Freshman pacing colts were in the spotlight at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday in the second round of Indiana Sires Stakes action but the night belonged to trainer Jeff Cullipher and driver Sam Widger.
The Cullipher-Widger duo teamed up to score in the $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes final for 2-year-old pacing colts with Toni's Affection in 1:51.4 and then just a few races later in the $25,000 consolation for 2-year-old pacing colts with Ima Full Time Job in 1:52.3. Cullipher sent out three of the 10 entries in the $75,000 final from his stable and in the end it was Toni's Affection prevailing in a hard-fought battle to the wire. Stablemates Harfo Hanover and Mr. Julian finished second and fifth, respectively.
Leaving from post two, Widger sent Toni's Affection away from the gate just enough to secure an early position along the rail in second. Camturo Rock and Dave Magee would get the first call through the opening panel in :26.3 but quickly yielded the lead to the post time favorite, Freaky Feet Pete and Trace Tetrick.
Freaky Feet Pete carved out fractions of :55 and 1:23.3 before feeling a threat by Skyway Dante and Peter Wrenn who were on the attack first-over. As the field turned for home, Freaky Feet Pete began to labor on the front with the rest of the field closing in. Camturo Rock surged from the pocket to take a short lead but was unable to hold off the hard charging Toni's Affection.
Toni's Affection utilized a :27.4 final quarter to win by a head in a lifetime best effort. Camturo Rocked finished second but was placed third after a judge's disqualification in the stretch leaving Harfo Hanover and Tyler Smith to inherit the second place honors. Slightly dismissed at the betting window, Toni's Affection returned $18.40 to his backers.
"This is the toughest group of Indiana-bred two-year-old pacing colts that I've ever seen,” Cullipher noted after the victory. "I've always had faith in this colt though, he has been the perfect horse to train all winter and I had a lot of confidence in him tonight.
"This is just amazing,” he continued. "His namesake was here tonight and everything worked out for us. He is a nice, nice colt.”
Toni's Affection was a $19,000 Harrisburg Yearling Sale purchase and was later re-named after co-owner David Lewis Linker's wife. Linker co-owns the son of Always A Virgin-Yankee Affection with Thomas Pollack. Toni's Affection has now amassed $71,250 from four lifetime starts for his connections.
Pollack and Linker would find the winner's circle once more with the Cullipher-Widger duo this time in the $25,000 Indiana Sires Stakes consolation for two-year-old pacing colts with Ima Full Time Job in 1:52.3 who is owned in tandem by the partnership of Randall Bendis, David Linker and Thomas Pollack.
In much the same fashion, Widger had Ima Full Time Job forwardly place through hot opening fractions of :26.1 and :55.1 set by the heavily favored Kelly D and Trace Tetrick. When the field hit the three-quarter mark in 1:24.4, Kelly D was clinging to the lead while the rest of the field closed in. Widger was able to find the late racing room he needed in the stretch and Ima Full Time Job did the rest.
Using a :27.3 final quarter, Ima Full Time Job coasted home a winner to finish a length in front of Rockin Jimmy and LeWayne Miller. Much like his stablemate a few races earlier, Ima Full Time Job was slightly dismissed at the betting window and returned $17.20 for the win.
"This colt may be the sleeper,” Cullipher noted after the race. "He's had some bad racing luck with post positions and trips earlier in the season but take nothing away from him, he's a nice colt.”
It was a maiden breaking victory for the son of I Scoot Hanover-Mother Alberta in just his fourth career start. The freshman colt has now earned $50,350 for his connections. (Hoosier Park)