Grand Stage Repeats in Don K. Series - from Hoosier Park's web site

Grand Stage gave another grand performance to earn the title in the third round of the $33,000 Don K. Memorial Starter Handicap Series Saturday, Sept. 11 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. The race was contested under the lights for a special night of racing, which featured an appearance by the History Channel’s Pawn Stars and also nine Toshiba laptop computer giveaways courtesy of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA.)

Grand Stage left from the starting gate in the sixth spot for rider Nelson DeSouza. After realizing he would not make an impact early, DeSouza scooted the five-year-old son of Grand Slam over to the inside in fifth, content to follow the field as Roaring Home and Leandro Goncalves led the way.

When the field straightened down the backside, Grand Stage was on the outside and looked to move forward past rivals, but the opportunity was not there for a clear pass. DeSouza took hold of Grand Stage again, and used an inside move around the final turn to pass rivals before moving to the outside and placing the gelding in fourth for the stretch drive home.

“I tried to sit three or four lengths off the front ones, but when I went to take back, we ended up about seven lengths behind them,” said DeSouza. “Heading into the turn, we had a nice shot to go inside and I was able to save five or six lengths. We went back outside and I tried to get him in a good place for the stretch. At that point, when I asked him (Grand Stage), he picked it up.”

In the stretch, Grand Stage gained a few lengths on the leaders, but they were not tiring, making it hard for him to get past the trio of Roaring Home, It’s About Image (Eddie Martin Jr.) and Sir Mott (David Mello). Halfway down the lane, Grand Stage dug in a little harder, getting the job done this time and moving past the leaders, grabbing the win by only a neck over It’s About Image. Sir Mott was another neck back in third.

“I didn’t think he (Grand Stage) was going to get there tonight,” said William “Buff” Bradley, trainer of Grand Stage. “Nelson (DeSouza) did a good job of getting him in position and he was finishing strong. I just thought we were going to be third, but he was able to pull in the win at the end.”

Grand Stage topped the $100,000 mark for career earnings with his third win in four starts for 2010. Recently claimed by Robert Meyer, a longtime owner with Bradley, Grand Stage has earned nearly $60,000 this year.

“This is very exciting and he (Grand Stage) raced so well,” said Meyer. “We were a little concerned because of the distance. In the first race, they went a mile and he was closing and ran out of time. In the last race, it was a mile and sixteenth, and he won it comfortably. He came back tonight at a mile and added five pounds, so we didn’t know what to expect.”

Grand Stage is now two for three in the Don K. Memorial Starter Handicap Series. The race is named after former Indiana HBPA Executive Director Don Kubovchik, who lost his battle with cancer five years ago. The next round for the Don K. is scheduled for Indiana Derby Day, Saturday, Oct. 2. The day will feature the 16th running of the Grade II $500,000-added Indiana Derby. A total of seven stakes plus the Don K. Starter Handicap Series will boost purses over the $1 million mark, a first for Indiana Thoroughbred racing history.