Giant Run and “Jersey” Joe Bravo proved to be the toughest in a fine field of three-year-olds to grab the title in the 11th running of the $200,000-added Centaur Stakes Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. The race joins the Indiana Grand Stakes as the richest turf races for the state of Indiana and always draws some big names in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Giant Run started his journey from post seven in the 10-horse lineup of the Centaur Stakes and used just enough early speed to keep up with the four horses that had their sights set on the pacesetter position. Pilot House and Francisco Torres were the first to get the call from the center of the track but they were quickly joined by Holding Gold and Florent Geroux along the inside, Back Togetheragain and Rodney Prescott on the outside, and Uncle Brennie and Chris Landeros between horses. Quick fractions of :23.51, :46.91 and 1:10.95 were placed on the board by Pilot House before the late closers came into view heading into the final turn.
Giant Run had picked up his speed in mid-turn and carried that momentum into the stretch drive. He angled to the outside and took on the ones left on the front for the final quarter-mile. Bravo went to work on the chestnut son of Giant's Causeway. Halfway through the stretch, it was evident the only threat Giant Run would receive would be in the form of the late closers who were in full force. Both Surgical Strike and Zapperini were closing in as quickly as they could but Giant Run fended them off, winning the race by three-quarters of a length at the wire. Surgical Strike and James Graham won the battle for second by a head over Zapperini and Corey Lanerie. The final time of the race was 1:35.68.
“Every race, you learn more and more about a horse and I probably learned the most about this horse (Giant Run) when I rode him in at Gulfstream and finished second (in the Grade III $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes),” said Bravo. “He has a good kick at the end so we wanted to let the others go on early and then close. We got a great trip today.”
Giant Run paid $6.80, $3.60, $3.60 across the board as the race favorite. He earned his fourth win in eight starts for 2016 and increased his career bankroll to more than $350,000 with his win in the Centaur Stakes. Giant Run, a $200,000 Keeneland Yearling Sale purchase, is owned by Robert Baker and William Mach and trained by Tom Albertrani, who is based at Belmont Park.
“He (Giant Run) has high natural cruising speed so the game plan was to sit off the leaders,” said Dan Stupp, assistant trainer for Albertrani. “We didn't know four horses would go out for the lead, so that was a bit of a surprise. Our game plan was to give him a target and sit off the speed. Joe did a great job of getting him to relax early and then timed his move just right.”
The win with Giant Run marked the first stakes win for both Bravo and Albertrani at Indiana Grand. Bravo, who has more than 5,100 career victories, just completed the meet at Saratoga. The multiple Graded Stakes winning jockey has numerous titles to his credit in his home state of New Jersey at The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park. He rides at Gulfstream Park during the winter. Albertrani, also a multiple Graded Stakes winning trainer, has been among the country's top trainers since 2000. He is best known for his 2006 Preakness win with Bernardini, who has gone onto a successful career as a sire. Many horses that race on the Indiana circuit are offspring of Bernardini, who stands in Kentucky.
Queen Caroline Rules in Indiana Grand Stakes
Queen Caroline and Jockey Alex Cintron put together a perfect journey to take top honors in the eighth running of the $200,000-added Indiana Grand Stakes Wednesday, Sept. 7. The victory in the one mile turf event marks the fourth straight victory for the three-year-old daughter of Blame for first time owner Amy Moore.
Starting from post two in the 10-horse race, Queen Caroline used just enough early speed to grab good positioning behind race leader Come to Mischief and Luis Colon. Believe in Bertie had a big hold of Shaun Bridgmohan during the early stages of the race as they sat to the outside of Come to Mischief and Queen Caroline through fractions of :23.84 and :47.39 before Bridgmohan allowed Believe in Bertie to move up and take over the top spot heading into the final turn. That was a cue to Cintron to also move Queen Caroline to the outside and to keep tabs on the new race leader.
At the top of the stretch, Queen Caroline had been inching up on Believe in Bertie with every stride and the two went head to head for the stretch drive home. Neither horse was giving in and the battle ensued almost all the way to the finish line before Queen Caroline took over, winning by one-length over Believe in Bertie. Hidden Treat and Joe Bravo finished third with an impressive late move, but was no threat to the top two finishers.
“She (Queen Caroline) always breaks sharp and we got a perfect trip inside today,” said Cintron, who has shipped in to win five of eight starts at Indiana Grand over the past two seasons. “We were able to save ground and then I moved her out and let her run.”
Queen Caroline paid $11.00, $5.80, $3.80 across the board for her win in the Indiana Grand Stakes, a Listed event. The final time of the race was 1:35.08. This marks the second straight year that Cintron has won the Indiana Grand Stakes. He was also the jockey aboard 2015 winner Tiger Ride.
When asked about his success at Indiana Grand by Peter Lurie in a post race interview, Cintron commented, “Every time I come here I have good luck and I'm very comfortable here and really like it. But, every time I come here I also have a live horse.”
Queen Caroline had not raced since her win in a division of the $100,000 Ta Wee Stakes in mid July at Indiana Grand. Her win in the Indiana Grand marks her biggest career stakes victory to date for Moore, who was trackside to greet the sophomore filly in the winner's circle.
“This is the first horse I have ever owned,” said Moore, who was interviewed by Lurie following the race. “If it's like this, I want more horses. This has been an unbelievable year. After her two-year-old season where she raced twice and finished dead last, I didn't know what to think, but I'm liking this three-year-old season better.”
Queen Caroline nearly doubled her career bankroll to more than $256,000 for Moore, who purchased the filly as a yearling from the Keeneland Sales for $170,000. She has been in the capable hands of trainer Michael Matz from the very beginning. Although Matz was unable to attend the race, his assistant, Patricia Cooper, accompanied the filly to Indiana from their home base in Maryland.
“When she (Queen Caroline) stepped off the trailer, she looked around as if to say, 'I got this,' and has been cocky ever since,” said Cooper. “She has been here since Monday and we were hoping that attitude would lead to this, so we are glad it did. They (Indiana Grand) treated us so well when we were here for her last start and Michael already had in the back of his mind that we would return for this race today.”
Queen Caroline now has four wins in six starts in 2016. All four of her wins have been over the turf, a move Matz made at the beginning of the three-year-old season for the Virginia-bred filly.
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