Homebred Fortunada scores improbable victory for Wright, DeLongs

by James Platz

The father-son team of Bo and Pat DeLong have made a habit of buying yearlings at the sales and turning them into Indiana Sires Stakes champions. Friday night (Oct. 14) the Wisconsin duo earned their latest Super Final win at Harrah’s Hoosier Park with Fortunada, a horse they bred and raised in partnership with Michigander Gordon Wright. The small yet resilient filly, sent off at 16-1 odds in the $250,000 final for freshman filly pacers, delivered an improbable upset win for the trio, trainer Roger Welch and driver John DeLong, stopping the clock in 1:52.4.

“This one here is just a small little filly. We got her ready a little late because Roger didn’t have the people to take care of her,” Bo DeLong said. “We trained her at our farm track and brought her down here. She gives 100 per cent every time she races.”

Over the years, the DeLongs have collected Super Night hardware with multiple horses bought at public auction including millionaire Bridge To Jesse’s and Always About Katey, a mare that retired with just shy of $850,000 on her card. This time, their newest champion was born through a decade-long association with Wright, who began this journey with Fortunada’s great grandam, One’s Enough. He bred the Albatross mare to Armbro Cadet, resulting in the mare One Cadet.

“I had her grandmother, One Cadet. Raced her grandmother in Chicago. She was a very good racehorse. She just died about two weeks ago on my farm,” Wright said. “Then I had her daughter, this mare’s mother, Lauren. She was also a good mare. She raced in Canada, a Canadian bred, she made about $380,000.”

One Cadet raced five seasons, chalking up 31 wins in 105 starts and banking $318,254. She took a 1:52.1 mark at Balmoral Park as a 5-year-old. Ironically, the previous year she turned in her fastest seasonal score, a 1:52.2 effort, at Hoosier Park. As a broodmare, One Cadet has produced six winners from nine foals, with five six-figure earners. Lauren, sired by Modern Art, raced three seasons, but her freshman campaign turned out to be her best. Trained by Bob McIntosh, the filly won two Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots finals and finished second in two more. Lauren was first or second in 11 of 14 seasonal starts, collecting eight wins and amassing $309,468 in earnings.

At the conclusion of her racing career, the DeLongs traded into Lauren and bred the mare in partnership with Wright. Fortunada is the sixth foal from the mare, sired by Breeders Crown champion Luck Be Withyou. Lauren had not produced a winner prior to the filly racing this season.

“The mare herself was a good race mare. She comes from a good family,” said Pat DeLong. “The first few babies we had with her were beautiful. I don’t think any of them really made over $15,000 or $20,000. Definitely not sires stakes horses. Then we bred her to Luck Be Withyou and she had a little runt. And the rest, you saw it tonight.”

To make a horse eligible to the Indiana Sires Stakes program, one needs to pay a $500 nomination fee in the spring. Had the cost of entry been higher, the DeLongs may have hesitated with making the undersized Fortunada eligible. Instead, they tried their luck.

Said Bo DeLong, “For $500, we’ll take a chance.”

On a night when several of the established favorites failed to reach the winner’s circle, Fortunada triggered the biggest upset of the evening. Although there were multiple fillies sporting longer odds in the contest, the partners watched in disbelief as John DeLong and their homebred moved from third on the outside racing out of the turn and surged past fading favorite Rollin Rosie and Sleazy Mama late in the stretch to score the win by three parts of a length. The winning time was a fifth off her seasonal best.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think,” said Bo DeLong, in an excitement-fueled back and forth with his son after the winner’s circle presentation.

“No, we have never had a horse ever surprise us like this, ever. This is crazy. I mean, she’s this big,” interjected Pat, holding his hand out to his side to indicate her small stature.

The story is even crazier when you consider that Fortunada did not qualify for the Super Final on points. While the filly recorded six wins in 10 attempts leading into the championship race, she only competed in two Indiana Sires Stakes legs, finishing second in one and third in another. That left her 11th in points, four shy of the last spot. When Beauty N Grace, third in the standings after six legs and twice a winner, did not drop in the box for the final, the filly was pulled into the $250,000 finale.

“We named her Fortunada, which is Italian for ‘Lucky One’, and it came through tonight,” said Wright, who watched the race from the rail. “It’s unbelievable. I could never have dreamed this. She started coming in the stretch and just kept coming. She’s got a lot of heart. I thought she could get a check. This is my wildest dreams come true.”

Fortunada turned the trio’s good fortune into a Super Final score. With the win, she raised her seasonal bankroll to $202,870 while providing a thrilling conclusion to the sires stakes campaign for Wright and the DeLongs.