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Mister Big Wins Dan Patch


Published: June 20, 2009 6:40 pm ET

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Mister Big lived up to the hype and grabbed the victory in the 16th edition of the Dan Patch Invitational Pace Saturday, June 20 at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino. The powerful son of Grinfromeartoear rallied through the stretch to pick up the victory and add to his already hefty bankroll of $3.2 million.

Starting from Post 6 in the stellar field of 10 that included $10.5 million in career earnings, Mister Big floated out from behind the starting gate and eventually landed in the seventh hole along the rail. Southwestern Dream and Trace Tetrick scooted out from the inside for an early call along with Shark Gesture and Brandon Simpson from the outside, becoming the leader into the first turn and to the quarter-mile marker in a time of :25, the fastest first quarter in the 16-year history of the Dan Patch.

Down the backside, Simpson had a strong hold of Shark Gesture but that did not deter Won The West and Greg Grismore from moving to the outside and overtaking the leaders at the halfway mark in :53.2. As the new leader, Won The West kept up the quick tempo to the three-quarter mile marker as Art Official and Peter Wrenn crept up to his wheel in first over fashion for the stretch drive home.

“I just really waited until the gate folded before deciding what to do,” said Hanners. “I just wanted to scout it out at that point. I didn’t really like my spot until the half when Rocket Fuel went back to the rail. Then I thought I had a really good chance and a shot at the win.”

In the stretch, Winbak Speed and Jim Morand tipped to the outside after enjoying a rail journey and emerged as the horse to chase down for the closing contenders. One of those horses waiting to strike was Mister Big. Hanners had him in perfect position for the stretch drive and asked the six-year-old to step it up a notch. He excelled and chased down Winbak Speed, gaining the advantage in the final strides to win by a neck in 1:49.2, pacing a final panel in :26.2. Art Official, winner of the 2008 Hoosier Cup, finished third.

“Virgil (Morgan) deserves all the credit with this horse,” said Hanners, who is closing in on 4,000 career wins. “He’s an exceptional horse and one of the best in the game, and he’s kept him that way.”

Mister Big now has 30 career wins and more than $3.3 million in earnings for owner Joe Muscara of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Virgil Morgan Jr. trains the powerhouse pacer, who is moving toward the all-time career earnings mark held by Gallo Blue Chip at $4.2 million.

“I really have to give a lot of credit to Joe Muscara for allowing us to bring this horse back this year,” said Morgan. “Also, I give credit to him for allowing us to qualify him five times to get him ready. Most owners would not have gone along with that. He truly is a great horse to be around and to be associated with.”

Muscara, who is 85 years old, remains at home but watches all of his races on television. His son, Joe Jr., does the traveling with the horse to watch each time he races.

“We are really excited to win this race today,” said Muscara Jr. “We turned down a lot of money to keep him on the track this year, but we think it’s important to the sport to give fans some heroes to watch. I’m a big fan of Dan Patch and have read all the books about him. This horse [Mister Big] is actually related to Dan Patch on both sides of his pedigree, so this race is special to us.”

Mister Big paid $5.60, $4.40 and $3.00 for the win as the race favourite. The Dan Patch title was his first win of 2009 in only his second start of the year. He adds the race to an impressive resume of wins, which includes a Breeders Crown, Canadian Pacing Derby, U.S. Pacing Derby and two Haughton finals.

(Hoosier Park)

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