Indiana’s ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ once again on display during Breeders Crown

by James Platz

Last weekend, Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino played host to the Breeders Crown. It is the third time the Anderson, IN oval has had the distinction, and over the course of two nights, each of the 12 championship events produced compelling storylines and memorable results.

By all indicators, the two-day event was a tremendous success, with multiple track records lowered and new handle marks established. In three turns as host, Hoosier Park continues to build on the ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ first exhibited in 2017.

“The first year we came here there certainly was a lot of skepticism and wondering why we were coming to the Midwest,” said John Campbell, Hambletonian Society president and CEO. “They really put on a show and raised the bar for future Breeders Crowns. We were just ecstatic about everything they did here in 2017 and other tracks took notice. When we went to Woodbine [Mohawk Park], everybody stepped up their game, and The Meadowlands did as well.”

Contrast the 2023 edition with the event held three years earlier, and this time a key ingredient was present: the on-track audience. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoosier Park officials were unable to open the facility to racing fans that year. They were capped at a capacity of 597 individuals on site. The 2020 Breeders Crown races unfolded before a largely simulcast/online-only audience. The performances on the track were fantastic, generating record handle numbers. Unfortunately, Indiana’s industry stakeholders lost out on one of the key benefits of hosting events of this significance: providing a first-class and lasting experience for attendees.

“It was a different scenario with the pandemic,” Campbell said. “I look back on that and I wonder how we put on a Breeders Crown during a pandemic. Working with these people, they put so much into it. We had restrictions, mandates both state and local. But we had a Breeders Crown, and they bet really well. I just couldn’t be prouder of the fact that we got to do that, and a big part of the reason was because of the Hoosier Park team, Rick Moore and everyone involved.”

This year, Hoosier Park (host), the Indiana Standardbred Association and Indiana Standardbred Breed Development (presenting sponsors) teamed to create a top-notch experience for those in attendance. Whether you were a first-timer in Anderson or a regular to the facility, officials rolled out the red carpet to provide a special atmosphere fitting the prestige of the Breeders Crown.

“Coming back here under normal circumstances, they’re just a pleasure to work with,” Campbell said. “I think we put on a great show here for the weekend. Our handle is up over 2020, again, so we’ve gone up every year that we’ve been back here. I thought the racing was tremendous. Some favorites won, some favorites got beat, but the racing was just really phenomenal to watch. We couldn’t be happier with the partnership we have here.”

Hoosier Park provided an elegant environment, from the Homestretch Restaurant to a large temporary tent that featured live music and large screens showing the races. The lightning-fast racing surface was prepped and ready for record performances. The stage was set, and the equine athletes delivered. Boy did they ever deliver.

Friday (Oct. 27) evening’s weather could not have been better. With temps in the mid-60s, it was enjoyable to take in the races from the apron.

The first Crown championship of the night, the $700,000 final for freshman trotting fillies, offered a glimpse into the stellar efforts in store for the weekend. Although favored Warrawee Michelle claimed victory for trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt, the margin was a narrow head over Soiree Hanover. By the end of the program, a trio of Hoosier Park track records had fallen as Gem Quality, My Girl EJ and Karl each captured Crown titles, the latter two also establishing new stakes records. Dexter Dunn also reminded us why he has been named the sport’s best driver over the last four seasons. He collected seven winners on the program, sweeping the Crown finals for freshman pacers.

The weather changed dramatically overnight, and fans were greeted Saturday by temperatures in the lower 50s and the threat of rain. Precipitation would eventually arrive, with the final three Breeders Crown events contested over a track rated sloppy. It would not dampen the enthusiasm of the fans or the competitors. Favorites claimed five of the eight championships over the course of the evening, with Jiggy Jog S and Bond each setting new Hoosier Park track records in the process. While those results might be a bit “chalky” for some, triumphs by Confederate, Tactical Approach and Sylvia Hanover were defining moments for horses that may have a hand in rewriting racing when they transition into careers away from the track.

Reflecting on Hoosier Park’s third opportunity as host of the Breeders Crown, there are a few poignant moments that will stay with me for years to come. Each embodies what I believe makes this business special.


With the rain not letting up, I found myself stationed at Hoosier Park’s grandstand paddock, the makeshift location used for trophy presentations once the precipitation moved in. The paddock was also the location of Diamond Creek’s winner’s lounge. As the $600,000 sophomore colt pace final lined up to go to the post, a handful of Diamond Creek employees watched from the television outside the lounge entrance. When the field turned for home, Vazquez, who serves as director of marketing and stallion syndicates, began encouraging Confederate as he splashed through the lane for driver Tim Tetrick. As he closed in on the wire, her excited pleading turned to raw emotion and the tears began to flow. It was a special win for everyone connected with the homebred colt.


