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Calhoun looking to repeat in Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand

Two years ago Bret Calhoun captured the $300,000 Grade 3 Indiana Derby with Mr. Money at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.


The trainer will try to top that this year, shooting for a sweep in Wednesday’s Indiana Derby with Mr. Wireless and the $200,000 Grade 3 Indiana Oaks with Lovely Ride.


Like Mr. Money, Lovely Ride is owned by the Allied Racing Stable of Madisonville, Kentucky, entrepreneur Chester Thomas.


Calhoun’s two 3-year-olds come in with somewhat similar form, both having raced four times and improving with each start.


Mr. Wireless, a son of 2011 Florida Derby winner Dialed In and out of a mare by the deceased Super Derby winner Arch, finished fifth in his debut sprinting. Put in longer races, Mr. Wireless won both an Oaklawn Park maiden and allowance race by a nose, then was second in the Texas Derby by three-quarters of a length at 14-1.


“He loved the two turns,” Calhoun said recently at Churchill Downs. “Really impressive races. He’s a very, very gutsy horse. He’s got a lot of try to him. He ran very well in the Texas Derby, a sloppy mess there. He got away just a hair tardy and that put him in bad position going into the first turn. He got fanned pretty wide and got beat a half-length or so. I think if a couple of things here and there had gone a little different that he might have won. He was good enough to win that race. We’re hopeful he can step up a little bit and fit in these graded stakes.”


By contrast, Mr. Money had already won a pair of graded stakes at Churchill Downs before coming to Indiana Grand.


“Obviously Mr. Money was a much more proven horse going into the Indiana Derby,” Calhoun said. “I trained this horse’s half-sister, and that family develops a little later. They’re a little slow maturing physically. I think you’ll see more and more from this horse in the future. He’s going to get better and better.”


Lovely Ride was a well-beaten second in her debut racing 4 1/2 furlongs at Lone Star Park. She followed with a professional maiden victory and even better-looking allowance triumph at Sam Houston before taking a Churchill Downs’ second-level allowance by 6 1/2 lengths. Off that, Bill Downes has made Lovely Ride the 4-1 third choice in the Indiana Oaks’ field of eleven 3-year-old fillies, behind favored Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Will’s Secret and Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks winner Soothsay.


“Interesting filly,” Calhoun said of Lovely Ride. “Very pretty filly that’s got quite a bit of pedigree. We started her off at Lone Star, and she was just an average second that day. She had some issues bugging her at the time, so we gave her plenty of time off. She was a little bit immature physically as well. We started her back on an easier trail. Ran her at Houston, and she ran very well. So, we brought her to Churchill, and we felt pretty good about our chances going into the allowance race.


“I know she’d never faced anybody, really, and been running on a much softer circuit. Nobody gave her much of a chance here. There were some pretty good fillies in there, been running in grades stakes, coming in thirds and fourths. It was a very good test for her, and she passed with flying colors. So, we’re pretty hopeful she can step up in graded-stakes company as well. She hasn’t done much wrong in her life, and she’s thriving right now.”


Among the fillies Lovely Ride defeated in her last start was Indiana Oaks contender Moon Swag, who before that was third in the Fair Grounds’ Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes and fourth in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland.


Thomas purchased the Tiznow broodmare Lovely Lil while she was carrying Lovely Ride, making him the breeder of record.


“Everybody says I don’t know how to spell patience,” he said with a laugh. “But I have patience with my horses and know they need time here and there. So, we gave her the right time, brought her back nice and easy. She annihilated the field, not once but twice before we brought her to Kentucky to do the two-turn thing. That was a nice race she won at Churchill.


“We’re excited to be going to Indiana. We got lucky and won the Indiana Derby. Now we can hopefully get lucky and win the Indiana Oaks. That would be pretty cool. It’s going to be nice to be back at the track now that things have opened up again.”


Thomas said he was offered “some pretty serious money” for Lovely Ride after her last victory.


“I felt like she had bigger and better things to do, that she would accomplish,” he said. “So, we decided to hang on to her. Hopefully we made the right decision. We’re very hopefully she’ll win a graded stakes. That goes hand in fist. When you start winning graded stakes versus allowance races, especially with fillies, they become more and more valuable. It’s already worthwhile. Bret calls them my pets, but it’s always nice to see these homebreds do well.”


Gabe Saez, who rode Mr. Money, has the mount on Lovely Ride. Ramon Vazquez rides Mr. Wireless.


Stewart bring in Oaks favorite Will’s Secret


Willis Horton Racing’s Will’s Secret is the 5-2 favorite in the $200,000 Grade 3 Indiana Oaks off a pair of thirds in the Kentucky Oaks and Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes, Grade 1 success that followed her winning Oaklawn Park’s Grade 3 Honeybee and the Martha Washington. She breaks from the rail, with 3-1 second choice Soothsay, the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks winner, to her immediate right in the starting gate.


“The filly ran third in the Oaks and she’s training well. So, we’re excited about running her there,” said trainer Dallas Stewart. “There are going to be some nice fillies in there. (But) she’s run against the best. She’s shipped around and run well.”


Will’s Secret is a daughter of the Three Chimneys Farm stallion Will Take Charge, the 3-year-old champion of 2013 for Horton.


