ANDERSON – The world’s fastest Standardbred did not disappoint Friday night at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.
Bulldog Hanover, fresh off his world-record run in the William Houghton Memorial, pulled away from the 10-horse field down the backstretch to win the 29th Dan Patch Stakes by three-quarters of a length in a blistering 1:48.1.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite from Post 3, driver Dexter Dunn put the horse in front just before the half-way mark and coasted home in a drama-free trip.
“We obviously had a pretty good draw to work with, so we had options,” Dunn said in the winner’s circle. “And I was really just waiting to see what the other horses off the gate did. And we got away third – actually a really handy spot — and made our move. And once he gets in front there, he’s a powerful animal. So it takes a good horse to get near him.”
Workin Ona Mystery and driver David Miller set the early pace from Post 1. But Bulldog Hanover simply sat back and stalked his prey.
As the horses neared the half-way post, Dunn made his move to the outside. Bulldog Hanover slipped past Workin Ona Mystery in the turn and never looked back.
Rockyroad Hanover and driver Todd McCarthy tried to make a charge on the outside and looked as though they might be able to make things interesting for the briefest of moments. But Bulldog Hanover simply turned on the afterburners and left the field in his wake with a 25.3-second closing quarter.
In his previous start last month at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Bulldog Hanover won the Houghton Memorial in a world-record time of 1:45.4. He fell about one second short of the Hoosier Park track record Friday night but will back for the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby on Sept. 23.
“He doesn’t take a lot of maintenance,” trainer Jack Darling told the packed crowd surrounding the winner’s circle after the dominant victory. “His caretaker is with him all the time, and we just try to do what we can to make him happy. We love it here at Hoosier, and Bulldog likes it, too. He has another start here in a few weeks, so we will be back.
“He’s got the Canadian Pacing Derby up next in two weeks at (Woodbine) Mohawk (Park in Campbellville, Ontario), and then we will be back here for the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby.”
That’s likely music to the ears of local patrons who packed the grandstands and roared for Bulldog Hanover’s victory as Friday night closed in on Saturday morning.
Dunn paused to sign a few autographs on the edge of the winner’s circle and reflected on what it means to win one of harness racing’s most prestigious prizes.
The $315,000 purse made the Dan Patch Stakes the richest harness race in Indiana, and the event stands as one of the nation’s premier races for older male pacers.
“It’s great to see a great crowd here tonight,” Dunn said. “You really appreciate it when the fans come out. It makes it more special. Hoosier run a great ship. They do a great job promoting harness racing and put on a good show. So it’s a pleasure.”
Rockyroad Hanover finished in second place with Working Ona Mystery coming home third.
It was the first Dan Patch victory for Darling and Dunn and a record-setting night for Hoosier Park. The 15-race card produced a $1,568,105 handle, the best in the nearly 30-year history of the Dan Patch Stakes.
Last year’s total handle previously held the record at $1,481,330.
Bulldog Hanover is the son of Shadow Play and Bj’s Squall and is owned in partnership by Jack Darling Stables LTD and Bradley Grant.
He’s won seven straight outings and 22 of 29 career starts and pushed his lifetime earnings to $1,431,025 – not a bad return on Darling’s initial $28,000 purchase price.
Dunn stopped short of calling Bulldog Hanover the best horse he’s ever driven, but he’s clearly enjoying the ride.
“It’s always hard because I’ve driven some really, really great horses,” Dunn said. “So, for what he’s doing at the moment, it’s pretty amazing. He’s gonna be right up there.”