Grand Circuit action wrapped up at Hoosier Park on Friday night (November 2) with Always A Prince inheriting the victory in the $190,000 Monument Circle for three-year-old pacing colts after first-place finisher Lather Up was disqualified.
The victory marked the Indiana champion Always A Prince's seventh in a row and 19th in 22 starts this year.
With Montrell Teague in the sulky, 4-5 favourite Lather Up left out from post six to lead the field through a :27.1 opening quarter before Dorsoduro Hanover came calling and took over command on the way to the half in :55. From there, Always A Prince launched his attack from fourth and went head-to-head with the Breeders Crown champion as they raced past three-quarters in 1:22. He gained the advantage in the stretch, but Lather Up swept by late and clocked a 1:49.1 mile.
However, this year's North America Cup champion Lather Up had gone off stride when racing behind the dueling leaders in the final turn and caused interference to trailing horses including Nutcracker Sweet. While resurgent in the stretch, the damage was done and judges placed him eighth behind the horse he had bothered.
Always A Prince inherited the throne after out-finishing Dorsoduro Hanover, who was bumped up to second-place.
Owned by Carl and Melanie Atley, the Always A Virgin-Glorious Princess gelding was the 5-2 second choice on the toteboard.
"I think his manners [sets him apart]," said George of his talented trainee. "Bottom line, he doesn't get excited, he doesn't pull, he doesn't do anything wrong at all. He's flawless gaited, he eats good. He doesn't do anything wrong."
Following a runner-up finish in the Breeders Crown, the front-striding sophomore colt Mets Hall cruised to victory in the $256,000 Carl Erskine Memorial Trot for driver Andy Miller and trainer Julie Miller.
Mets Hall left out from post nine and took command at the :27 quarter mark. After middle splits of :56.2 and 1:25.1, pocket-sitter You Know You Do broke stride while first-over Maxus backed through the field leaving Mets Hall trotting away on top to score the 1:53.2 victory. Helpisontheway and Hockey Hanover closed from the outer flow and checked in second and third, respectively.
The winning margin was 1-1/2 lengths for the millionaire Cantab Hall-Mets Inn colt, who will look to wrap up his current campaign in the Matron before possibly heading off to stud duty.
"He's just an amazing animal," said Andy Miller. "He's got his issues, but he works through them and he showed up all year and been 1-2 in all the big races.
"He can get out of the gate really quick and make a good trip for himself, and gets away up close on the front and he's always in the hunt."
Owned by Stroy Inc. and Andy Miller Stable Inc., Mets Hall sports a sophomore record reading 5-4-4 in 14 starts including victories in the Zweig, Simcoe and Bluegrass with runner-up finishes in the Hambletonian, Canadian Trotting Derby and Breeders Crown.
Millionaire three-year-old pacing filly Youaremycandygirl dominated a field stacked with her stablemates, winning the $113,000 USS Indianapolis Memorial by 9-3/4 lengths in 1:50.1.
The favourite of six trained by Ron Burke in the 10-filly field, Youaremycandygirl and driver Yannick Gingras carved out fractions of :27.1, :56 and 1:23.2 en route to the victory. Solitary came on for second and Double A Mint, conditioned by Burke, had the edge in a photo for show after progressing first-up.
The American Ideal-Sweet Lady Jane filly rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Breeders Crown that was won by another stablemate, Percy Bluechip. She has now won half of her eight starts this year following a Dan Patch Award-winning freshman campaign for owner W. J. Donovan.
"She's just super fast. She's from Sweet Lou's family -- it's become the best maternal speed family in the country -- and she's really a top filly," said Burke. "A couple things haven't gone right this year. Kissin In The Sand has turned into a monster and it's made for a little longer year than maybe we thought it would be.
"Honestly, I wish there was more racing for her. We'll race her in the Matron and that's it for her. Really, when they're good like this, I'd like to keep going."
Indiana's champion three-year-old trotting filly Custom Cantab held off the late rallying Seviyorum to win the $137,000 Crossroads of America with Peter Wrenn aboard for trainer/owner Chris Beaver.
Sent postward as the even-money favourite, the Mr Cantab-Custom Model filly cleared to command heading into the backstretch after a :27.2 first quarter and reached the half in :57.2. She proceeded to three-quarters in 1:25.4 with pressure mounting from first-up Live Laugh Love, but opened up three lengths turning for home. Seviyorum cut into her lead late, but came up a half-length short as Custom Cantab prevailed in 1:54.1. Looking For Zelda finished third.
A model of consistency, Custom Cantab now boasts a dozen victories this year and has finished no worse than third in 15 sophomore starts. She is also staked to the Matron.
"I take all my horses to Florida that are good older horses and train them on the sand. She's come back and has been perfect this whole year," said
Beaver, who co-owns the filly with Donald Robinson and RBH Ventures Inc. "She's just like a machine."
While the formidable Foiled Again was beaten less than a length by the James Eaton-trained four-year-old pacer Caviart Midnight and John De Long in the $15,000 Dick Macomber Memorial on Friday's undercard, he was adored by fans who were able to meet the richest Standardbred of all-time at Hoosier Park during his farewell tour.
"It's how he made his whole career, being first-up, and he usually just out-gains them but he's just lost a step. He still fought all the way to the end," said trainer Ron Burke of Foiled Again's runner-up effort in the 1:51.3 mile. "I was really hoping for [driver] Ricky [Macomber] with it being his father's race and everything, but it was cool anyhow."
When asked for one word to describe the 105-time career winner, Burke said, "That's easy, he's determined. I've never seen a horse that has the will. If can get his neck to your neck, he will wear you out."
The 14-year-old Dragon Again gelding, who faces mandatory retirement at the end of the season, has become accustomed to the spotlight and his newfound role as harness racing ambassador.
"He's going to go to my parents' place in Florida and at home with my dad," said Burke of the popular pacer's retirement plans. "If people want him to do things or go places, we'll be willing to take him. We're usually going anyhow and he's really became where he enjoys this. A year ago, I don't know if he did, but now he seems to understand what's going on and he really enjoys the attention and enjoys the people."