While the year hasn't gone according to plan, Blake MacIntosh is still extremely confident in his sophomore standout Sports Column. He's confident enough to send Sports Column to Hoosier Park for Saturday’s $245,000 Monument Circle to face off against many of the Grand Circuit three-year-olds that competed in the 2017 Breeders Crown.
In fact, four of the top five finishers in the 2017 Breeders Crown -- Beckhams Z Tam (1st), Downbytheseaside (2nd), Miso Fast (3rd) and Funknwaffles (5th) -- return to Hoosier Park on Saturday for the Monument Circle.
Sports Column (PP3, Brett Miller, 15-1) drew just outside of morning line choice Downbytheseaside (PP2, Chris Page, 2-1). It will be the second start of the year at Hoosier for Sports Column, who appeared to be turning a corner in his last start at the Indiana oval. In that start on September 22, Sports Column finished a hard-closing second to divisional heavyweight Huntsville in the 2017 Jennas Beach Boy.
In his next start at Mohawk, Sports Column finished sixth as the betting favourite in a division of the Ontario Sires Stakes Gold series. That effort was followed by a third-place finish in the OSS Super Final on October 14.
"He's had a good year, not a great year," MacIntosh said of Sports Column. "He only raced six times as a two-year-old, and he got a bit tired after we shipped him back from Indiana the last time and didn't race good in that Gold. And then in the Super Final, he raced good: he had the 10 hole, left hard, that took a lot out of him...and he came first up against a horse that went the mile of his life. We weren't expecting that [effort] from that horse.
"I think he was just tired; he'd been shipped twice to the States within three weeks and then came back and was at Mohawk...we shod him different for being in the States. I don't know if he was just tired and wasnt't shod right for Mohawk, he just wasn't himself that night. It was a huge disappointment; I went home mumbling to myself trying to figure out what happened."
Given that the Super Final was 21 days prior to the Monument Circle, MacIntosh wanted to ensure all was well with Sports Column prior to Saturday's stakes event. A qualifying mile over Flamboro Downs on October 26 satisfied his connections.
"We qualified him last week at Flamboro...we only wanted to go a mile in :54, he went a mile in :54 and he was fine so hopefully everything's good this weekend."
A son of Sportswriter from the Walton Hanover mare Lady Leslie, Sports Column sports a summary of 2-3-6 from 15 starts. But the season can realistically be viewed in two parts: pre- and post-Lasix. Since the addition of Lasix in late July, Sports Column is 2-3-3 in nine starts.
MacIntosh, who co-owns Sports Column with Pennsylvania's Hutt Racing and Quebec's Daniel Plouffe, feels the colt has a much better shot than the double-digit morning line odds would portray.
"He seems to like that track so hopefully everything goes right," MacIntosh told Trot Insider. "We'd planned on going to this race at all times. I have complete confidence in this horse and if he's on his game I honestly think he can be right there. He's raced against them before. If he's on his game I honestly think he's top four in the country. I know he doesn't have the money to show that this year, but without the Lasix earlier in the year we missed a good chunk in the North America Cup (finishing sixth), a couple of the Golds earlier on where he wasn't himself and I honestly think with the added Lasix he can go right with any of them."
That confidence in Sports Column becomes even evident when MacIntosh revealed the plan to race next in the 2017 Matron Stakes at Dover Downs with a possibility to supplement to the Hap Hansen Progress Pace if the colt fares well enough in his next two assignments.
"He looks great, he looks like he did at the start of the year. Hopefully we've got him where we need him and everything goes right."
MacIntosh gave props to all of Sports Column's drivers but feels Brett Miller is the right fit for the colt right now. Miller has driven Sports Column three times, and finished in the money (1-1-1) all three.
"Brett's got along with him the best of everybody, it seems like. He's an aggressive driver and gets after him, and 'Column' likes to be reminded that you're there. He can get a little lazy on you sometimes and if you remind him that you're there, he'll go on."
The lacklustre efforts from Sports Column after his first out-of-province experience doesn't give MacIntosh cause for concern this time around.
"He ships great, it's just that he hadn't been on the road before. I shipped him down to Scioto, shipped him back...then shipped him to Indiana, then shipped him back. That's why we're going right to the New York barn from here (on Friday morning). Plus we have all the babies up here and none in New York."
Here's the field for the $245,000 2017 Monument Circle, slated for Race 10 on Hoosier's Saturday night card with a post time of approximately 9:12 p.m.
1. Funknwaffles - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen - 6-1
2. Downbytheseaside - Chris Page - Brian Brown - 2-1
3. Sports Column - Brett Miller - Blake Macintosh - 15-1
4. Every Way Out - Peter Wrenn - Dylan Davis - 30-1
5. Rock N Tony - Trace Tetrick - Erv Miller - 8-1
6. Eddard Hanover - Doug McNair - Ron Burke - 8-1
7. Miso Fast - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke - 12-1
8. Beckhams Z Tam - Ricky Macomber Jr. - Jamie Macomber 9-2
9. Drunk On Your Love - Mark MacDonald - Jim Pollock Jr. - 30-1
10. Filibuster Hanover - David Miller - Ron Burke - 5-1