Favorites FAMILY TREE and CUPID take Indiana's Graded Events

SHELBYVILLE, IN -- Picks & Ponderings was on site.  The press box contained a numerous Chicago-based contingent.  The winning trainers of the stakes included names like Wayne Catalano and Michele Boyce.  The bugler was playing tunes after the call to the post.

One would think we were doing a summer-time race at Arlington International, but instead the action was at Indiana Grand, which saw a record handle exceeding $3.1M, a $400,000 increase over the prior year.  Indiana Grand staged six six-figure stakes in the span of about four hours, with the GII Indiana Oaks and GII Indiana Derby serving as the showcase races of the evening and the Indiana Grand season.

For races recapped below, final times are reported through Equibase. As an editorial comment, Picks & Ponderings finds the fractions for tonight's races to be dubious.  Stakes recap authors are denoted above by initials, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist.

Indiana Oaks: FAMILY TREE In Full Bloom

FAMILY TREE started her career in the barn of Wayne Catalano.  After graduating at first asking at Kentucky Downs, she went straight into graded stakes company, only to finish fifth in the Jessamine (GIII).  After that, she switched to dirt.  She showed some talent on dirt through the two-year-old fall, before moving to the barn of Bob Baffert.  She made three starts for Baffert, including a second-place finish in the Plum Pretty Stakes at Sunland, and an allowance win at Churchill Downs.

Six weeks ago, FAMILY TREE moved back to the barn of Wayne Catalano.  The move paid quick dividends.

FAMILY TREE won the Iowa Oaks (GIII) on June 30.  She returned to the track just sixteen days later to face seven other sophomore fillies in the Grade II, $202,400 Indiana Oaks.  Though DOTHRAKI QUEEN was the favourite in early money, opening as low as 8/5, it was FAMILY TREE who settled down as the public's 7/5 choice.  It was her old stablemate from the Bob Baffert barn, EMMZY, who went off the second choice at 5/2; early favourite DOTHRAKI QUEEN drifted up to be the 9/2 third choice come post time.

Local longshot SWEET LEGACY settled along the front early, with EMMZY pressing to her outside flank.  FAMILY TREE settled about two lengths off the pace in the next flight, along with MINES AND MAGIC to her inside.  The front end stayed that way around the turn and down the backstretch, with SWEET LEGACY dictating terms and EMMZY prompting through reported fractions of :24.37 for the quarter and :49.88 for the half.

Into the far turn, EMMZY made her move.  She overtook SWEET LEGACY to the outside, and forged a neck in front.  However, she did not have it easy: just to her outside, FAMILY TREE was bearing down.  The pair duelled for a brief moment, but FAMILY TREE pulled clear in shallow stretch.  Rider Julien Leparoux had FAMILY TREE in hand, and she widened to cross the wire three lengths clear.  EMMZY came home a clear second, three and a quarter lengths clear of MINES AND MAGIC, who held third by a nose over DOTHRAKI QUEEN.  WALKABOUT, DREAM DANCE, SWEET LEGACY, and Illinois-bred MISSALANEY completed the order of finish.

FAMILY TREE gallops home an easy winner of the 2016 Iowa Oaks.

FAMILY TREE gallops home an easy winner of the 2016 Iowa Oaks.

FAMILY TREE is a three-year-old daughter of Smart Strike out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Mover.  She was bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm and Sam-Son Farm, and currently owned by Gary and Mary West.  Trained by Wayne Catalano, she was ridden to victory by Julien Leparoux, who had the leg up on her for the first time today.  The race was FAMILY TREE's second career graded stakes win, and her fourth victory in nine career starts.  The $117,796 winners' share of the purse brought her career earnings to $427,387.

The race unfolded as jockey Julien Leparoux had figured it would. "We had a good post," he remarked.  "We didn't want kick back from the Baffert [EMMZY].  The plan was to sit three wide; I had an immediate response when asked."

The short break between the Iowa Oaks and the Indiana Oaks was no worry for trainer Wayne Catalano, who abounded with praise for his filly's form.  "They run the Derby and the Preakness two weeks apart,"  he quipped.  "I’m thinking, let me take a shot!  The way she trained…she looked so good.  Bright-eyed, eating good, training good.  If you don’t go now, when do you go?  When do you do it?  We stayed with her, watched the filly.  You watch your horse, and kind of get a good idea.  She was screaming, let’s go again.”

Plans for winner FAMILY TREE have not yet been set, though Catalano indicated that he would be discussing plans with his owners and training staff, and remarked that “I would think they would be looking for a Grade I somewhere.”  Second-place EMMZY, according to trainer Bob Baffert, will resurface on turf at Del Mar.

FAMILY TREE stopped the clock in 1:44.46 for a mile and a sixteenth over fast dirt, and paid her backers $4.80 to win.  The $1 exacta over EMMZY (7-6) returned $9.00.  A $0.50 trifecta with MINES AND MAGIC third (7-6-3) came back with $27.70.  The dime superfecta with DOTHRAKI QUEEN fourth (7-6-3-2) returned $16.48, and the dime super high five with WALKABOUT fifth (7-6-3-2-8) paid $45.36.  -- NN

Indiana Derby: CUPID Returns to Winning Form

The $512,000 GII Indiana Derby saw a full field of twelve break from the gate at Indiana Grand before 12,794 (estimated) fans at Indiana Grand on a fair-weather summer night.  The favorite from first flash to gate break was CUPID, whose final price would be 17-10.  CHERRY WINE took late money, but the public concentrated its wagering on four runners: CHERRY WINE, THE PLAYER, CUPID and STAR HILL.

