Grand Stage made a grand impression Saturday, Aug. 21, winning the second round of the $33,000 Don K. Memorial Starter Handicap Series at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Named in honor of former Indiana HBPA executive director Don Kubovchik, the race was contested at a distance of one and one-sixteenth miles.
Starting from post four in the nine-horse lineup, Grand Stage broke well but was immediately surrounded by horses, limiting his options. Rider Nelson DeSouza chose to wait patiently as horses got into place for the run around the first turn. Once everyone was in place, Dontlaffhespaidfor and Filemon Rodriguez emerged as the leader while race favorite Roaring Home and Leandro Goncalves kept close tabs on him from the inside. Down the backstretch Three Tickets and Rafael Mojica, Jr. also stayed right on the heels of Dontlaffhespaidfor on the outside.
In the final turn, the field began to tighten, with the biggest move coming from Grand Stage and Sea Gaze, who were three and four wide, respectively. Roaring Home found a seam along the rail and saved ground to get a nose in front. When the horses straightened out for the stretch run, Grand Stage had a clear shot to advance from the center of the track, and took advantage of his good placement. Roaring Home was holding his ground well inside, but he could not fend off the attack by Grand Stage, who drew clear and won the race by five and one-half lengths. Roaring Home was a comfortable second over Benson and Eddie Martin Jr., who closed well from the back of the pack for third.
"Today, there was a lot of speed, and I knew this horse (Grand Stage) from the last time I rode him," said DeSouza, who is in his first year of riding at Hoosier Park. "A couple of the horses today had a little bit of speed, which was a big help for me. We had a good trip. I had to hold him back a little bit at the beginning, but I did not have to fight him like last time. He really responded in the straightaway and raced really well."
Owned by Robert Meyer, et al, Grand Stage earned his second win in his third start for 2010. This is the first trip to the winner's circle for his new connections, who claimed him after his first start of the year at Churchill Downs.
"This is the first horse that we've claimed in about three or four years," said Meyer, who has owned horses for Bradley for 12 years. "We've tried all aspects of the game, but wanted to add some excitement back into our stable, so we decided to claim this horse. We got lucky and won the shake."
Bradley noted there was one other claim in on Grand Stage the day they moved him to his barn. However, their choice to go for Grand Stage was not completely without some concern.
"We claimed a horse that hadn't raced in over a year, so we knew we were getting into a gamble," said Bradley. "There were a couple of other horses we were looking at then, but the general consensus was to take the gamble and go for this horse (Grand Stage)."
Since arriving in the Bradley Stable, Grand Stage has proven to be an easy keeper. He doesn't require any additional work out of the normal schedule and he is perfectly mannered.
"We realized right after we claimed this horse (Grand Stage) that we probably got a good buy," said Bradley. "This was only his third race in a year. Nelson (DeSouza) had him in the right place today, just like we had talked about. Going down the backside, I thought we were in pretty good shape to get the win."
Bradley is no stranger to Hoosier Park's winner's circle. He saddled Brass Hat for the victory in the Grade II $500,000-added Indiana Derby in 2004. Brass Hat, who is still in training with Bradley, has more than $2 million in career earnings. Some of his bigger wins include the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in 2006 and the Grade III Louisville Handicap in 2009 at Churchill Downs. Bradley's father, Fred, owns Brass Hat.