A trio of Indiana trotters led the charge in the $22,500 Open II Monday, June 26 at Oak Grove. Big Christian rallied on the outside for the win that included six Indiana horses in the field.
Big Christian and Atlee Bender started from post eight and didn’t even consider a charge to the lead as Just For Us and Carson Conrad grabbed the top spot with Pilgrims Image and Matt Krueger taking over just after the quarter in :27.3. Pilgrims Image led the field past the grandstand the first time and Track Announcer Robin Burns noted Big Christian at the back of the pack with a big mountain to climb for the second half.
Heading out of the second turn, Big Christian eased to the outside and picked up cover behind Luckey Stormin, but was not liking the tempo and moved three wide for the final turn. Widest of all, Big Christian was “picking them up and putting them down” as Robin Burns announced him to the wire, saying “Amen Brother” as the Swan for All son crossed the line for the win. It was the third win on the night for the driver-trainer duo of Atlee Bender and Erv Miller, who are leading the standings in each category.
Indiana sired Just for Us, trained by Charlie Conrad for Bonnie Mattingly, finished second over Pilgrims Image, owned and trained by Lester Raber. The margin of victory for Big Christian was one-half length.
Big Christian was the favorite, paying $3.60 for the win. The four-year-old Swan for All gelding is back on track for wins after kicking off his first year of racing in January at The Meadowlands with a string of wins. He now has six wins and $64,000 on his card with his quickest mile recorded at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in 1:53.3. Anthony Lombardi owns the late bloomer.
Another Indiana horse won the final race of the day at Oak Grove as Lucky Cora and Kevin Wallis earned the victory in 1:55.1. After getting away fourth, the Luck Be Withyou sophomore filly moved to the lead around the final turn and rallied home to a four and three-quarter length win. Girl Giggles and Archie Buford finished second over Luv Her Heart and Joey Putnam for third.
Lucky Cora paid $7.30 for the win. Cassidy Whitton owns and trains the filly, who is three for six in 2023 after going winless as a two-year-old. The victory Monday was a new career best for the filly, who has a two-year-old sister by Freaky Feet Pete named Sadie’s Shuffle this season.