Tom Fanning and owner Joe Smith did pretty well for themselves when they bought then-2-year-old trotter Possessed Fashion at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale's Mixed Sale and hope the same game plan produces winning results this year with Sumatra.
Sumatra was purchased at the 2013 mixed sale in Harrisburg for $100,000 out of the stable of trainer Julie Miller. Last season, he won five of 11 starts – including the Standardbred Stakes and divisions of the Historic-Harriman Cup and Arden Downs – and earned $108,334.
On Saturday, the colt trotter makes his debut for the Fanning Stable when he races in the $38,460 elimination for the Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. The $115,370 Dexter Cup final, the first major stakes test on the road to August's $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands, is May 3.
The top eight finishers from Saturday's nine-horse elimination advance to the Dexter Cup final. Sumatra, with Brian Sears listed to drive, will start the elim from post No. 3 and is 7-2 on the morning line. Well Built, from the stable of trainer Chris Ryder, is the 5-2 choice from post two with driver John Campbell.
"We were looking for another trotter and we felt he was the best one,” Fanning said about buying Sumatra. "I saw him every day here at Gaitway (Farm training center); I had watched him and watched him race and saw him a lot in the mornings. We put a price on him and we got him for what we expected.”
Possessed Fashion, who was purchased for $82,000 in 2012, has won four of 23 races and $243,030 since joining Fanning's stable. He has earned a check 21 times, including last year in the Matron Stakes, Beal Memorial and his elimination of the Hambletonian.
"We had Possessed Fashion the year before; a similar situation, (age) 2 turning 3, and he worked out well,” Fanning said. "We've had some luck buying 2-year-olds out of that sale.”
Sumatra prepped for the Dexter elim by winning two qualifiers at the Meadowlands, the most recent in 1:55 on April 12.
"He didn't really impress me until his last qualifier,” Fanning said. "He's not a particularly smooth-going horse; he's not a particularly good trainer. He gets a little hot and can be kind of a pain in the neck to be around. But in the race, he trots and he's focused.
"His last qualifier he really showed some good speed. He really looked like he was going in the right direction.”
Andy Miller, who co-owned Sumatra prior to his sale, drove the colt in his qualifiers but was injured April 15 in an accident at Yonkers Raceway and is expected to be sidelined for six months.
"That was kind of deflating because I really thought we were a good team; Andy, myself and the horse,” Fanning said. "We look forward to seeing Andy back.”
Sumatra, a son of stallion Muscles Yankee out of the mare Lola Seelster, will have a full stakes schedule ahead of him. Following the Dexter, his slate is expected to include the Simpson Stakes at the Meadowlands, New Jersey Sire Stakes, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial, and Hambletonian. He also is eligible to the Breeders Crown and Matron.
"I think he's going to be a big-track horse, so I'm looking forward to the Meadowlands races,” Fanning said. "The (available purse) money is good. I think if you're smart where you place your horse and manage him right, take a couple of shots, I think we can make some good money with this horse.” (HRC)