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Sumatra wins Dexter Cup
Saturday, May 03, 2014 - by Ken Weingartner for Harness Racing Communications, a division of the United States Trotting Association

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Freehold, NJ---A relaxed Sumatra is a good Sumatra.

Sumatra was both on Saturday (May 3) at Freehold Raceway.

Photos by the author
Sumatra won the Dexter Cup in 1:57.4 for driver Brian Sears.

Leaving from post No. 1, Sumatra and Brian Sears never trailed as they won the $115,370 Dexter Cup for 3-year-old trotters by 2-1/4 lengths over Derby in 1:57.4.

The Dexter Cup is the traditional start on the road to August’s $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes. Sumatra, owned by Joe Smith and trained by Tom Fanning, is eligible to the Hambletonian.

Last week, Sumatra finished third in the Dexter Cup elimination in his seasonal debut. It was Sears’ first time behind the horse, which raced out of the stable of trainer Julie Miller in 2013. Smith bought Sumatra for $100,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale’s mixed sale in November.

“I didn’t know the horse last week and he got a little wound up on me,” said Sears, who stepped in as the driver of Sumatra after Andy Miller was injured in an accident in April. “This week, we tried our best to keep him calm through the post parade and scoring down and it definitely helped. He was a lot better this week.”

From left: Freehold General Manager Howard Bruno, trainer Tom Fanning and Sears with Sumatra in the winner's circle

Fanning agreed.

“That was a big effort and I think Brian did a good job keeping him relaxed scoring down; that was important,” Fanning said. “That’s the key to this horse – to keep his composure. The horse did his job.”

Sumatra, sent off at odds of 1-5, led throughout the race around Freehold’s half-mile oval. Sears was able to keep King City and Dexter elim winner Sarcastic Man stuck on the outside for the entire race. Sarcastic Man and driver Ron Pierce, who started from post 8, tried to make a three-wide move around the final turn, but finished fifth.

Second-place finisher Derby, third-place Donato’s Wish, and fourth-place Sheer Action all were from the stable of trainer Ray Schnittker.

“(The rail) was a big help,” Sears said. “This horse probably isn’t particularly a half-mile-track horse, but he was good enough to get it done.”

Last season, Sumatra won five of 11 starts -- including the Standardbred Stakes and divisions of the Historic-Harriman Cup and Arden Downs -- and earned $108,334.

Caretaker Pauline MacDonald was all smiles after Sumatra's win.

A gelded son of stallion Muscles Yankee out of the mare Lola Seelster, Sumatra will have a full stakes schedule ahead of him. His slate is expected to include the Simpson Stakes at the Meadowlands, New Jersey Sire Stakes, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial, and Hambletonian. He also is eligible to the Breeders Crown and Matron.

“I think he’s going to be a big-track horse, so I’m looking forward to the Meadowlands races,” Fanning said prior to the Dexter Cup. “The (available purse) money is good. I think if you’re smart where you place your horse and manage him right, take a couple of shots, I think we can make some good money with this horse.”

Sumatra prepped for the Dexter by winning two qualifiers at the Meadowlands, the second in 1:55 on April 12.

“He didn’t really impress me until his last qualifier,” Fanning said. “He’s not a particularly smooth-going horse; he’s not a particularly good trainer. He gets a little hot and can be kind of a pain in the neck to be around.

“But in the race, he trots and he’s focused.”

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