Iowa-based trainer Doug Anderson isn't a well-known name in the Thoroughbred horse racing game. But when his highly capable filly Sugar Shock contests the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2, things may change for the small-time conditioner, who calls his filly "the best horse I've ever had."
"I've had some decent horses, but nothing of this caliber," said Anderson, who picked out the daughter of Candy Ride —Enthusiastically, by Distorted Humor , at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. Bought for $20,000 by Cathy Anderson, Sugar Shock was consigned by breeders Pam and Martin Wygod through Lane's End, agent.
"I liked the fact she was by Candy Ride and she's out of a Distorted Humor mare," Anderson said. "She wasn't a real big filly, but she was kind of a typey filly. I just liked her. She caught my eye and looked like she was very athletic."
Kentucky-bred Sugar Shock currently ranks second on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 120 points. She has won three of her last four starts at Oaklawn Park this year, including the April 5 Fantasy Stakes (gr. III), in which she prevailed gamely by a half length.
Before that, the chestnut filly finished first but was disqualified to second for lugging out in the March 8 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III). Sugar Shock started her career last fall at Churchill Downs, where she finished fifth and third in a pair of six-furlong maiden events. Overall, she has won three of six starts for earnings of $343,130.
"She handled the shipping real well (to Churchill) last year; it didn't bother her one bit, so we're not really concerned it," Anderson said.
Sugar Shock is campaigned in the name Cloud Nine Racing, a partnership comprised of Anderson, Warren Bush, an Iowa-based lawyer; Aaron Kennedy, an Iowa-based advertising agency owner; and Jim and Helen Jim Coulter, an Illinois-based retired couple. Anderson has trained horses for Bush and Kennedy for several years, while the Coulters are new clients. Sugar Shock is the first horse the group has campaigned together.
"We chose the partnership name, because (Sugar Shock) made us feel like we were on Cloud Nine," Anderson said. "She's showed her ability from the word 'go.' "
Anderson said he had a feeling Sugar Shock may turn into something special long before she made her first start.
"We liked how she trained before she ran; we kind of had an idea she was going to be quick," he said. "She showed she had a little talent and I told the partners, 'I think we're going to have some fun with this filly on down the road.' She was pretty forward from the beginning. She did everything and she's a laid back filly. She's been a joy to be around."
Anderson, who currently maintains a stable of around 30 horses at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, has been training off and on since the mid 1980s, before which he worked as an assistant to Churchill-based conditioner Scooter Dickey.
In all, he has saddled 217 winners from 1,545 starters that have amassed purse earnings of $4,907,747. Among Anderson's handful of other stakes-winning horses over the years are 2002 Prairie Meadows Oaks winner Uluvitnunoit and 2011 Prairie Mile Stakes victor Wild Jacob.
"We're going to have a big party (at Churchill)," Anderson said of Sugar Shock's upcoming Kentucky Oaks trip. "We'll probably bring 40 or 50 people there to support her. It should be fun. A win would mean about everything to us.
"A small guy like myself, you don't get a chance to compete with the big boys very often. It would be a very big thrill."