• Informed Patriot a hunch play in the $300,000 Grade 3 Indiana at Horseshoe Indianapolis

    By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning Turf Writer


    SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (Tuesday, July 2, 2024) — Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen shoots for his third victory in the Indiana Derby as he sends out Kirk and Judy Robison’s Informed Patriot in Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 3 stakes at Horseshoe Indianapolis.


    Informed Patriot is one of three Indiana Derby entrants coming out of the May 27 Texas Derby at Lone Star Park, the others being victorious E J Won the Cup and third-place Real Men Violin. Informed Patriot that day finished ninth, but the race before that he captured Oaklawn Park’s $200,000 Bath House Row Stakes.


    “The timing of it works out real well,” Asmussen said of the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby. “We did not get a good run in the Lone Star Derby, didn’t get away well from the outside, was ridiculously wide around the first turn and down the backside and didn’t run his race.”


    Informed Patriot could be the Indiana Derby’s name hunch play on Independence Day weekend. Of course, Asmussen didn’t win more races than anyone in North America — 10,564 and counting — by needing hunch plays to get in the winner’s circle. (By the way, the only thoroughbred trainer in the world with more wins is Chilean-born, Peru-based Juan Suarez Villarroel at 10,750. Asmussen is chipping away at his deficit, now 165 but which stood at 336 when he won his 10,000 race in February 2023.)


    “He’s trained nicely since and his Bath House Row race is perfect for him,” Asmussen said of Informed Patriot. “He’ll need to run that race, if not better.”


    Informed Patriot’s timed workouts have signaled the Hard Spun colt is on top of his game. He worked the traditional Asmussen easy half-mile before a race in 48 4/5 seconds Sunday and a strong five-eighths in 1:00 3/5 the week before that. Ricardo Santana Jr., aboard for the Bath House Row, has the mount.


    “He’s worked really well, and hopefully he takes to the surface,” said Asmussen, who on Monday shipped Informed Patriot to Horseshoe Indianapolis, where he has one of his current eight divisions. 


    Horseshoe Indy will be Informed Patriot’s sixth racetrack in 10 starts and his fourth “Derby,” having raced in the Sunland Derby, Arkansas Derby, Texas Derby and now the Indiana Derby.


    “That’s where the money’s at,” Asmussen said.


    Asmussen won the 2011 Indiana Derby with Wilburn and the 2007 with Zanjero, when the stakes was in early October at Hoosier Park. Santana is seeking his first Indiana Derby.


    Running in Schaefer easy call with 2021 Indiana Derby winner Mr. Wireless 


    Churchill Downs-based Mr. Wireless goes for his third stakes win in his third appearance on Indiana’s showcase day in the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial.


    Mr. Wireless, now 6-years-old, won the 2021 Indiana Derby, which he followed up with another score in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby. He returned the next year to win the Schaefer for older horses at a mile and 70 yards.


    Trainer Bret Calhoun quite likely would have brought Mr. Wireless back last year had he been racing. But the gelding was sidelined for 10 months after running well in New Orleans’ 2023 four-stakes series for older horses, with three seconds and a third in the Grade 2 New Orleans, getting time off after another third in an Arkansas stakes. Mr. Wireless impressively won his comeback race this past March 14 in a Fair Grounds allowance race, then finished sixth in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.


    “Obviously he’s 2 for 2 over there,” Calhoun said. “Obviously he likes that surface so there’s no reason to not target running back over there. We had an unfortunate trip in the Churchill Downs. He’s not real quick from the gate and he got squeezed off, and that was the end of the story that day. This is a good spot for him.


    “I don’t know if it’s the track as much or the competition. He’s just fallen into some of the right spots, running really good races there. I think the track suited him, the distance and I think the competition fit him as well. He’s got a lot of heart, a lot of try to him. It’s a fine line between where he is and the next level. But he’s older, he’s a gelding. We don’t have a lot to prove with him. We’ve decided to just pick the right spots and make it as easy as we can. None of them are easy, but just taking the lower road with him and spotting him to have some longevity to his career.”


    The millionaire Mr. Wireless is going for his eighth triumph in his 20th career start. He drew post 10 in the 11-horse field and is the 5-1 third choice in the morning line behind his stablemate Kupuna (4-1) and last year’s Grade 2 Clark winner Trademark (9-2), who also is entered in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (G3) the same day. Kupuna also is cross entered, but in the $100,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial on turf at Horseshoe Indianapolis.


    Calhoun, who also won the 2019 Indiana Derby with Mr. Money, said he’s not sure in which race the 5-year-old Kupuna will land between the Schaefer and Schuster. Mitchell Murrill has the mount either way.


    “Kupuna drew a good post in the dirt race (post 5), and a little farther out in the turf race,” Calhoun said, referencing the gelding’s post 10 in the field of 11 in the Schuster. “We’ll look at it and see who is going where and decide which direction we want to go. There’s probably a good chance he’ll stay on the dirt. He’s had a good year. He’s had some tough beats and run some really good races, been very consistent. It’s disappointing not to win some of those, but he’s run really, really well.”


    Kupuna has raced once on turf, having the lead in mid-stretch in a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance before giving way to fourth. 


    Calhoun also is sending out Hidden Connection in the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Memorial for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. She’s the 5-2 second choice behind 7-5 Loved in the field of seven.


    Hidden Connection, who won Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes by 9 1/4 lengths in her second lifetime start, has faced some of the toughest fillies and mares throughout her career. That includes finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies won by champion Echo Zulu, to whom Hidden Connection lost by a nose the next spring in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. 


    Last year Hidden Connection won just one of nine starts but had four seconds and earned $308,500 of her $834,575 career bankroll. Among the horses she faced were champion Idiomatic and Grade 1 winners Society, Search Results and Pauline’s Pearl.


    “We’ve been trying to find some softer spots for her, and everywhere we go we seem to find the heavy heads,” Calhoun said. “This is the kind of spot we’ve been looking for. She’s doing really, really well. This is going to be her last season before they sell her in November. So, we’re trying to pick some good spots for her.”


    The 22nd season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Thursday, Nov. 14. Racing is held Monday through Thursday at 2:10 p.m. Indiana’s featured event, the Grade 3 $300,000 Indiana Derby is Saturday, July 6 with a first post time of 12 p.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis/racing or find the track on Social Media @HSIndyRacing.