A timely and successful trip to Pennsylvania in September proved the deciding move that gave Gunpowder Farms' Indian Paint the top spot in the 2017 Fantasy Ownership Challenge sponsored by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
The Challenge, launched March 18 at Laurel Park as part of a Fantasy Owners Day promotion that included a seminar on Thoroughbred ownership, offered $50,000 in prize money to the "owners" of the top five horses based on their earnings through Dec. 31. The horse's names were drawn randomly by those who participated in the new owner seminar.
Indian Paint, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly trained by Kelly Rubley, who is based at Fair Hill Training Center, won three races in 2017, all of them in the contest period. She won a maiden special weight event at Laurel in April, an allowance race at Delaware Park in June, and another allowance race at Parx Racing in September, and also had a second and third in allowance company during her campaign.
Things fell into place for Indian Paint. She only had to beat one horse at Delaware when the race came off the turf and scratched to two horses, and at Parx, the purse for her allowance race was $70,000 because of an across-the-board purse increase on Pennsylvania Derby Day.
Indian Paint, whose contest earnings were $111,745 according to official Equibase statistics, had a chance to pad her lead in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel Dec. 30, but she didn't get a chance after the final three races of the Saturday card were canceled. The filly, now 5 years old, was re-entered in the $100,000 stakes, which was re-scheduled for Jan. 5 at Laurel.
Owner Gunpowder Farms LLC, a Kentucky-based operation that has done very well on the Mid-Atlantic Circuit, overall won 33 races in 2017.
Second in the standings was the 4-year-old Include filly Participate with $80,453 in contest earnings. She was claimed by Kingdom Bloodstock and trainer Phil Schoenthal for $7,500 after her final start of 2017 on Nov. 12, but in October won a $60,000 Maryland Million starter stakes for trainer Ann Merryman and Jeff Musgrove, and earlier in the year won two claiming races for trainer Jason Egan.
Participate is a Maryland-bred, so she benefited from Maryland-bred bonus money paid on top of the base purse but included in her earnings.
As for the rest of the top five, Andrew Sulley's Yes Mz Adah, who won three in a row at Parx in the summer for trainer Patricia Farro, was third with $72,240; LBR Racing Stable's Seeing'n'believing, who racked up three wins, two seconds and four thirds in starter allowance company, mostly for trainer Richard Sillaman, was fourth with $62,350; and Danny Limongelli's Flight Crew, a member of the Hugh and Demelza McMahon Stable, was fifth with $60,293 thanks in large part to an allowance victory at Pimlico in the spring.
The complete order of finish is available under the Standings tab.
Each of the top five horses had three "owners," and the prize money will be awarded as follows: $30,000 for first, $10,000 for second, $5,500 for third, $3,000 for fourth and $1,500 for fifth. The three owners will split their share equally.
The MTHA, MJC and MHBA congratulate the winners, who are as follows:
First place (Indian Paint)—Cody Favata of Chesapeake Beach, Md.; Kate Gehret of Lewes, Del.; and Cara Neary of Alexandria, Va.
Second place (Participate)—Bruce Casella of Voorhees Township, N.J.; Michele Kuegler of Manchester, N.H.; and Rob Thomsen of Baltimore, Md.
Third place (Yes Mz Adah)—Denise Heim of Ellicott City, Md.; James McIntyre of Annapolis, Md.; and Tom Pendergast of Palmyra, Pa.
Fourth place (Seeing'n'believing)—Guy Botterill of Parkton, Md.; Kevin O'Keeffe of Baltimore, Md.; and Fredrik Otter of Rockville, Md.
Fifth place (Flight Crew)—Glenn Garelik of Falls Church, Va.; Mindy Miller of Mt. Laurel, N.J.; and Bill Norris of Severna Park, Md.
The 15 owners will be contacted soon with information of a special day at Laurel in late January at which checks will be presented and the fantasy owners celebrated in the winner's circle.
Gehret, who called Indian Paint her "most favorite horse in the world," said she enjoyed the Fantasy Ownership Challenge and Fantasy Owners Day for several reasons.
"This experience has been a wonderful one for me," Gehret said. "I was so impressed with Fantasy Owners Day and felt the Maryland Jockey Club went out of its way to make us feel comfortable and special. The presentations, the luncheon and the paddock experience was fantastic. Being a winner of the competition is icing on the cake, and I am so grateful for the very unexpected and generous prize. This has certainly broadened my interest in the horse racing world."
The Challenge was indeed a "surprise," in that it wasn't announced by MJC President Sal Sinatra until the ownership seminar was completed the morning of March 18. All the horses in the contest then competed in six overnight races on the program that afternoon. Roughly 40 horses were part of the contest.
(Jim McCue/MJC photo)