(Indiana Grand starting gate / Photo by Gene McLean)

Total Day Results 9 / 4-4-3
2021 Overall 514 514 / 179-179-204
Win % of Top Pick 34.82%
Payoff% of Top 3 Picks Overall 36.45%
2021 Top Pick in the Money Overall — 320-514 62.26%
2021 Top Selection ITM / KEE 49-68 72.06%
2021 Top Selections Win / KEE 31-68 45.59%
“Key Horses” @ KEE 8 3-3-0 37.50% Win / 75.00% ITM
“Key Horses” in 2021 82 / 36-18-6 43.90% Win / 73.17%

We are so excited for the return of live racing to Indiana Grand this week — on Tuesday, April 13. So. Very. Excited.

You. Who. Who. Who. (Sound it out. You’ll get it.)

I got introduced to Indy Grand last year when our 2YO filly, Diamond Solitaire, got the chance to run over the track in Shelbyville, IN. We were all still in the midst of COVID-19, and we were all struggling to figure out what to do; how to act; where to go; how close we could get to one another; what the tracks were going to do to allow fans or no.

But I can’t tell you enough how the folks at IGR handled the difficult times and still were able to conduct live racing — with racing fans allowed — and do it with style.

It was amazing. And, if any racetrack executive in this free world is worth their weight in a salt block? (Hey Keeneland. You paying attention?) They should have gone to Indy Grand to see how they did it. They should have called up Eric Halstrom, the GM, and asked how he and his staff did it. They should have pulled up the videos of the races and watched how this racetrack was able to do it.

And, they did it.

Safely.

Calmly.

And, with as little interruption and confusion as possible.

Indiana Grand did it, alright. In style.

They allowed the horses — and all the folks that come with them — and the fans to enjoy the greatest sport on this Earth in person. Together.

Truly? This was the racetrack that allowed racing to be all it should be and “meant to be.” (Hey Keeneland…you got to do more that just say it? It should be more than a slogan. Indy Grand meant it; and did it.)

This week, Indy Grand returns. And, we can’t wait to get up to see the, er, grand folks that do the job there. We just can’t wait.

Here’s a look at Tuesday’s “Opening Card.” The horses are ready. The fans are ready. And, I will guarantee you one other thing. Indy Grand will be ready. In style.

1st: 6-2/4/1-5/3…We will kick the 2021 race meet off with a 5-furlong sprint over the main track for the Indiana-bred fillies and mares. I will give the edge to Apron Springs (6), who will be making the first start since racing here on Nov. 17 last year. She ran at this level and came home third as the PT favorite. In 11 previous tries here, she has 4 wins and 3 thirds. Had an eventful trip in the 2020 finale, and has trained well for the return here. Barn has won with only .03% of those away from the races this long, and that is with a sample size of 69 runners. That is a legit concern. Legit. Concern. Archie’s Girl (2) could be the benefactor is not completely tuned up to go here. This 8YO Archarcharch mare has race a whopping 30 times here. Has a record of 8-6-4 on the resume. Did tune up at Turfway Park on Feb. 26. Was good that night against open company. Will face lighter fare here and the jockey has won with .14% of the last 600 mounts. This one is my pick. I bet the 2 — take note — to win/place/show and then box the 6-2 in the exacta. I will key the 2 over/under the “all button” in two smaller units; and I will key the 2 over/under the 6-4-1-5-3 in two more.

2nd: 5-4/1/2…Complex Justice (5) is still hunting that elusive first win, but he may have found the right group to accomplish that task here. In the first 8 races to date, he has a second and a third. Ran a very nice 3rd here on Nov. 2 in his last outing. This one did cross the finish line first here on Sept. 23. Was DQ’d that day, though, for drifting out late when the rider dropped and lost the riding crop. (That’s why one is important, by the way.) Could figure here at the shorter distance. Gran Rojo (4) could offer up the stiffest competition. This 5YO gelding has raced 12 times so far. Has two seconds and a third on the resume.

3rd: 6-2-5/1-3/4…Tale of Fame (6) is a 6YO gelded son of Caleb’s Posse who has toiled up at Turfway Park this winter. Flashed some speed, but couldn’t finish off the deal in three starts over the new Tapeta track surface there. But in 11 tries here, this one has a 4-4-1 mark and the works here of late are spot on. Look for more out of this one here. Major Wager (2) could be the one to beat. Ran four times at TP this winter. Had a win and two thirds on the card. This one should be stalking the leaders here and could be the tough one to hold off late. Sandhill Sammy (5) had three tries up at TP this winter. Had a win and a second to show for the efforts. Trainer has only 4 career starts with the single win. Rider has won with .10% of the last 439 runners. This one has 0 wins in 12 starts here. Maybe underneath? I bet the 2 — take note — to win/place/show and then box the top 2 — take note — in the exacta. I will key the top 2 numbers over/under the rest of the numbers listed in two smaller units.