Stewart co-bred and co-owns Indiana Derby candidate Starrininmydreams in partnership with WinStar Farm under a foal-sharing arrangement. Stewart owns the mare, Boy Crazy, while WinStar provided the breeding to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.


“He ran third in the Lexington (at Keeneland), and he just got outrun in the Pat Day Mile,” Stewart said. “But our horse is nice, and he’s trained well. We’re excited to see how he matches up.”


Boy Crazy, whom Stewart trained and co-owned with a client, ran only once, finishing fifth in the $30,000 maiden-claiming race. She’s been far more successful as a broodmare.


While getting into the breeding side of the horse industry has been known to bust a trainer, Stewart has done well. Boy Crazy produced Saint’s Fan, who won a $100,000 Louisiana-bred stakes, and $211,107-earner Diamond Crazy, also a Louisiana-bred.


“We just did it for fun, like with one horse,” he said of his family, whose band of three broodmares includes a sister to Boy Crazy. “We started off in the Louisiana program. (Boy Crazy) had just been phenomenal for us.”


Full Charge provides Calumet another challenge in Indiana Derby


Full Charge is 12-1 in the Indiana Derby’s morning line and comes into the 1 1/16-mile stakes off victory in a 1 3/16-miles maiden race. But owner-breeder Calumet Farm in the Brad Kelley era has no problem taking a shot at big races and doesn’t get caught up in the horses’ odds.


Indeed, several notable Calumet upsets have been the 2021 Wood Memorial with Bourbon winning at a whopping 72-1 odds, 2020 Personal Ensign with 9-1 Vexatious over champion Midnight Bisou and the 2018 Pat Day Mile with 39-1 Funny Duck.


“It’s a big step up in class,” said Jack Sisterson, private trainer for Calumet, though the farm uses other public trainers as well. “It is a short field. It’s that time of the year where if your horse is doing well, which he is, you’ve got to take the opportunities where they come with these big 3-year-old races.”


Full Charge, also by Will Take Charge, has improved dramatically with each of his four starts.


“He’s a 3-year-old who has improved with each start we’ve had him,” Sisterson said. “He was a lovely 2-year-old, just sort of immature and needed to grow into his frame. Thanks to Calumet for allowing me to back off him as a 2-year-old.


“We got him started down at Gulfstream going three-quarters of a mile. He finished last, but when he hit the wire, Corey (Lanerie) gave him a slap on the shoulder and he galloped out in front. We were optimistic that he’d move forward as we stretched him out, would put his best foot forward. And he hasn’t disappointed us since, really. We’ll let him tell us whether he’s good enough or not.”


In his three maiden races in Kentucky, Full Charge finished third, then second, then won by five lengths at 1 3/16 miles at Churchill Downs.


“We don’t win first time out,” Sisterson said. “We train to where the horse is going to improve with racing and hopefully not regress with racing. We like to have a two- or three-year good campaign with horses. He doesn’t have a flashy way of going. He might come off the bridle at the three-eighths pole, but he’s a grinding type that seems to get better as the distance gets farther for him. If we can hit the board with a homebred, it helps the mare and the progeny. I’ve got his 2-year-old brother. It’s fun to see him progress in the direction he’s going.”


Adam Beschizza, aboard for Full Charge’s past three races, has the return mount.


“He’s still a very young, unvarnished horse,” Beschizza said. “He’s a horse where you have to squeeze the lemon on him the whole time. He’s still very green and raw. If you saw his maiden win at Churchill, I had to get to working on him at the three-eighths. Once he gets the message, he seems to knuckle down, still very workmanlike. Mr. Kelley likes these big challenges, and he’s never been too far wrong before with some of these maiden (winners). He’ll take his chance.”


Full Charge “has had plenty of shots at the dart board now,” the jockey said. “He’s got plenty of experience. So, let’s hope he’s got it together and can take that next step forward. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and we’ll take a chance. I think he’ll run well, anyway.”


Amoss among trainers with horses in Indiana Derby and Oaks


Tom Amoss, perennially among the Indiana Grand leaders, also has a horse in the $300,000 Grade 3 Indiana Derby (Sermononthemount) and the $200,000 Grade 3 Indiana Oaks (Li’l Tootsie).


Sermononthemount was claimed for $50,000 last March, then was non-threatening in a Delta Downs allowance race. Amoss dropped him in for $30,000 claiming at Churchill Downs, seeking to take his best shot for a big purse. He got the win and no one took the horse. The barn got more ambitious and put Sermononthemount in the Prairie Mile in Iowa, finishing a decent third.


“This horse is definitely improving,” Amoss said. “I think that last workout on June 30 (five furlongs in 1:00.20) is pretty indicative. We’re absolutely taking a chance in a race like this. I like supporting Indiana Grand. I’ve been going there for years. But yeah, we’re taking a shot.”


Li’l Tootsie (photo) has won three of six starts, most recently a six-furlong second-level allowance race at Churchill Downs. But her first victory came at the Indiana Oaks’ 1 1/16-mile distance.


“She’s one of the best horses I’ve got in my barn,” Amoss said. “We are stretching her out, so we’ll see what happens. But she’s a very, very good horse.”