Four divisions of the Star Destroyer, open to all horses, were held Friday, Nov. 19 at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. Three-year-olds on both the trot and pace were featured split up between males and females. Both male divisions were won by Indiana sired horses as the Ponda boys, Ponda Adventure and Ponda Warrior, brought home titles for their connections.
Ponda Adventure rallied out early in the three-year-old trotting colt and gelding division. The big lanky gelding with the low head carriage had the top spot secured before the first turn. Trace Tetrick kept Ponda Adventure right on task, setting fractions of :27.1, :56.1 and 1:25.1. The entire way, Caviar Gold and Chris Page had sat right at their heels waiting for the stretch drive.
Ponda Adventure got a big challenge from Caviar Gold in the stretch, but he would not give in, grinding home for the win in 1:53.3, a final panel in :28.2. Caviar Gold was three-quarters of a length back in second over Swan Flyer and John DeLong for third.
Ponda Adventure earned his 13th win of the season as the favorite, paying $3.60. The Swan for All sophomore is owned by Engel Stable of IL, Louis Willinger, and Jerry Graham. Erv Miller trains the standout gelding, who has earned $385,000 this season and $657,000 overall. His best mark of 1:52.2 was taken earlier this fall at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
In the pacing colts and geldings, Ponda Warrior and John DeLong turned in a tough performance to earn the title in the sophomore ranks of the Star Destroyer. Starting from post one, Ponda Warrior was a threat early, but Sure Thing Herman and Atlee Bender moved out quickly to get the top spot at the quarter in :27.4. Ponda Warrior wanted the lead and was out to move that direction heading down the backstretch, becoming the second leader for a few steps before Taurasi and Devon Tharps took over at the half in :55.4. Heading into the turn, here came the outer flow of traffic and the fourth leader of the race was Yourwishisgranted and Kyle Wilfong, who were pressing the pace on the outside.
In the stretch, Ponda Warrior was covered up by horses but the open stretch was his friend, allowing the gelding to advance with authority, overtaking Taurasi in the final strides for the win by one-half length in 1:51.3. Sure Thing Herman finished third. Ponda Warrior paced his final quarter in :26.4 for the win during a night that experienced snow showers off and on.
Ponda Warrior was the favorite, paying $3.60. The Rockin Image colt has come to life in recent starts, winning the Super Final, qualifying for the Breeders Crown final and finishing fifth, then returning to Indiana for a win in the Star Destroyer. He is owned by Jay Hochstetler, Finkelberg Racing LLC and South of the Tracks Rac Inc. Hochstetler trains the standout pacer, who won his fourth win of the year and is pushing $300,000 in earnings in 2022. Overall, he now has more than $400,000 in earnings and a mark of 1:49.1, a time he recorded earlier this year at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
Both Ponda Adventure and Ponda Warrior were bred at Pond-A-Acres, located on the outskirts of Fort Wayne, Ind. in New Haven, Ind. Due to weather conditions all winner’s circle photos were taken on the track.