Brian Hernandez, Jr. Captures Indiana Oaks and Derby Double
It was a good day in Indiana for jockey Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. as the multiple Graded Stakes winning jockey captured the Grade II $200,000 added Indiana Oaks and the Grade II $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Oct. 6. It was the third consecutive year a jockey has won both of Hoosier Park’s signature Thoroughbred events.
Grace Hall under Brian Hernandez, Jr. dazzled fans with an impressive five and three-quarter length win in the 17th running of the Indiana Oaks. The duo covered the one and one-sixteenth mile race in 1:41.85 over a track that was upgraded to good after a muddy start for the day.
Grace Hall wasted little time getting control of the petite field of five, breaking alertly to secure a stalking position on the outside of early pace-setters, Eden’s Moon and Rafael Bejarano. Wine Princess and Shaun Bridgmohan stalked the pace from the inside in third as they hit the first quarter mark in :23.67. Eden’s Moon continued to call the shots down the backside as the tightly packed field reached the second station in :47.31. Grace Hall was given the green light by Hernandez around the final turn as she ranged up to take the lead. The three-year-old Empire Maker filly put her raw talent on display as she began to open up on the field in the stretch. Grace Hall continued on to the wire to finish five and three-quarter lengths in front of Wine Princess. Eden’s Moon held on for the third place finish. As the heavy betting favorite, Grace Hall returned $3.80 for the victory.
“I was just the passenger today,” Hernandez, Jr. noted after the race. “This was all her. When I called on her down the stretch she went on pretty easily. I’m very thankful to have picked up this mount, she is just a really great filly and I think she showed that here today.”
Trained by Tony Dutrow, Grace Hall notched the third win of her 2012 campaign as she sent her seasonal bankroll over $600,000. Owned by Michael Dubb, Stuart Grant, and Bethlehem Stables, LLC, Grace Hall has now won six of her ten lifetime outings while bankrolling over $1.2 million in purse earnings for her connections. The multiple graded stakes winning filly was rebounding off a fifth place finish in the Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 18.
Hernandez Jr. followed suit in the very next race as he got Neck’N Neck home a winner in the 18th running of the Grade II $500,000 Indiana Derby for trainer Ian Wilkes. Far back early, the three-year-old colt unleashed a powerful move around the final turn and continued on to win by three-quarters of a length with a final time of 1:42.71.
Unhurried out of the gate, Neck’N Neck got away a worrisome tenth in the eleven horse field. The heavy betting favorite, Fed Biz and Rafael Bejarano broke alertly from post four to get the first call. Junebugred also broke alertly under Terry Thompson to duel for the early advantage along the inside through a first quarter in :23.60. Tritap and Shaun Bridgmohan stalked the pace from three wide as Second City and Marlon St. Julien also ranged up to press the pace down the backside. Fed Biz and Junebugred continued to exchange for the lead through the second quarter in :48.32. The pace began to quicken as the tightly knit field negotiated the final turn while Neck ‘N Neck began to make his move, rallying five wide on the outside. Fed Biz continued to led as the field turned for home in the one and one-sixteenth mile contest.
With the Fed Biz tiring on the front, Neck’ N Neck accelerated coming off the final turn and pressed on to the wire to finish in front of late charging Bourbon Courage. Fed Biz held on gamely for the third place finish. Neck ‘N Neck returned $11.20 to his backers.
“I talked to Ian before the race and he said he wanted to see him off the pace,” winning rider Hernandez, Jr. noted. “I was a little worried because we were hung kind of wide, but turning for home I was pretty confident in my horse. Every time I asked him for more he went on, once he got the lead he waited for them a little bit but he took back off and felt really good at the wire.”
The Flower Alley colt was looking to bounce back and did after a sixth-place finish in the GI Travers Stake at Saratoga on Aug.25. Owned and bred by A. Steven Miles, Jr., Neck ‘N Neck notched his third win of the season in nine starts as he pushed his seasonal bankroll over $387,000. The homebred colt has now four of 13 lifetime starts and over $420,000 in purse earnings.