A rail-skimming ride by Brian Hernandez Jr. guided W.S. Farish's homebred Eagle to victory by a head July 15 in the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial, one of four $100,000 stakes races on the Indiana Derby (G3) undercard at Indiana Grand Race Course.
"It was very good. I was happy. You know, he's been in some tough spots," trainer Neil Howard said. "He always shows up. His last race, he had kind of an off day for whatever reason, but it happens."
Eagle, who missed winning the 2017 Ben Ali by 2 3/4 lengths and who was second by a half-length to Bradester in the 2016 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), was pinballed at the start, but rallied strongly on the far turn and held on as Fear the Cowboy loomed. He ran a mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:40.24. Mo Tom completed the trifecta just a nose back in third.
"I couldn't tell (if Eagle won) because those horses were so far outside," Hernandez Jr. said. "I wasn't quite sure. But I knew he was running under the wire, and we're happy about that. He got there in front. That was great, the confidence booster we were looking for. He did everything we needed him to do and he showed up today."
A gate-to-wire performance in the $100,000 Warrior Veterans Stakes by Turf Stable Racing's Western Reserve was also noteworthy, as fledgling conditioner Kent Sweezey picked up his first win as a trainer with his first stakes starter.
Western Reserve and jockey Florent Geroux settled nicely on the lead of the 1 1/16-mile turf event as Chocolate Ride tracked his progress from the outside, and in the stretch, the 5-year-old Indian Charlie gelding drew off an easy 3 3/4-length winner. One Mean Man gained ground along the inside to finish second, just a neck ahead of a hard-charging Special Ops, who had to settle for third behind a final time of 1:41.83 on turf rated firm.
"I was not trying to get the lead, but I took it when it was there," Geroux said. "This horse is pretty sharp. I let him go out and then when we got in the final turn, I took it from there. He had a really nice kick in the stretch."
Western Reserve scored his first win of the year and his fifth lifetime in 20 tries. The Kentucky-bred graded stakes-placed gelding was claimed out of his last start at Churchill Downs for $62,000.
"It's the first stakes I've ever run in," said Sweezey, a former assistant for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "My step-dad (Rusty Jones) and some friends of his claimed the horse for me. They picked the horse out and we claimed him. We were happy to get him. He's a really cool horse. Knock on wood he stays sound and we'll have some fun with him. (This race) is big."
The $100,000 Mari Hulman George Stakes went to John D. Gunther's homebred 5-year-old Street Sense mare Tiger Moth, who ran down Mo d'Amour with a five-wide rally to win by 2 1/2 lengths under Geroux. Trained by Brad Cox, Tiger Moth picked up her first black-type score when she finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.32.
"I was very happy with the trip and the result," Geroux said. "It set up perfectly for us with a nice pace up front. You are always worried with a grade 1 winner in the race (Big World, who finished third) but this filly was graded stakes-placed this year."
Another big effort on the night came from Rebecca and Stephen Hillen's 13-1 shot Beauly, who flew up the hedge to pass up favored Linda for a victory in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff. It was the first stakes victory for the 4-year-old Sea The Stars filly, making her third start in the United States after racing last year in her native England.
Beauly took one of seven starts overseas before winning her American debut off a seventh-month layoff in a first-level turf allowance race at Churchill May 26. A month later she was fourth in another allowance race.
In the Indiana General Assembly Distaff, Beauly settled into last of seven fillies and mares throughout the far turn, then cut the corner to fill the opening on the inside, reeling in the front-running Sky My Sky and outfinishing Linda, who was forced to come around horses. It was another half-length back to Sky My Sky. Beauly finished the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:42.27.
"Jimmy gave her a fantastic ride," said winning trainer Brendan Walsh. "It couldn't have worked out any better. They bought her last December at Newmarket. They're very good friends of mine, have been for a long time. He's a bloodstock agent. They said she was plenty talented but that she was tricky mentally. ... She has a good kick. She's obviously very talented. It's great to get that done. I guess we'll go for something bigger."