Hoosier Hosts Thanksgiving Classic Stakes

Coach Stefanos winning at Hoosier Park
Published: November 24, 2023 11:22 pm EST

Four divisions of the $60,000 Thanksgiving Classic were featured at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, Nov. 24. After capturing the $190,000 Monument Circle Pace for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings and the $65,000 Star Destroyer Stakes, Coach Stefanos continued his winning ways at Hoosier in his split of the Thanksgiving Classic with a 1:50.1 score by two lengths. The 2023 Indiana Sires Stakes three-year-old trotting colt champion, Helpfirstedition was also back in the winner’s circle capturing his split of the Thanksgiving Classic action. 

The three-year-old trotting fillies kicked off the stakes action for the evening and it was Believe U Me and driver John DeLong who converted a pocket trip into a 1:54.2 score. Using a :27.1 closing kick, Believe U Me tracked down the pacesetting Helpoftheseason and driver Peter Wrenn to get the win by nearly two lengths. Helpoftheseason settled for second while Foolish Games and Marvin Luna rallied well late for third. Sent off as the heavy betting favourite, Believe U Me returned $4.60 for the victory. 

Trained by Ron Burke, the daughter of Muscle Mass-I Believe captured her seventh win of the season in 20 starts and second straight Hoosier Park victory. Owned by W. J. Donovan, Believe U Me pushed her career earnings to $382,234.

Helpfirstedition utilized similar tactics in the very next division for three-year-old male trotters, turning a pocket trip into a 1:53.4 score. French Wine and driver Andy Miller dictated fractions of :27.1, :58.1 and 1:27.2 without ever feeling a threat from the rest of the field. Turning for home, French Wine looked strong on the front but Helpfirstedition was winding up in the pocket. Using a :26 closing quarter, Helpfirstedition was able to track down a game French Wine and put a nose in front at the wire. 

Helpfirstedition notched his ninth win from 23 starts this season. Helpfirstedition is trained by Missy Essig and owned in partnership by Ervin Wickey, John Graber, Running Wild Stables and John Schmucker. The gelded son of Helpisontheway-She Knows Swagger pushed his lifetime bankroll to $446,595. 

Runner-up French Wine concluded his million-dollar career and will now be retired to stand stud at Winterwood Farms in Ohio. 

In the next division for three-year-old male pacers, it was Coach Stefanos (pictured above) who continued his winning ways with another impressive victory. With regular pilot Trace Tetrick in the bike, Coach Stefanos utilized his customary late rally, a :25.3 closing quarter to be exact, to get the victory by nearly two lengths and stop the timer in 1:50.1.

It was the third straight victory and fourth win in the last five starts for the Erv Miller trainee. The victory was also one of six victories on the evening for Harrah's Hoosier Park's leading driver, Trace Tetrick. Coach Stefanos has now won nine of 17 starts this season while bankrolling $565,365 in purse earnings.  The gelded son of Tellitlikeitis-Watch N Be Watched is owned in partnership by Kenneth Duffy, D And M Trading li LLC and John Stefanos, and now sports a lifetime bankroll of $841,420. 

The biggest upset of the evening came in the final division of the Thanksgiving Classic for three-year-old pacing fillies as Racin Hungry and Peter Wrenn pulled off the slight 6-1 upset. Rallying from off the pace, Racin Hungry put together a :26.3 closing quarter and held off a late surge from Lets Misbehave and Marvin Luna to get the win by a head in 1:52.3. 

Trained by Jennifer Bongiorno, the daughter of Stay Hungry-Four Stars Meliss scored her seventh win from 17 seasonal starts. Owned in partnership by Glenn Goller and Stephen Demeter, Racin Hungry pushed her lifetime bankroll to $215,391.

Prior to the stakes action, an incident took place at the start of the third race involving KJ Owen (Ricky Macomber Jr.), who then hooked up with Phantom Shadow (Brad Ferguson) resulting in both drivers being unseated. The remaining drivers pulled up their horses down the backstretch as the race was stopped and declared a No Contest. All wagers were refunded.

Both drivers were checked out by attending medical staff. Ferguson resumed driving as scheduled while Macomber booked off his drives. Following further medical assessment, Hoosier officials told Trot Insider that Macomber appears to have avoided serious injuries. 

Both horses walked off the track under their own power. Neither required immediate action from the track vet and returned to the barn area to be further evaluated.

Live harness racing will continue at Hoosier on Saturday, Nov. 25. The evening’s 12-race card will feature a $20,000 guaranteed Hoosier High-5 pool after the sequence went unsolved on Friday and produced a carryover of $7,685.21. 

(With files from Hoosier Park)

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