By Ken Weingartner, USTA — After finishing one-two in last week’s Indiana Sire Stakes championship, 2-year-old male trotters Musclefantastic and Dashing Danny are ready for action in Thursday’s Breeders Crown eliminations at their home track, Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
For Dashing Danny, it’s a journey that began on the Indiana-sired fairs circuit before a mid-August ownership and barn change, which was the result of a bit of serendipity. For Musclefantastic, it was a journey that, to an extent, began before he was even born, when Kyle Hupfer returned to racehorse ownership by buying the colt’s older sister, future Indiana Governor’s Cup champion Luv Lorelei, as a yearling in 2020.
Musclefantastic, trained and driven by Robert Taylor, won the $250,000 Indiana Sire Stakes championship by three-quarters of a length over Dashing Danny in 1:55.1 on Oct. 12 at Hoosier Park.
For the year, the son of Muscle Massive-Busybeingdreamy, has won three of nine races, all at Hoosier, and earned $178,865. In addition to his ISS triumph, the colt won a mini-series for Indiana-sired freshman trotters in August. He got his first taste of Grand Circuit action in the Peter Haughton Memorial on Sept. 15, and finished sixth.
“It’s been great,” Hupfer said about the season with Musclefantastic, a horse he owns with his wife, Jill. “We took our time with him. We wanted to get him into the sire stakes but get some racing into him first. Robert Taylor did a great job bringing him along, getting him ready. He’s a big horse, and he seems to have a nice, easy stride. He has an easy way about him.
“We had him in the Haughton, and we thought he did well. He didn’t get the best trip, but we saw some potential, and then it all kind of came together in the sire stakes final for us.”
Hupfer purchased Musclefantastic, one of three horses he owns at the moment, for $17,000 at the Northern Indiana Yearling Speed Sale. Three years ago, he bought Luv Lorelei for $9,500 at the Michiana Classic Yearling Sale.
Luv Lorelei, who Hupfer owns with Burt Paddock, finished second to multiple Grand Circuit-winner M-M’s Dream in last year’s Indiana Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old female trotters. Luv Lorelei has earned $319,310 lifetime.
“I had a horse way back in the day, but just recently my friend (Paddock) reached out and said he wanted to get back into it and asked if I wanted to,” Hupfer said. “We got really lucky picking Luv Lorelei as our first one, and it just sort of blossomed from there.”
Musclefantastic will start from post six in the second of Thursday’s two $25,000 Breeders Crown eliminations for 2-year-old male trotters.
The top-four finishers from each elim, plus the fifth-place finisher with the highest earnings, will join T C I in the $700,000 final on Oct. 27 at Hoosier. T C I, the winner of 10 of 11 races and $1.08 million this season, advanced directly to the final thanks to his victory in the Peter Haughton Memorial.
“Robert really liked the horse when he got him in, thought he had some high-level potential, so with the Breeders Crown being at Hoosier Park we thought we would take a shot,” Hupfer said. “You figure you come out of (the ISS final) strong and take your shot. We’ll see how it goes this week, see if we can get through the elimination and into the final. Then, anything can happen. It’s his home track, he’s gotten to know it really well now, and we’ll see how he does. It will be exciting.”
Dashing Danny, who races in Thursday’s first elimination, caught the eyes of Tom Pollack and trainer Jeff Cullipher while racing at the Indiana State Fair in August. Ironically, if stormy weather hadn’t forced the Aug. 9 card to be rescheduled to Aug. 11, Pollack would have missed the chance to see the horse.
“I happened to be going that weekend to watch the races, so I ended up going to the fair,” said Pollack, a Pennsylvania resident who owns Dashing Danny with Cullipher. “We spotted this horse and really liked him. He was all business, all trot, and we put a deal together.
“It was just one of those things, maybe meant to be, because if I wasn’t at the Indiana State Fair that day, we probably would’ve never pursued that horse.”
Dashing Danny, campaigned originally by trainer Donna Loney, had posted eight wins and two second-place finishes in 11 starts prior to the sale. He won his debut with Cullipher in a career-best 1:55 and has finished second in his three subsequent races.
“He’s been right there in the starts we’ve had him,” Pollack said about the son of Dover Dan-Sashay. “We’re taking a shot (in the Breeders Crown). He gets to sleep in his own bed, have a home-track advantage, so we figured why not? We aren’t kidding ourselves and think he can win, but we think he’s not going to embarrass himself and might get a piece of it.
“When you can enter a horse in the Breeders Crown, it’s always fun and exciting. He’s versatile. He can follow, he can leave, he gets himself in position. He likes to do his work. We’re just hoping he can hang, and we’ll see what happens.”
Dashing Danny and driver Kyle Wilfong will leave from post five in the eight-horse field.