a couple already. I’m always looking for a bargain, and he brought $9,000 at the sale, so I consider that a bargain,” Yoder said. “On the sire side, he’s a Text Me. He wasn’t well known yet, but I was always a Kadabra fan. The dam side really got me fired up.”

Cataloged as Hip 33 in the sale last fall, Texsong Soprano is the ninth foal out of the unraced Muscles Yankee mare Muscling In. She is better known as the dam of 2010 O’Brien Award winning older trotting mare of the year Windsong Soprano. The colt’s third dam is Armbro Blush, Dan Patch Award winner in the freshman trotting filly division in 1982, who also produced two-time O’Brien Award winner Armbro Leader.

“He was probably the best dam line in all the yearlings that went through the public sale ring in Indiana last year. His half-sister, Windsong Soprano, made $1.2 million, and she produced a lot of good racehorses. So that caught my eye,” he said.

With only 16 registered foals and five starters, Text Me offers a very small sample of progeny. Perhaps that was a factor that led to the colt not receiving more attention. His conformation may have been another factor.

“He turned his foot out a little bit. That would keep me from bidding high,” Yoder said. “I did a lot of chiropractic work on him. I’ve got a pretty good chiropractor and I work them in a round pen. I wasn’t too concerned about that because I thought I could fix it. If I wouldn’t have done anything, he would have been a knee knocker.”

Bred and sold by Abraham Miller, Texsong Soprano grew up an orphan. Muscling In was lost after foaling the colt. Raised on goat milk and milk replacer, Miller’s children would play with the developing colt as if he were a family pet. The owner believes that close interaction made Texsong Soprano easy to work with around the barn.

Yoder, a Howe, IN resident, owns the colt with his son, Daryl. He trained down Texsong Soprano over the winter in northern Indiana. As he developed the young trotter on a straight track, Yoder realized very early that his charge was different.

“Early on, I knew this was going to be a special horse if we could keep him sound. Back in March he showed me a lot of talent already,” the owner said. “He was kind of a really smart horse. Early on he drove like an old horse. He was just always easy to get along with, a highlight all along.”

Once he felt Texsong Soprano was ready to qualify, he sent the horse to Joe Essig Jr. and Missy Essig. While he thought the colt was special, he wanted an honest assessment before preparing for pari-mutuel action.

“The day that I took him down, I told Joe, ‘I’m going to bring you a horse. I want you to be honest with me. When I come down there, if you don’t like the horse, you’re not going to hurt my feelings. Tell me right away,’” Yoder recalled of the exchange with Essig. “We went out with two horses and completed a training trip. We turned around and I asked, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Joe, this makes your hair stand on end.’ That’s just kind of the way the horse is. He’s playful, but when he’s on the track, he’s all horse.

To his credit, Texsong Soprano has shown he is all horse each time he lines up behind the starting gate. After a pair of qualifiers – a win and runner-up performance – he claimed victory in his pari-mutuel debut, a 1:57 clocking. Moving directly into Indiana Sires Stakes competition his next time out, the freshman romped by seven and one-quarter lengths in his $46,500 division for driver Matt Krueger, stopping the clock in 1:55.3. Two weeks later he was nosed out in 1:55.1 by Jailhouse Dance in the second leg of sires stakes. Getting his first taste of Grand Circuit competition, the trotter finished in a dead-heat with Dash Of Luck for second in the $45,797 Ralph Wilfong Memorial at the Indiana State Fair. His time of 1:57.3 was a tick slower than winner Just Show Up.

Texsong Soprano returned to the winner’s circle Wednesday (Aug. 17) in the third round of Indiana Sires Stakes. Drawing post six in the night’s 11th race, a $67,500 split, John DeLong sat behind the favorite for the first time in competition. Biding their time in third through a :58.4 opening half, the duo were out and challenging first up in the turn, taking control in the stretch and winning by two lengths with a 1:56.3 clocking. Yoder shared that he has fielded calls from interested parties trying to buy Texsong Soprano.

“I had a couple people try to buy him. I’m not saying I wouldn’t sell if the price is right. At this point, I’m not looking to sell. I’m just enjoying the experience,” he said.

Wednesday’s second division was claimed by Bourbon Courage, a You Know You Do half-brother to Hambletonian champion Captain Corey, who trotted the mile in 1:56. Trained by Erv Miller, the colt brought $255,000 at last fall’s Hoosier Classic sale, making him the highest-priced Indiana-sired yearling to sell at public auction. Texsong Soprano and Bourbon Courage have yet to draw into the same division together. Yoder knows it is inevitable, and looks forward to the challenge.

“Once they leave that ring, I don’t care if you pay $200,000 or $5,000, they’re all on the same level,” Yoder said. “It’s going to be fun racing against him. We haven’t met yet. John (DeLong) is driving our horse now. I think he’s the right fit for the horse. It’s going to be interesting.”

Joe Yoder was not searching for a yearling in Topeka last September. Nevertheless, through fate or just plain luck, he found a trotter that is developing into something really special.