DeLong ready for Breeders Crown debut
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When driver John DeLong makes his Breeders Crown debut Friday, it will be special. Of course, such an occurrence would be exceptional under any circumstances, but the fact his appearance will come with a homebred horse at his adopted hometown track makes the moment even more extraordinary.
DeLong will drive Seventimesavirgin on Friday in the second of two Breeders Crown Mare Pace eliminations at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Seventimesavirgin was bred by DeLong's father, Jay, and raised at his family's farm in Wisconsin. DeLong also trains the 4-year-old mare, who is 5-1 on the morning line.
So, did he ever imagine anything like this when he was growing up?
"No, not even remotely close," the 28-year-old DeLong said with a chuckle.
"It's pretty exciting. Just to be part of it, to have a horse that's even considered good enough to put in the entry box, is the first thing. You sit and watch it on TV year after year and to have one that's good enough to think about putting in is pretty cool.
"She's a pretty special horse, for us as a family. She's earned her right to compete against the top horses. She doesn't owe us a thing. (The Breeders Crown) is on her home turf and we're going to give her a shot. Not many people get that chance."
Seventimesavirgin has won 23 of 39 career races and earned $566,110. Last year, she was the Indiana Sire Stakes champion after going undefeated in 11 races on the circuit. The mare is a daughter of stallion Always A Virgin out of the mare Mrs Grant Seven, who was a stakes winner in Illinois.
"She does no wrong," DeLong said. "She's given me some of the biggest wins of my career. This year, she's had a few troubles, but she's worked through them and she always tries hard."
DeLong's drive behind Seventimesavirgin will be the first of three drives this weekend in Breeders Crown eliminations. He also will drive Trent Stohler's 2-year-old female pacer Rock On Ladys on Friday and Jeff Cullipher's 5-year-old stallion Rock N' Roll World in Saturday's elims for the Breeders Crown Open Pace.
Rock N' Roll World has won 18 of 77 career races and earned $705,477. He is 8-1 on the morning line in his elimination, where Sintra is the 5-2 favorite.
"That's a tough division, but he's showed spots where he can go with them," DeLong said, noting a troubled-trip third-place finish in the Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park. "I thought I had a big shot in that race, but it just wasn't his night. He's not the top horse in that group, but he's a horse that can get a check."
Rock On Ladys, who has won two of 11 races this year, is a 20-1 longshot in her elimination but finished third in the Indiana Sire Stakes championship.
DeLong was 19 years old when he won thedriving title at Running Aces in its inaugural season in 2008. In 2016, he set career highs with 375 wins and $4 million in purses. In August, DeLong got career win No. 2,000, which occurred at Hoosier Park, where he is this season's No. 3 driver in victories.
His family, which operates a worldwide agricultural-distribution business based in Clinton, Wis., has been involved in harness racing for decades and is one of only two families enshrined in the Wisconsin Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
DeLong is looking forward to the Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park, which is hosting the $6 million event for the first time.
"There's a lot of excitement surrounding it," DeLong said. "The track owners are rolling out the red carpet. They're really trying to put on a spectacle and display what we have here in Indiana and really make it nice." (HRC)