Coach Stefanos, Ponda Title lead Indiana award winners

by James Platz

Indiana’s top performers from last season were honored Saturday evening (Jan. 20), at the 2023 Standardbred Awards Banquet held at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Noblesville. Coach Stefanos was recognized as Pacer of the Year in the Hoosier State, while Ponda Title was named Trotter of the Year. The event was sponsored by the Indiana Standardbred Association, Standardbred Advisory Board and Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

Coach Stefanos ranked as one of the top sophomore pacing colts in the Indiana Sires Stakes program. The Tellitlikeitis—Watch N Be Watched gelding won four legs and finished a close second in the $250,000 Super Final for the ownership group of Ken Duffy, John Stefanos and D & M Trading II LLC. Coach Stefanos finished on the board in 15 of 17 3-year-old starts with nine wins to his credit. Conditioned by Erv Miller and steered by Trace Tetrick, the pacer also added open stakes wins, capturing the $190,000 Monument Circle and scoring a Breeders Crown elimination. The Victory Hill Farm-bred gelding finished the season with $565,865 in earnings.

Ponda Title enjoyed an exceptional freshman campaign for her connections. The Muscle Massive—Elin filly never missed the board in 2023, registering seven wins in 11 attempts for owners Connie Hochstetler, Robert Buddig and Allen Schwartz. The 2-year-old scored four Indiana Sires Stakes legs for trainer Jay Hochstetler before adding the $250,000 Super Final. Kyle Wilfong served as Ponda Title’s regular pilot, also guiding her to runner-up finishes in the Jim Doherty and Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stake. Bred by Pond-A-Acres, Ponda Title banked $483,420 in her first season. She is the first freshman to be named Trotter of the Year in Indiana since Fiftydallarbill earned the award following the 2017 campaign.

The success of Coach Stefanos trickled down through some of the night’s other awards. Victory Hill Farm was recognized as Large Breeder of the Year for the ninth consecutive year. The LaGrange, Indiana-based nursery has received the award in 13 of the last 16 years. Coach Stefanos, Super Final winner Tell’s On A Roll and Little Rocket Man were just some of the horses bred by Victory Hill that produced notable seasons. A group of 44 Indiana-sired starters earned nearly $2.3 million racing on the fair circuit and at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. Nationally, they accumulated just under $2.9 million in purse earnings.

Stallions standing at Victory Hill swept the awards for the state’s top sires. Tellitlikeitis was tabbed as Pacing Sire of the Year and stalwart Swan For All was again recognized as Trotting Sire of the Year. Tellitlikeitis was represented by 179 starters in 2023, with 121 reaching the winner’s circle. His top offspring included Coach Stefanos, Tell’s On A Roll and freshman Super Final winner Tellmeitmatters. The progeny of Tellitlikeitis combined to earn more than $5 million last year, securing the sire’s first award.

Swan For All, by contrast, collected his seventh-straight award as the state’s leading trotting sires. Of his 198 starters, 142 combined to collect more than 400 wins in 2023 while raking in over $6.2 million in earnings, His top offspring included millionaire and Hambletonian Maturity winner M-M’s Dream, and sires stakes stars Swanya, Talent Scout and Skyway Paige, a filly that earned over $200,000 in her first season.

The father-son team of Bo and Pat DeLong were named Small Breeder of the Year for 2023. Their pair of freshmen Indiana-sired homebreds were among the best in the 2-year-old pacing divisions. Filly Teelatini scored five sires stakes leg wins and banked over $270,000. Colt Tellmeitmatters picked up an Indiana Sires Stakes leg and triumphed in the $250,000 Super Final at Harrah’s Hoosier Park as the third choice in the contest.

Trace Tetrick was awarded Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year after another successful title defense at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. On the strength of 368 victories and more than $4.8 million in earnings at the Anderson oval, he earned the award for the 10th-consecutive season. He was the regular pilot of Coach Stefanos, Rollin Rosie and freshman All Jk among others.

Tyler George secured his fourth consecutive Harrah’s Hoosier Park training title, earning him a fourth-straight Pari-Mutuel Trainer of the Year award. George led all conditioners with 108 victories. He also finished the season with $1.6 million in purses. Super Final winner Tell’s On A Roll is a filly he trains and also partially owns.

Doug Rideout swept top honors for Fair Circuit Driver of the Year and Trainer of the Year for the third straight season. In 2023 he guided 54 winners over the course of the summer and conditioned 53 winners, enjoying double-digit margins in both categories. He sent out two Governor’s Cup Championship winners in Fly Delta and Woodside Hank, the first he also steered to victory at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.