By Mike Paradise
The second legs of last weekend’s Terry Hunt Late Closers were supposed to give us a clearer picture of what to expect in Saturday’s $25,000 Final but instead they made the outcome of the ICF 3-year-old even fuzzier.
Last Sunday’s second division pitted the first round series winners Frontier Frank (Mike Oosting) and Sumpun Great (Casey Leonard) against each other for the first time with the winner most likely being labeled the horse to beat in the final.
Except Sumpun Great wasn’t himself in leg two and faded rather badly in the lane while the betting favorite Frontier Frank had a nice trip and raced well but as it turned out not well enough, ending up second best behind Sagebrush Shocker (Brandon Bates) from the barn of trainer Kim Roth.
While that finish can’t be described as a “shocker” because Sagebrush Shocker finished second behind Frontier Frank in leg one, the Sagebrush gelding did get a pocket trip in the first round one never gained an inch in the stretch on the winner.Just a month ago Sagebrush Shocker was racing in non-winners of one lifetime to be claimed for $8,000 and its $3,000 purses. Saturday night he goes for the winner’s share of a lucrative $25,000 pot.
The ICF pacer raced exclusively at Hoosier Park as a freshman going winless in six starts and making less than $5,000.
“Ruck” (trainer Ken Rucker) told me that last year the horse just didn’t quite get it as far as the competitive part of it,” said trainer Kim Roth who got the youngster for Hawthorne’s winter meet with the Hunt Late Closer in mind. “As a 2-year-old The horse was doing everything right but he wasn’t quite clicking.
“This year everything started to come together and he’s gotten better with every start. He was really good last week. It’s so exciting to be going for $25,000 this week.
“I really hope “Ruck” gets all the money. I worked for him for 10 years and we’ve been close friends for about 30 years so I would love to see his colt take it all for him.”
Sagebrush Shocker will have to be at the top of his game in Saturday’s night’s seventh race co-feature because he’s not the only another sophomore pacer who also pulled off a bit of a surprise in last Sunday’s Hunt divisions.
The two betting favorites Special Sauce and Vegas Bomb went off stride at the start of their division and driver Casey Leonard took advantage of their plight with the Ronnie Gillespie Stable’s Sagebrush Sharp, getting away with pedestrian fractions of a 1:01 flat half.
Sagebrush Sharp ($10.20) only needed a 30 flat last quarter to hold off Fox Valley Hangten who nosed out Special Sauce for second. While Special Sauce came back nicely to hit the board, Vegas Bomb never did recover and made more breaks later in the race.
The draw for Saturday’s Hunt Final went very well for Sumpun Great (Casey Leonard) who landed the rail. Sagebrush Shocker (Brandon Bates) and Frontier Frank (Mike Oosting) drew nicely with the four and five slots, respectively. However Sagebrush Sharp (Pat Curtin) will have to start from the eight post while beaten favorite Special Sauce (Tyan Anderson) starts one slot further outside.
Looking to pull off a surprise victory in the Hunt finale are likely longshots Vegas Bomb (pp 2, Sam Widger), Adele’s Big Party (pp 3, Todd Warren), Fox Valley Hangten (pp 6, Juan Franco), Herecomesmagotta (pp 7, Tim Curtin) and Rudy Sage (pp 10, Mike Rogers).
We’ll examine the $25,000 Doc Walker Late Closer Final in Saturday’s column.