Back to the races for the first time since his world record performance and making his highly anticipated return to Hoosier Park on Friday night (Aug. 12), Bulldog Hanover was an easy winner in the $315,000 Dan Patch Stakes.
Sent postward as the overwhelming 1-5 favourite with Dexter Dunn in the sulky, Bulldog Hanover got away third from post three behind a pair of Ron Burke trainees leaving from opposite ends of the gate. Working Ona Mystery (David Miller) landed the early lead from the inside post and outside leaver This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) tucked into the pocket spot through a :26 opening quarter.
Dunn then made his move with Bulldog Hanover and the world champion took the lead on the outside and cleared once they passed the half in :54.3.
As Bulldog Hanover led to three-quarters in 1:22.3, his main rival, Rockyroad Hanover (Todd McCarthy), the 4-1 second choice coming off a second-place finish in the Sam McKee Memorial on Hambletonian Day and a runner-up the last two times they met, launched first-over. However, Bulldog Hanover remained clear on top as they turned for home and cruised down the stretch a 2-3/4-length winner in 1:48.1 -- four-fifths of a second off the track record. Rockyroad Hanover chased in second and Workin Ona Mystery finished third.
Trained by Jack Darling of Cambridge, Ont. and co-owned with Brad Grant of Milton, Ont. the four-year-old millionaire son of Shadow Play-BJs Squall kept his perfect record at Hoosier Park in tact with the Dan Patch following up four stakes wins at the Anderson, Indiana oval at the end of his sophomore season.
Bulldog Hanover, who paced the fastest mile in the history of harness racing winning the William R. Haughton Memorial in 1:45.4 on July 16 at The Meadowlands, came into the Dan Patch off a 1:51 qualifier at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Aug. 2. He paid $2.40 to win and is now eight-for-nine this year.
"Working with a horse like him, it makes my job very easy," said Dunn, who confirmed there was never an anxious moment in the race. "He felt great, Jack was very happy with him. We got away pretty cleanly and handy, and once I moved him, I had a handful of horse. Coming to the last turn, he was travelling so good so I thought the long straight too would suit him. The further he seems to go, the better he is so I was very confident.
"He just doesn't seem to be putting in bad runs at the moment. He's eating up these miles, he's going fast times but it really doesn't seem to worry him. He bounces back and just does it again and again."
Darling said the impressive stallion with 22 career wins and more than $1.6 million in purse earnings is a natural talent.
"Not a lot of maintenance," said Darling. "We really do take care of him. His man, his caretaker Johnny Mallia, he's with him all the time. A horse like that, you're just being really careful with him and you just try to keep him as happy as you can."
Next up for Bulldog Hanover is the Canadian Pacing Derby back on his home turf at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Eliminations will take place on Aug. 27 with the $600,000 (est.) final on Sept. 3.
As winner of the Dan Patch, Bulldog Hanover received an automatic nomination to the 2022 edition of the $175,000 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, which will be contested on Sept. 23.
Friday evening’s 15-race card produced a Dan Patch record handle of $1,568,105, besting the total handle of $1,481,330 from 2021.
Live racing continues at Hoosier on Saturday, Aug. 13 with a 12-race card. There were no winner’s in Friday’s Hoosier-High-5 resulting in a $21,968 carryover that will be applied to a $75,000 guaranteed Hoosier High-5 offered in Race 12 on Saturday’s card.