Combustion Clinches Kentucky Sires Stakes Upset

Published: May 13, 2024 10:01 pm EDT

A power-packed section of $136,986 Kentucky Sire Stakes (KYSS) finals for four-year-olds came to a dramatic curtain fall with a closing-stride success by 19-1 shot Combustion in a bare-knuckle 1:49.1 mile on Monday, May 13 at Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel.

Combustion (Todd McCarthy) took back as a speedy scene played up front between Its My Show (Scott Zeron) and Admiral Hill (Yannick Gingras) while they darted four lengths clear of El Rey (David Miller) to a :25.4 first quarter. Gingras eventually obliged and wrangled Admiral Hill into the seat behind Its My Show as he grabbed a breather to a :54.3 half before having to engage for the war up the backstretch. 

Blue Lou (Dexter Dunn) rushed off the pegs to attack Its My Show with Tip Top Cat (Andy Miller) sitting second over and Combustion still biding his time in the back. Its My Show clung to a diminishing lead to a scorching 1:21.2 three-quarters and stayed on the ropes as the siege intensified for home. Blue Lou grabbed a narrow lead as Tip Top Cat came charging off cover and Combustion, building his momentum through the turn, burst late onto the scene down the center of the track. Combustion came firing with just enough fervor to slide a head in front of Tip Top Cat at the beam while Admiral Hill shook free from a bottled trip for third and Blue Lou settled for fourth. 

A son of Captaintreacherous, Combustion collected his 10th win from 28 tries and has now earned $520,364. Doug Dilloian Jr. trains the $40.88 winner, who won in a lifetime best, for owners David Linker, Brian Loman and Robert Venable. 

Strong Poison (Yannick Gingras) scored the easiest of victories to open the card with a 1:49.2 stroll in the $136,986 KYSS final for four-year-old pacing mares. 

Leaving from the pylon post, Strong Poison settled into third by a :26 first quarter uncorked by Zanatta launching from the outermost post for the front. Gingras then circled Strong Poison towards the lead and had the race sealed for delivery. Past a :54.3 half and three-quarters in 1:21.2, Strong Poison glided over the ground to a 3-3/4-length victory under wraps over 6-5 favourite Always B Naughty (Andy McCarthy) coming from second over for second. Hungry For Love (Scott Zeron) saved ground and bagged third while Keep My Secret (Tony Hall) levelled off from a first-over push for fourth. 

Virgil Morgan Jr. trains Strong Poison, a daughter of Always B Miki, for owners Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Odds On Racing. She collected her 10th win from 29 starts and has now earned $930,314. She paid $5.34 to win. 

Bestfriend Volo (Dexter Dunn) lasted on the lead in the $136,986 KYSS final for four-year-old trotting males with a 1:52.2 effort as the 3-5 favourite. 

Dunn got rolling with Bestfriend Volo after a :26.4 first quarter catalyzed by Sparks Fly (Atlee Bender) insisting on taking the point from Show Me A Million (Lewayne Miller). Once Sparks Fly settled, Dunn spurted for the engine and planted onto the lead by a :56 half before accelerating up the backside to three-quarters in 1:23.1. Despite the torrid third quarter, Bestfriend Volo had a first-over challenger looming in Once In A Lifetime (Todd McCarthy), but the leader had just enough in reserve to wade off the late march and post a half-length win at the beam. French Wine (Andy Miller) came from off the speed to take third and Show Me A Million held fourth. 

Winning his 10th race from 18 starts, Bestfriend Volo has now banked $279,111 for owner-trainer Nancy Takter as well as co-owners Christina Takter, 3 Brothers Stables and Deja Blu. The gelded son of Walner paid $3.38 to win. 

Mambacita (Dexter Dunn) scored the lone series sweep of the KYSS events for four-year-olds with a 1:52.4 victory in the mare trot. 

A four-wide charge spun through the first turn and levelled through a :26.4 first quarter as Mambacita moved methodically towards the lead. Dunn managed to clear the lead moving past the stands and snuck a breather to a :56.1 half to brace her for the main challenge up the backstretch. 

Railee Something (Andy McCarthy) sat fourth after taking back but came with another charge moving to three-quarters and continued clawing into the leader past that station timed in 1:24.2. Mambacita rounded for home with the inside advantage and successfully held her ground to rebuff a game Railee Something to the finish by three-quarter lengths while Cessna Pride (Todd McCarthy) closed for third and Picaboo Lady (Yannick Gingras) took fourth. 