The winner’s circle can be a hectic place on Breeders Crown night, and Saturday was no exception. After Andy steered Max Contract to victory in the $400,000 Mare Pace final, he was whisked off for an interview. Then, on to the trophy presentation. As he departed for the van that would take him back to the barn area, Julie spotted the mare’s headpole, shouted to Andy and abandoned the shelter of the grandstand paddock to give him the equipment. It was their first opportunity together without distractions. Under unceasing showers, they shared a long embrace before she returned to the paddock to collect the championship hardware. When asked about the victory — their second Crown title as a trainer/driver team — and the moment, the conditioner gave a heartfelt response, “You know, my family and my horses are my two major things, so when those two combine, it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”


If there is one performance to single out as the highlight of the Breeders Crown weekend, my vote goes to Sylvia Hanover. She looked defeated in the turn. It appeared she would come up short late in the lane. Yet the filly overcame it all and turned in one of the grittiest efforts in the history of the Crown. Through sheer determination she captured the win by a neck and made history in the process, becoming only one of six pacing fillies to capture the championship at both 2 and 3.


Hours after the Breeders Crown eliminations wrapped up Saturday (Oct. 21), the work to transform Hoosier Park began. A small collection of volunteers assembled, and over the next couple hours, the group prepared 1,200 of the estimated 2,500 gift bags that would be given to attendees in the dining room and tent throughout the weekend. The names of the volunteers are not important. What matters is the spirit of camaraderie and the “can do” attitude employed. It happened that morning. Moments like this happened repeatedly in the weeks and months leading up to the Breeders Crown, helping to guarantee a successful event, no matter how small the detail. Members of the Indiana racing community stepped up and answered the call, and they will do so the next time the Crown comes to Hoosier Park. Let’s hope the wait isn’t long.

Breeders Crown 2023 – Top 10 by purses

Rank Earnings Driver Starts Win Place Show

1 $1,136,380 Dunn, Dexter 12 3 0 2

2 $1,108,200 Svanstedt, Ake 5 3 1 0

3 $1,074,920 Gingras, Yannick 12 2 1 2

4 $1,037,340 Tetrick, Tim 11 1 4 1

5 $611,240 Miller, David 11 0 4 0

6 $471,000 Zeron, Scott 9 1 1 0

7 $375,600 McClure, Bob 2 1 0 1

8 $326,976 Miller, Andy 4 1 0 1

9 $230,800 Roy, Louis 8 0 0 2

10 $219,700 McCarthy, Todd 5 0 1 0

Rank Earnings Trainer Starts Win Place Show

1 $1,588,940 Svanstedt, Ake 13 4 2 1

2 $1,562,020 Burke, Ron 15 2 5 2

3 $828,600 Takter, Nancy 6 2 0 2

4 $484,200 Pelling, Brett 4 1 1 0

5 $369,000 Ryder, Chris 4 1 0 0

6 $334,800 Steacy, Mark 3 1 0 0

7 $275,400 Moore, Ian 3 0 1 2

8 $272,576 Miller, Julie 2 1 0 1

9 $233,100 Daley, Noel 2 0 1 1

10 $201,944 Melander, Marcus 7 0 0 1

Rank Earnings Sire Starts Win Place Show

1 $1,120,820 Walner (NJ) 11 2 3 1

2 $919,300 Sweet Lou (PA) 11 2 1 1

3 $692,000 Tactical Landing (NJ) 3 2 0 1

4 $492,144 Muscle Hill (NJ) 7 1 0 0

5 $457,200 Always B Miki (PA) 7 1 0 1

6 $448,000 Downbytheseaside (OH) 4 1 1 0

7 $350,000 Captain Crunch (PA) 1 1 0 0

8 $323,100 Captaintrecherous (PA) 10 0 1 0

9 $306,000 Southwind Frank (PA) 2 1 0 0

10 $218,000 Bettor’s Delight (ON) 3 0 1 1

Rank Earnings Owner Starts Win Place Show

1 $1,253,820 Burke Racing Stable 11 2 3 1

2 $1,138,500 Weaver Bruscemi 7 2 3 0

3 $1,115,200 Ake Svanstedt 6 3 1 0

4 $579,600 Bradley J. Grant 6 1 1 1

5 $570,600 Diamond Creek Racing 5 1 1 2

6 $560,600 Howard Taylor 3 1 1 1

7 $485,000 Elizabeth Novak 2 1 1 0

8 $483,600 Let It Ride Stables 4 1 0 2

9 $386,200 JAF Racing 3 1 0 0

10 $381,500 Bender Sweden Inc. 2 1 0 0

Rank Earnings Breeder Starts Win Place Show

1 $812,800 Diamond Creek Farms 6 2 1 1

2 $756,600 Burke Racing Stable 6 1 2 1

3 $756,600 Weaver Bruscemi 6 1 2 1

4 $603,700 Hanover Shoe Farms 13 1 1 0

5 $448,800 Steve H. Stewart 6 1 0 1

6 $406,200 Crawford Farms 4 1 0 0

7 $400,800 Oakwood Farms 2 1 0 1

8 $378,800 Warrawee Farm 2 1 0 0

T9 $350,000 Bottom Line Racing 1 1 0 0

T9 $350,000 Elizabeth Novak 1 1 0 0

T9 $350,000 Let It Ride Stables 1 1 0 0

Compiled by Jay Wolf