Bridge To Jesses will be at home in Friday’s $220,000 Carl Erskine Stakes for three-year-old trotters at Hoosier Park, but he faces a difficult road to victory.
The winner of 21 of 27 career races -- with all but one of the starts coming at Hoosier Park -- Bridge To Jesses will leave from post No. 1 in an Erskine field of 10 that includes newly minted Breeders Crown champion Bar Hopping as well as Breeders Crown finalists Sutton and Waitlifter K.
Sutton finished third in this year’s Hambletonian while Waitlifter K was fourth. Another Hambletonian finalist, Milligans School, also is in the Erskine.
“The race is a local race in our own front yard so we staked to it hoping it would come up a little weak maybe,” said a laughing Roger Welch, who trains and co-owns Bridge To Jesses with William “Bo” DeLong, Patrick DeLong, and Ray DeLong. “This is his chance to step up. The rail definitely helps us try to get a little crumb anyway.
“It’ll be fun to see what he can do,” he added. “Maybe he’ll be like the other Indiana-breds who have stepped out. We’ll see if Jesse can. He’s done quite well for us. Both last year and this year he’s been real good to us.”
Last season, Bridge To Jesses won 10 of 12 races and earned $309,093. He was the Indiana Sire Stakes two-year-old male trotting champion and a track-record-setter at Hoosier Park.
This year, he has won 11 of 15 races and earned $247,102. He had a six-race win streak snapped on Oct. 15 when he finished fourth in the Indiana Sire Stakes championship for three-year-old male trotters. He enters the Erskine off a second-place finish to Milligans School in a division of the Circle City on Oct. 28.
“He got a bad trip in the (Indiana Sire Stakes) final, but that’s the only bad trouble we’ve had all year,” Welch said. “He’s got a great attitude. That’s what I like most about him. And he’s always been a strong, sound horse. He shows up to race every week. He tries 110 percent. Those kind are hard to find and hard to replace.
“On Saturday from the rail I know he’ll try real hard. It’s the end of the season, he’s getting a little tired, but they all are. He’s not a big horse, but he’s got a big heart. He’ll try. Hopefully he can hold his own and sniff a check out.”
Bridge To Jesses is a son of stallion Jailhouse Jesse out of the mare Bridge To Nowhere. He was purchased for $28,000 at the 2014 Indiana Premier Yearling Sale and his family includes multiple Dan Patch and O’Brien award-winner Peaceful Way and stakes-winner Toocool Forschool.
“He’s got a license to be a nice little open horse,” Welch said about the gelding, who has a career-best win time of 1:53.4. “He’ll trot more next year. We’ve babied him this year. He doesn’t have the flashy record, but when you do a breakdown of what the (1):53 miles are at Hoosier Park compared to somewhere else you can tell what his potential is.”
This will be Bridge To Jesses' final start of the year.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Welch said. “I’ll bring him back to my farm and let him grow and fill out and hopefully have a good four-year-old and aged career. As of today, that’s the plan. The option is there to sell him if anyone is interested, but we really haven’t put him on the market. We’ll pull his shoes off in the paddock and he can come home to the farm and have a little vacation.”
Bar Hopping is the 3-5 morning line favourite in the Erskine; Bridge To Jesses is 12-1. Hoosier’s card also includes the $200,000 Monument Circle for three-year-old male pacers, $115,000 Crossroads of America for three-year-old female trotters, and $112,500 USS Indianapolis Memorial for three-year-old female pacers.
Check Six, one of five horses from the stable of Ron Burke in the Monument Circle, is the slight 7-5 morning line favourite over stablemate Manhattan Beach at 8-5. Manhattan Beach finished second in the Breeders Crown and Check Six was third.
Earn Your Wings, who finished fourth in the Breeders Crown, is the 5-2 favourite in the Crossroads of America and Indiana Sire Stakes champion Seventimesavirgin is the 8-5 favourite in the USS Indianapolis Memorial.
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.