The early stages of the race saw PILOT HOUSE on the lead from the inside but saw CUPID hustle to the front from the eleven post.  He didn't make in the lead in the early stages of the race but was outside of PILOT HOUSE through early splits of :23.44 and :46.75 for the opening quarter and half mile.  Cupid did take the lead during the run down the backstretch and was a length and a half in front at the three-quarter mile mark, clocked in 1:10.86.

CUPID becomes the first gray horse to win the Indiana Derby and Baffert's fourth Indiana Derby winner.

CUPID had the lead turning for home but the closers were starting to get involved.  Mid-pack pressing THE PLAYER, deeper-closing STAR HILL, and last-to-first types like WHATEVERYBODYWANTS were making their runs, but CUPID held firm in the stretch of the Indiana Derby.  Final winning margin was three-quarters of a length.  He stopped the clock for the mile and a sixteenth on fast dirt in 1:43.80 and was the 17-10 favorite.  Bettors collected $5.40 in win mutuels on the Bob Baffert trainee piloted by Rafael Bejerano.  A three-year old gray son of Tapit, he is out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty 'n Smart.

CUPID finished three-quarters of a length in front of THE PLAYER.  Behind THE PLAYER in third came STAR HILL, two and three-quarters lengths out of the top two.  Illinois-bred WHATEVERYBODYWANTS reported home fourth.  SEEKING BLAME, PILOT HOUSE, COCKED AND LOADED, DISCREET LOVER, 5/2 second choice CHERRY WINE, CALL THE COLONEL, TAKEITTOTHEEDGE, and TORRONTES completed the order of finish.

Winning rider Rafael Bejarano stated post-race to Picks & Ponderings that "I was a little worried -- the horse didn't want to switch leads on the backside.  But, I don't try to force him too much.  And then, when he came to the three-eighths, he was finally getting more comfortable.  Then when he came to the stretch, he switched the lead back to the other side.  It was much better, and he showed me a big kick through the stretch. After the three-eighths, the quarter pole, finally I get him by myself to the lead, so I tried to hold him as long as I can and give a little air to come to the stretch, and then to finally give me a little extra."

Jimmy Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert, scored his fourth Indiana Derby (and he's been there for them all) with CUPID for Baffert.  "He broke better today.  Draw a line through the one turn race (the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day).  He had an inside post, got grabbed, and he didn't like it."  Barnes mentioned hitting the road for a next start due to the dearth of three-year-old races at his home of Del Mar, but did say a race he was not aiming CUPID to.  The G1 $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational was ruled out as the connections are pointing G3 Iowa Derby winner American Freedom there.

Via telephone, winning trainer Bob Baffert pointed to a company work on July 5th at Santa Anita with Dortmund (six furlongs on fast dirt in 1:11 1/5) as the clue to CUPID's race readiness as "he held his own that day [working with Dortmund].    "He's a different horse two turns," said Baffert.  Baffert - like his assistant - striked the Haskell from consideration as "the Haskell comes up too quick."  No definite race was given for CUPID, however.

The two dollar 11-5 exacta featuring CUPID and THE PLAYER returned $44.80.  Fifty-cent 11-5-12 trifectas featuring CUPID, THE PLAYER, and STAR HILL yielded $49.00.  Dime 11-5-12-8 superfectas with WHATEVERYBODYWANTS in the fourth slot paid out $173.05.  -- PM

Elsewhere on the Indiana Derby Night program:

  • LOVELY LOYREE ($10.20 to win) started the evening on a good foot for the Chicago contingent.  Trained by veteran local conditioner Michele Boyce and owned by Chicago-area connections Feel the Thunder Stable, Oak Rock Racing, LLC, Bojarski, Biondo, et al., the Illinois-bred Cactus Ridge mare stalked the pace, took over into the stretch, and dug in to hold off odds-on CASH CONTROL by a neck in a time of 1:43.92 over firm turf.  It was her second career stakes victory, and her first in open stakes company.  The plan, per Boyce, had been to send LOVELY LOYREE to the lead.  "I said, you’re the inside speed.  In her last race at Arlington, she backed up at the break and lost three lengths.  She’s got a lot of natural speed.  Fortunately, she doesn’t mind laying a little off the pace, too."  Boyce told Picks and Ponderings that she has not identified a next race for LOVELY LOYREE. -- NN
  • WATCHYOUROWNBOBBER ($22.20) gave trainer Michael Maker and owner/breeder Ken Ramsey two wins (they won the opening race of the night with SHIFTY KITTEN) on the Indiana Grand program with a pressing win from the four-year-old Kentucky-bred Hard Spun colt in the $100,000 Warrior Veterans Stakes.  Final time was 1.40.73 for the mile and a sixteenth over a firm turf course. -- PM
  • BROOKLYNSWAY ($3.80 to win) passed on the Ontario Damsel Stakes (150,000 in Canadian funds) to go closer to home and take the $102,850 Mari Hulman George Stakes by eight and a half lengths on fast dirt in 1:43.02.  Robby Albarado was up for conditioner Bernie Flint on the Ontario-bred four-year-old mare.  Trainer Flint didn't have a specific race in mind but entertained the idea of running in the G3 Groupie Doll in August at Ellis Park - though he did emphasize that the Naveed Chowan-owned mare BROOKLYNSWAY is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. --PM
  • 2013 Illinois Derby winner DEPARTING ($6.80) made his first start for new conditioner Thomas Drury, Jr. - after making all his prior starts for Al Stall, Jr. in the $102,800 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes.  He was two lengths in front at the wire, stopping the clock for a mile and seventy yards on fast dirt in 1:40.96.  Drury didn't disclose any clear post-race plans for the six-year-old War Front gelding owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm to Picks & Ponderings. -- PM

All photos courtesy Linscott Photography.

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Filed under: horse racing, Indiana Grand

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