Shelly Rockwell and driver Brandon Bates lived up to their race favorite billing by scoring an impressive win in the $20,000 Mike Weller Memorial Final Saturday, April 22 at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. The Indiana sired mare timed her mile just right for the win in 1:53.4, her fifth of the season.
Starting from post six, Shelly Rockwell didn’t use early speed and went to the back of the pack as Cruisin Pearl and Jordan Ross went to the top of the field, posting fractions of :28.1 and :56.4. Shelly Rockwell was the first to pull to the outside from the back, hoping to flush some cover, but that plan didn’t work, so the duo continued to move up on the leaders in the turn. At the head of the lane, Shelly Rockwell only had one horse to catch, the one on the lead.
In the stretch, Shelly Rockwell had plans to overtake Cruisin Pearl, but that mare had other ideas. The two battled each over down the stretch and as the wire neared, Shelly Rockwell got the best of her opponent and won by a half-length, a final quarter in :27.2. Cruisin Pearl finished second over Mel’s Vicki Lou and Joey Putnam, who closed for third.
Shelly Rockwell paid $4.40 for the win. The five-year-old daughter of Time to Roll is owned by Marly Fry and Jeff Baker. Walter Haynes Jr. trains the homebred mare, who has 15 career wins in 64 starts. Her bankroll is nearing $200,000 lifetime with her best time of 1:51.1 equaled earlier this year. She is now on a four-race win streak, after finishing in a dead heat last week with Cult Icon. She is four of five at Hoosier Park this season.
Shelly Rockwell and Bates were greeted in the winner’s circle by a few special guests. “Racing” Rachel McLaughlin, on air racing analyst at Horseshoe Indianapolis, was visiting Saturday along with Jockey DeShawn Parker, who were both in the winner’s circle. Parker has more than 6,100 career wins and is 20th on the list of all-time leading jockeys with wins. Track Announcer John Dooley was also with the group visiting Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
In other series final action, Northern Rocks and Sam Widger used a mid-way move and took over in the stretch of the $17,500 Leonard Perrin Memorial. Trained by Alvin Miller, the five-year-old Guccio gelding won the race in 1:54.3, three and one-half lengths ahead of Stormont Ventnor and Trace Tetrick. Wixx Hanover and Chad Clark finished third.
Northern Rocks paid $3.20 for the win. He is owned by Miller and Martin Schmucker, who bred the gelding. It was his fourth win of 2023 and his 15th overall. He now has more than $135,000 on his card for his connections. The mile Saturday equaled his career best time of 1:54.3 taken last year at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.