Tony Alagna trains Mambacita, a daughter of Tactical Landing who has now won 14 times from 34 starts and earned $948,575, for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Alagna Racing LLC and Pryde Stables Inc. She paid $2.68 to win. 

In the $45,206 Open Pace, Devon Tharps perched Rocks Shining Star into a second-over position and pounced off a clip of :26.2, :55 and 1:22.2 to snag a 1:50.2 victory by a half length over fast-closing Robert Again. Ron Burke trains the five-year-old gelding by Rockin Image who returned $10.90 to win in collecting the 14th victory of his career. 

Equine Rescue Organization The Big Winner Monday At Oak Grove

While pacers Ayr Pioneer GB and Paperback Thriller took top honours in the United States Harness Driving Club’s (USHDC) events on Monday at Oak Grove, the biggest winner of the day was a heroic equine rescue organization.

Volunteer Equine Advocates (VEA) was the special honouree of the day, receiving a $1,000 USD donation from the USHDC for their continuing heroic work of saving and rehabilitating horses. VEA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization now is in its 21st year of heroics, is dependent on volunteers and donations—100 per cent of which is earmarked for their outstanding work.

In commenting about the donation, USHDC President Dein Spriggs said, “Heroics is the proper description of the VEA as they play such a huge role in so many areas, including the rescue and care for seized, abandoned, abused and neglected horses! It’s an honour for our USHDC to add them to our long list of worthy charitable recipients.”

VEA’s mission is to rehabilitate and assist horses in finding a safe and healthy new life with that continuing goal interrupted just days ago as tornado activity demolished many sections of fencing on their property putting horses in peril.

Equine Manager Kelsey Rast pointed out the severe crises that faces her organization, relating, “With rehabilitation costs, hay, dewormers, feed, farrier visits, equine dental exams and immunizations so expensive, it’s imperative to maintain our standard of excellence and the recent tornado outbreaks in our area that have pummelled us in recent days puts our mission in jeopardy…but we always find a way.

“This donation today by the United States Harness Drivers Club will help our cause so much and we hope the readers of this story can help our cause, as well, in continuing our work.”

In recent days, VEA has rescued some 26 additional horses—from aged horses to foals less than one month old and does have many horses in training, rehabilitation or sanctuary with others available for adoption or sponsorship.

“Any help is appreciated so much and we have a ‘wish list’ on our website [at] for specific items in need,” concluded Kelsey.

On the Oak Grove racetrack,, a pair of USHDC events were contested with the aforementioned Ayr Pioneer GB and Paperback Thriller winning their respective races.

The English-bred nine-year-old gelding Ayr Pioneer GB got picture perfect handling from owner Dein Spriggs to score a 1:56.1 win—his second straight win in USHDC competition after a win last week for trainer Tony Dinges.

Nestled in the garden spot throughout the journey as Messi N (Jafari Frasier) cut panels of :27.2, :57.3 and 1:25.4, Ayr Pioneer GB waltzed by once straightened away for the drive home and held off Mach Diesel (Jill Brown) to win by a length. Messi N did finish third. Shes A Fireball (Cassidy Whitton) was a close up fourth while M G Kid (Trey Brinson) showed good late pace to pick up the nickel. The winner was off at 9-5 and paid $5.80 to win.

The six-year-old mare Paperback Thriller, beginning from the second tier for Peter Kleinhans, was fortunate to begin mid-pack while following the “rail” horse off the wings as Trey Brinson had White Belly sizzling off the wings from post five to post opening fractions of :26.1 and :54.2 with horses second and third gapped and struggling to keep up.

As the hot pace began to take its toll on the leader, Kleinhans had Paperback Thriller rolling and, page-by-page in this paperback thriller, swept up into contention and, shortly after the 1:23.4 three-quarter time, had the leader collared and went on to a easy win measuring 1-3/4 lengths in 1:54.1. Little Addie (Carson Conrad), some 16 lengths out of it halfway through the mile, finished with a flurry to finish second while Stun Gun (Shae Vandervort) was, third, two lengths away. Captain Mckee paced an “even-steven” mile to finish fourth  with White Belly a clear fifth after the exhaustive first half.

Trained by Randy Crisler for owner Their Hensley, Paperback Thriller was off as the fourth choice in the betting and paid $17.58 to win.

Live racing resumes at Oak Grove on Tuesday, May 14 at 3 p.m. (CDT) and features a carryover in the Late Pick 5 worth $2,181.49. The Late Pick 5 is a 20-cent base wager and offers a takeout rate of just 15 per cent. Free program pages for every race day, courtesy of TrackMaster, are available on the Oak Grove Racing website.

(Oak Grove Racing and USHDC)

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