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Luckslst Bluegrass captures Fox Stake
Thursday, August 11, 2016 - by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor

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Indianapolis, IN --- On a sweltering Thursday (Aug. 11) evening in the nation’s heartland, Luckslst Bluegrass and pilot Trace Tetrick assumed command from Dancin Rebel at the half-mile marker, then withstood the late surges of Ben N Crosby and Unofficialbusiness in mid-stretch to don the winner’s blanket for the 90th edition of the $51,995 Frank Fox Stake, which was contested over the Indiana Mile in Indianapolis and capped off a day of sizzling Grand Circuit action.

USTA/Dan Leary photo
The connections of Luckslst Bluegrass celebrate in the winner's circle after his victory in the Fox Stake.

Conditioned by John Merkel and competing as a homebred for Luel Overstreet, the son of Always A Virgin-Lucky Dragon provided his connections with yet another trophy in a venue they have enjoyed considerable success in over the years. The duo is a very familiar partnership in Indiana racing and also excel on the Kentucky Fair circuit. Overstreet resides in Henderson, Ky. and this 2-year-old gelding is indeed a product of the state he was named after.

Peter Wrenn sent Dancin Rebel straight to the lead once the field of eight left the gate. That colt held that position for the opening half-mile and posted comfortable fractions of :30.2 and :59.2. Tetrick moved Luckslst Bluegrass from third at that point to overhaul the leader and remained on top for the rest of the contest, pacing three-quarters in 1:28 and stopping the clock in 1:55.1.

The gelding did have an anxious moment several hundred feet before the wire, when Ben N Crosby and Jason Dillander made their own bid for victory. Tyler Smith and Unofficialbusiness were also powering down the center of the track with a wicked :25.4 last panel.

Luckslst Bluegrass held off both challengers to win by a diminishing 1-3/4 lengths. Unofficialbusiness was second and Ben N Crosby third. Unfortunately, Unofficialbusiness’ late race efforts caused him to go off stride right before the finish line and he was placed third for violating the breaking rule. Ben N Crosby was then moved from third to be placed second.

This is the second win for Luckslst Bluegrass and his first since breaking his maiden in his career debut at Hoosier Park on June 23 in a $10,000 non-winners event. In his four appearances since, the gelding had a fourth, two thirds and a seventh to his credit. The winner’s share of this purse boosts his career bankroll to just under $40,000.

Established by Frank P. Fox, a lifelong Hoosier native and ardent horseman, this contest for 2-year-old pacing colts was the first of its kind as Fox felt there were not enough opportunities available for horses that age to compete. Although many stakes events now exist to fill what Fox considered a dearth, in its heyday, this race was one of the most prestigious contests for 2-year-old male pacers and carried as much significance as the Hambletonian.

Horsemen from all of North America often traveled their best stock to Indianapolis to compete in the Grand Circuit events contested here and the evening’s 14-race undercard continued to demonstrate why this date was often circled on many peoples’ calendars.

In addition to five divisions of The Horseman Stake, the $28,901 Ralph Wilfong Memorial Trot for 2-year-old colts precluded the evening’s main event. This year’s Wilfong winner was Ultimate Encore, as Rick Farrington guided the son of Encore Encore-Southwind Ultima to a strong score after sitting behind some torrid early fractions thrown down by Peter Wrenn and Stormy Kromer.

Wrenn sent the son of Dejarmbro-Benn's Riverdance right to the front and it did not appear he held his horse in check. The colt trotted in :28.3 and :57.2 and was leading by 20 lengths before John De Long and Hoofin' It brushed to the front just before they rounded the turn for home.

It seemed Hoofin' It would have his picture taken, but Farrington and Ultimate Encore would not be denied. The duo came right down the center of the stretch to pass Hoofin' It with relative ease for the Wilfong score in a time of 1:59.3. Hoofin' It maintained the place position, while Stormy Kromer did hang tough in the lane to show.

Trained by Jeff Edwards and owned by Denise Dennis, Dolne Farm Services and John Johannsen, it was the first career victory for Ultimate Encore in his seventh career trip to the post. The colt has been a strong and regular competitor in Indiana Sire Stakes company this season and has now earned $28,400.

The divisions of the Horseman Stake also went to horses that are regulars at the Anderson oval. Indiana Sire Stakes winners Can’t Touch This and Naughty III won their respective races for 3-year-old pacing and trotting fillies, while Ooh La La La joined them with her win in the second division for 3-year-old trotting fillies.

Their male colleagues did not disappoint, as Bridge To Jesse’s and Bourbon Chase, who also possess Indiana crowns, captured their splits for 3-year-old trotters and pacers, respectively.

All five horses were very impressive and Bourbon Chase especially so. If not for a head loss and one miscue, it is quite possible he would be undefeated with a his record sitting at 10-for-10.

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