4th: 6-4-5/8-7/9-3-1/2…The “6” may be the hot number on Opening Day. I go back there here with Big Blue Emu (6). This Indy-bred daughter of Noble’s Promise has 4 seconds in the first 6 career starts. One of these days, she is going to finish the job and it could be right here. Ride is experienced and solid. Returns as a beaten favorite, and the barn wins with .23% of those kind. My pick. Miss Fort (4) is a 3YO filly by Fort Prado, and she was runner-up behind our Diamond Solitaire when we broke our MSW by 10 lengths here last September. She came out of that race to run two thirds and a second since. Looks like she may be ready for a nice 2021. Cecilia’s Hope (5) goes for a trainer who I got to know a lot about last year. Brandi Steele does a great job and this one may be ready for a huge effort here. Ran a very solid second to end the year on Nov. 18. Has trained well for the return. Gets a solid rider to handle the assignment. I have to use this one. I bet the 6-4 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 7-4 over/under the 5-8-7-9-3-1-2 in two smaller units.

5th: 2-6/4-5-1-3…El Piquin (2) drops from the $30,000 price tag to the $16,000 level here and this 3YO son of To Honor and Serve should be a real factor. This one has 11 career starts and has a 1-1-1 mark to show for the efforts. Won at Churchill Downs last November to break the maiden. If he can duplicate that effort? Watch out. Goose Down Grey (6) is my first “Longshot Special of the Day.” This 3YO son of Flashback was bred by Gary and Mary West, who have had a number of really good runners. This one broke the maiden last time out here on Oct. 1. Not been out since. But the barn can win off the bench and I love the 10-1 odds. I bet the 2-6 across the board and then box the 2-6 in the exactas. I will key the 2-6 over/under the rest of the numbers in the exactas.

6th: 7-1/6/4-5-8/3-2…Sudden Shift (7) is my first “Key Play of the Day.” This one is 4-5 in the ML, so it will be no secret to the racing public. But this one ran a huge one in the Indiana Futurity last November in his first try after breaking the maiden by 12 the race before. Looks to be training well for the return and goes for a barn that has won with .19% of the last 643 starters. Manuelito (1) ran in that same race to end the 2020 season, but one would need some binoculars to find him behind our top pick. But that was his only hiccup on the resume, and he should be much, much, much better at the 5-furlong distance than he was in the first try at two turns. Don’t be surprised if this one is a tough out. Parker (6) defeated our top pick in his second start of the year, and did it easily last August. The one fell from grace, a bit, after that MSW win. But he is training very well and gets a top rider for this venue. Chance. I bet the 7 to win/place/show and then box the top 3 numbers in the exactas. I will key the 7 over/under the 1 in two more; and I will key the 7 over/under the “all button” in two more.

7th: 9-1-4/3/5-2-8…Halo and Lace (9) is my first “Newcomer of the Day.” This 3YO Indiana-bred filly will be making her career debut for the Robert Gorham barn. This barn wins with .14% of those that debut in the MSW ranks, and this one is training lights out, too. Gets a top rider for here, and the dam of this one has 7 winners from 8 starters. Sharp. Get Lucky Justice (1) goes for the barn of KY-based Mike Maker. This Indiana-bred daughter of Harry’s Holiday comes from a dam who has one winner from 1 starter. This will be this one’s debut, too, but I hate drawing the rail in a first time effort. This one could pop and go, but I like the post on our top pick much better. Football Mom (4) ran a solid one at Charles Town in the debut on March 25. Has that experience under her girth. But the barn is 0-for-6 in the 2nd career start and may be a bit overmatched by the top two. I bet the 9-1 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exacta. I will key the 9 over/under the “all button” in two more exactas.

8th: 10-11-3/4-6/1-8/9-5-7…Ring of Fire (10) goes for a barn that does quite well on this circuit. Returns as a beaten favorite in the last try — which was last June. Barn wins with .23% of those kind. Has two thirds on the resume and those have been against tougher foes. Work at Turfway in March was spot on. Has not run since June, but could be tough if fit enough. I’m betting he is fit. B Trouble (11) is a first time starter for a barn that wins with .39% of those that debut in the MSW ranks. This one drafts the top rider on the grounds and the dam of this 3YO gelding has 2 winners from 2 starters. Works are spot on. Could be the one to beat, if he can get away from the gate cleanly. Knicks Front (3) goes for another highly-respected barn operation. Came back with a very respectful run at Turfway Park on March 4. Be interesting to see how this one performs here. I like the work here on April 7. I bet the 10-11 across the board and then box the top 3 in the exactas. I will key the 10-11 over/under the 3-4-6-1-8-9 in two smaller units.

9th: 12-10-6/5-3/2/4-8-7…Have to admit that I don’t know much about Quarter Horses or how to handicap them. But I plan to learn. And, it starts right here. I will go to the outside, which I don’t think will really matter in this 250-yard sprint. But? But, Beach Runaway (12) will need a scratch or two to make the starting gate from the AE List. This one can motor, it appears, with a clean break. The last two outings? Not a clean break. At all. I give this one a shot, if she gets in. Plus, she’s a grey. And, I just love grays. LOL. Falcon (10) had a rough trip last time out. Brushed at the gate in that one. Will get back to facing Ind-breds here. I look for a big effort out of this one. Rock Candy Almighty (6) is the 6-5 ML favorite and I have to tip my hat and give credit to the person that sets the ML in the QH races. This one gets Lasix for the first time, too. That should help, right? This one looks to be the one to beat. I bet the 12-6 if the 12 gets in. If not, I will bet the 10-6. I will box the top 3 in the exacta, based on who faces the starter. I will key the top 12-6 or the 10-6 over/under all the numbers listed in two smaller units.

Good Luck & All the Best / Gene