Admiral Hill finds success in Kentucky Sires Stakes at Oak Grove

by James Platz

The second series of Kentucky Sires Stakes (KYSS) for 4-year-olds kicks off Monday afternoon (May 27) at Oak Grove with multiple $50,000 divisions. The connections of Admiral Hill have targeted the early series with their late fall acquisition, and the Sweet Lou—Laura Hill gelding has already produced a pair of wins over the five-eighths-mile oval. The Per Engblom trainee will attempt to earn his fourth seasonal score and continue the momentum in the day’s sixth race.

Last November, Admiral Hill was offered for sale via onGait by owner and breeder Tom Hill. The gelding had earned over a quarter million dollars under the tutelage of Chris Ryder, taking a mark of 1:48.3 as a sophomore. Matt Morrison purchased the pacer for $261,000 and sent him to Engblom to condition. The conditioner said that Kentucky’s lucrative program for 4-year-olds factored into the purchase.

“That is something we took into consideration when we bid on the horse, that he did have these races coming up,” said Engblom. “It’s just great. The Graduate and all the other races, they’re nice, but they’re a little cutthroat. This is a series where you can ease into it and let a horse develop. It’s just a great program.”

Admiral Hill began his campaign at The Meadowlands, winning the feature on April 6 with a 1:50 performance. Since shipping to the Bluegrass State, the gelding has settled in nicely through the first KYSS series at Oak Grove. Steered first by David Miller and later by Yannick Gingras, Admiral Hill claimed victory in the first two legs.

Sent off as the favorite from post 4 in the $100,000 final held May 13, Gingras fired for the lead when the wings folded, but had to settle for the pocket seat behind It’s My Show after battling to a :25.4 opening panel. Turning for home, Admiral Hill had pace, but nowhere to go until late, pushing through between horses in the final strides to salvage third. Upset winner Combustion and runner-up Tip Top Cat, both with double-digit odds and open track to the outside, fired late to hit the wire together, separated by a head, in a time of 1:49.1.

“Except for a little traffic problem in the last race, we’re off to a good start,” Engblom said. “He hasn’t disappointed yet. He’s got a tremendous turn of speed. He’s two fingers. When you ask him, he just turns it on right away.”

A winner in three of his first four seasonal starts, the gelding has banked $75,200 for Morrison Racing Stables, and raised his career tally to just under $360,000. After the onGait purchase last November, Engblom entered Admiral Hill for a single start at The Meadowlands, winning in early December before turning him out.

“He was very uncomplicated,” said Engblom, who currently leads all trainers in North America in earnings and ranks second in wins. “He’s just a very nice horse to be around. He makes my life and the caretaker’s life a lot easier. He was in great shape when he came. We trained him for a couple weeks, put him straight in the box and he was great right away. This winter has been very uneventful.”

Although Admiral Hill is eligible to the Graduate Series, the trainer is set on keeping the pacer in Kentucky. The second KYSS series offers a trio of $50,000 legs with a $150,000 final, slated for June 25.

“We’re going to stick to Oak Grove and see what happens,” he said. “We did pay him into the Graduate, so we do have that choice if we want to take him up to The Meadowlands. He’s not going to Mohawk for the first leg, but if we really want to take him to The Meadowlands, we can. I highly doubt it. Most likely he’s going to stay at Oak Grove for now.”

Engblom is managing Admiral Hill through the transitional 4-year-old season with the future in mind, and he is hoping to have a nice older pacer in years to come.

“We took the long-term approach to him,” he said. “We raced him once last year and then we turned him out. Since he’s a gelding, obviously we’re looking beyond that too. It’s a horse that we want to have for the upper conditions for years to come. That’s why we chose the route that we went.”

Once the Oak Grove meet concludes July 16, Engblom said Admiral Hill’s schedule could include select stakes.

“There are series races at The Red Mile coming up, but we did also stake him to some open events this fall,” he said. “Hopefully the Breeders Crown is a goal, but that’s so, so far away, and another huge leap to take.”

A lot can happen in the months between now and October. For the moment, Admiral Hill has found a home at Oak Grove and is succeeding for his connections.