Check Six became harness racing's newest millionaire while Breeders Crown champion Bar Hopping set a new track record to highlight Hoosier Park's four-pack of Grand Circuit stakes for sophomores featured on the Friday, Nov. 4 harness racing card.
Hoosier Park's leading trainer Ron Burke swept the top two spots in the $200,000 Monument Circle for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings with new millionaire Check Six leading wire-to-wire and Manhattan Beach chasing in second-place.
Yannick Gingras sent 3-5 favourite Check Six to the lead from post two through a :26.4 first quarter and carved out middle splits of :56 and 1:24.2 en route to the 1:51 victory. Manhattan Beach (Matt Kakaley) followed in the pocket to finish one and a quarter lengths behind in second after first-over stablemate Downthehighwy (Ricky Macomber Jr.) threw in the towel down the stretch. Mystical Rock (Andy Shetler) followed over five lengths behind in third.
Following a third-place finish in the Breeders Crown behind Manhattan Beach and winner Racing Hill, the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion Check Six earned his 10th win of the season from 21 starts.
"Obviously, as far as last week, it was a lot faster than I wanted to go. I said I was going to try to make his job a little easier tonight and it worked out," said Gingras in a post-race interview. "I definitely expected some speed from the outside. Mr Wiggle Pants [post nine, eighth-place finish] has shown speed all year, but when the gate opened, me and Matt were the only two leaving out of there so I was definitely happy about that.
"It was definitely a good move by Matt. If he didn't leave, he was going to put himself in a bad spot so it was a great move by him. But at that point, I had control of the race. We were able to go slow fractions and, like I said earlier, my horse is super sharp right now and I didn't think they were going to beat me from there."
The win was Check Six's 14th lifetime and pushed his career bankroll over the million-dollar mark to $1,070,304 for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala and James Martin.
The Somebeachsomewhere-Southwind Vanna colt paid $3.20 to win.
Breeders Crown champion Bar Hopping was back in the spotlight on Friday night as he turned in a hard-fought track record victory over Dayson and Gingras in the $220,000 Carl Erskine for three-year-old trotting colts
The 1-5 favourite Bar Hopping out-finished Dayson to win in 1:53.4 for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Jimmy Takter.
Bar Hopping left from post two with Sutton (Andy Miller) firing to his outside and taking the leading role by the :27.1 first quarter mark while Bridge To Jesses (John De Long) secured third-place and Dayson pressed on from post seven. Gingras drove on past a two-hole opening and cleared to command with Dayson on the way to the half in :56.2. Tetrick then went on the attack at the midway mark and Bar Hopping advanced first over through three-quarters in 1:26.2 before powering up to engage Dayson in a stretch duel. Bar Hopping ultimately persevered in a photo finish over Dayson, besting 2013 Erskine champion Creatine's former track record of 1:54.3. Sutton finished three and three-quarter lengths behind in third.
"Ronnie [Burke]'s horse [Dayson] is a nice colt and Sutton, I respect him too," commented Tetrick, who also won last year's Erskine with the Burke-trained Crazy Wow. "My colt, he almost ran in the first turn so I was wanting to be a lot closer than I was, but he fought it out and went a great trip."
The millionaire trotter now boasts nine wins from 18 starts in his sophomore campaign, with other Grand Circuit victories including the Zweig, Canadian Trotting Classic, Bluegrass, and Breeders Crown.
"This horse has been close all year and he deserves the big wins that he's got and I'm just happy to be part of the ride."
Takter trains the Muscle Hill-Cocktail Hour colt for his wife Christina, the Hatfield Stables of Columbus, Ohio, Marvin Katz of Toronto and Al Libfeld of Pickering, Ont.
Bar Hopping paid $2.60 to win.
Hometown favourite Seventimesavirgin shot through the passing lane and drew off to score a 1:52.1 victory in the $112,500 USS Indianapolis Memorial for three-year-old pacing fillies.
Driver John De Long secured a pocket trip aboard the popular inside starter Seventimesavirgin as 7-2 second choice Yankee Moonshine (Yannick Gingras) fired out from post six and led the field through panels of :27.2, :56.3 and 1:25.2. Down the stretch, Watch N Be Watched (David Miller) continued to pursue first-over while Time On My Hands (Trace Tetrick) fanned wide off her cover, but Seventimesavirgin powered home through the passing lane to score by a widening three and a quarter lengths. Cant Touch This (Todd Warren) came through inside for second-place over photo-finishers Time On My Hands and Watch N Be Watched.
This season, the Indiana Sires Stakes champion Seventimesavirgin ran up a nine-race win streak, which ended with a second-place finish to Lakeisha Hall in a division of the Circle City Stakes at Hoosier last weekend.
"We've just been doing what we've done all season long and stuck to our plan," said De Long, who trains the homebred daughter of Always A Virgin and Mrs Grant Seven for Jesse De Long of Clinton, Wisconsin. "They can't win every week. She raced really good last week -- I was not disappointed one bit -- but I'm very happy to get there tonight.
"I just kind of waited for the passing lane," he said of the winning trip. "It's going to open up with an eighth of a mile to go and she can pace really, really hard for a piece...so just patience and it paid off."
Seventimesavirgin ended her sophomore campaign with a 13-for-15 record and seasonal earnings totalling $411,100.
"I won't let her very far out of my sight," noted De Long of his star filly. "She'll be staying here for the winter, a lot of 'R ad R' and we'll be back for more next year."
Seventimesavirgin returned $3.20 to win.
Flowers N Songs rebounded from a disappointing Breeders Crown performance to score a 1:54.3 victory in the $115,000 Crossroads of America for three-year-old trotting fillies.
Yannick Gingras drove 8-5 favourite Flowers N Songs to victory for owner/breeder Robert Key of Leechburg, Pennsylvania.
Kestrel (Aaron Merriman) got the first call leaving from post six before Synonymous Hanover (David Miller) crossed to the lead from post eight by the first turn into a :26.4 opening quarter. Her lead was short-lived though as 8-5 co-favourite Earn Your Wings (Brett Miller) charged out from fourth to take over down the backstretch on the way to the half in :56.1. By the race's mid-point, Gingras had Flowers N Songs underway from fifth with Consolidator (Chris Page) gapping her cover. She progressed to confront Earn Your Wings at three-quarters in 1:25.3 and swept by down the stretch before holding off Kestrel, who came through between horses to finish a close second. Synonymous Hanover finished third over Consolidator.
The Deweycheatunnhowe-Pleasures Song filly now boasts 11 wins from 31 starts in her debut season, along with a bankroll of $577,608.
"Those tough horses are not used to racing that much. Rich [trainer Gillock] had her this week, but all the credit goes to Paul Reid," commented Gingras in a post-race interview. "Being able to keep her on top of her game that long, the credit goes to him."
Flowers N Song paid $5.20 to win.