• Neon Icon’s co-owner hoping for “top billing” in $200,000 Grade 3 Indiana Oaks at Horseshoe Indianapolis

    By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning Turf Writer


    SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (Tuesday, July 2, 2024) — When Mike Dahir got his training bill this spring for the 3-year-old filly Neon Icon, he asked trainer Rusty Arnold why it was so high. Turns out Dahir was poking fun at his own dearth of experience with trainer’s commissions on purse money for victories.


    “He’s been in on some horses, and unfortunately none of them could run,” Arnold said, recalling, “He joked with me when this filly won, ‘I thought something was wrong with my bill, that you charged me too much. Then I realized it was the first time I’d ever made any purse money.’ I’m so happy he’s got a nice horse, finally.”


    Added Dahir: “I told Rusty, ‘Keep sending me these big bills.’”


    Arnold hopes he’s doing just that after Neon Icon makes her stakes debut in Saturday’s $200,000, Grade 3 Indiana Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Neon Icon, a silvery gray, drew post 4 in the Indiana Oaks’ field of eight and was made the 7-2 third choice behind 7-5 favorite Impel and 3-1 second choice Band of Gold.


    Neon Icon comes into the stakes off romping victories at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland and 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs in her only races, earning $134,187 in purse money. A victory Saturday would get her owners out on the $220,000 price tag Glenn S. “Bo” Bromagen II paid for Neon Icon as a yearling at Keeneland’s September sale.


    Dahir, a businessman and lifelong racing fan from Omaha, became friends years ago with Bromagen’s parents, his father Glenn (who passed away two years ago) and mother Sandi, through a business venture. The Bromagens own and breed racehorses under the banner of the family’s Ashbrook Farm in Versailles, Ky., and Dahir began to dabble in ownership. He’d been horseless for a few years when Bo asked if Dahir wanted to buy into any of the young horses he’d just purchased.


    Dahir opted to take part of Bromagen’s filly sired by Arrogate, the deceased Juddmonte Farm stallion who earned $17.4 million on the track in a whirlwind 11-race career that included winning the world’s most prestigious dirt races outside the Triple Crown. 


    “When I saw Neon and the bloodlines, especially Arrogate, I said I want to be involved with her,” Dahir said by phone. “She was so impressive in her first two races and displayed so many wonderful characteristics and not a single bad characteristic. We’ll find what’s up Saturday against better competition, because Impel is a very good horse. … It’s already been huge with what she’s done, the way she’s done it and the promise she shows.”


    Coincidentally, Neon Icon and her late sire made their career debuts on the same day at age 3: April 17.


    “When we ran her at Keeneland first time out, we were a little bit behind with her,” Arnold said. “She had some 2-year-old issues, didn’t get to the races. She’d trained very, very solid but nothing spectacular. She ended up being one of those fillies that was just a natural two-turn horse.


    “Those horses don’t show you a lot in the morning. They work solid, gallop out really well. They never go brilliantly fast. She was very, very impressive in her first start and came back and backed it up. Other than experience, we think we have a very talented filly who wants to go two turns on the dirt. We’ve got to catch up a little bit right now, so we’re going to jump in deeper water.”


    Bromagen said Neon Icon was “pretty immature” when he bought her.


    “That’s probably the only reason I could have afforded her,” he said. “But she took a little while to come around. I don’t think timid is the word, but she just wasn’t quite sure of herself. She was in a paddock with a bunch of beautiful million-dollar animals. She got picked on a little bit; they kind of tore her tail almost out. But rather than becoming a shrinking violet, she developed quite a little bit of an attitude.


    “She is a tough girl and isn’t afraid of much at all. Her first start was against older fillies. Traffic, it doesn’t matter. She’s going to do what she wants to do. The power-to-mass ratio, she can kind of just float along. She’s got a great big stride on her. She just doesn’t seem to get tired.”


    If Neon Icon runs well Saturday, she’ll likely tackle another 1 1/4-mile race: Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alabama.


    “Rusty may kill me for saying this already,” Bromagen said, “but after her last race, we started dreaming a little bit, just getting 10 furlongs like she did. You just can’t help yourself.”


    Bromagen need not have worried about earning Arnold’s ire. The trainer had said the same thing.


    “If we could win, we know where she’s going to get the mile and a quarter,” Arnold said. “But we’ve got to take steps to get there. It’s time to find out.”


    But first comes the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks, a big accomplishment in its own right, especially for a filly in only her third start.


    “We wanted to give her a test, to see what she could do, to see what she is,” Bromagen said. “Take a shot here and see where we fit. Not a stepping stone, I don’t want to diminish the importance of this race. But this is the next step 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.


    Rusty Arnold interview on JR Communications Youtube Channel: https://youtu.be/_d4yjTBG8mw