Two of the first four races at The Meadowlands were won by Indiana sired horses led by Always a Panther, a double Indiana sired gelding. Guided by Joe Lee, the flashy grey gelding was a winner in 1:54.2 in the $12,500 GSY (Gural, Settlemoir, Yarock) Amateur Driving Series held on Fridays at The Big M.
Always a Panther made his presence known early, rallying out from the center of the track and heading straight to the lead, sliding over to the top spot heading into the first turn. Always a Panther passed the first fraction in :28.0 and was aided by a backside wind to the half in :56.3. Takeittotheface and David Yarock was flushed first over around the turn and the field began to bunch up in pursuit of Always a Panther.
Heading into the stretch, horses were fanned out five wide ready to attack. Always a Panther held on gamely and scored the win by one and one-quarter lengths over My OK Palacio BR and David Glasser. Takeittotheface finished third.
Always a Panther paid $11.60 for the win. The Panther Hanover son, out of the Always a Virgin mare Always a Robin, is also owned by Joe Lee. Buzzy Sholty trains the grey, who was bred by Bob Bixler of Indiana.
Always a Panther earned his first win of 2023. Overall, the five-year-old has five wins and more than $45,000 in earnings. His career best time of 1:52.1 was taken as a three-year-old at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. Unraced at two, the grey began under the direction of trainer Henry Graber Jr. He eventually moved to Plainridge and The Meadows before heading to the Meadowlands in late 2022. It was the first start under the care of Sholty. He was purchased by Lee in late 2022.
Always a Panther has quite a family. His mother, Always a Robin, took a mark of 1:53.2 during her career and was a daughter of the great brood mare Robin Lagg, who threw her grey coloring from her sire Laag, to the line. Robin Lagg was a near 100 percent producer with her most notable son the great Robin I Scoot, who dominated the Open pacing ranks for several years more than a decade ago. Robin I Scoot, also an Indiana sired gelding by I Scoot Hanover, completed his career with more than $850,000 in earnings and a mark of 1:49.3. Interesting enough, Always a Robin went back to race after having Always a Panther.
The other Indiana sired winner on the card was Big Christian, driven by Marcus Miller. After sitting in the two hole to the half, the Swan for All gelding was flushed to the outside around the final turn and dug in gamely in a big stretch battle, winning by a nose over Fashion Cantab in 1:56.0. Princess Caitlyn and Yannick Gingras finished third.
Big Christian paid $3.80 for the win. The four-year-old gelding is trained by Erv Miller for owner Anthony Lombardi. It was the first career start for Big Christian, who had one qualifier at the Meadowlands to prep him for his racing debut.