Ponda Title Set For Grand Circuit Test

Ponda Title winning at Hoosier Park
Published: September 14, 2023 09:35 am EDT

Among the many admirable qualities possessed by Ponda Title, perhaps the most valuable is the one not readily visible: The desire to win.

Ponda Title has five victories in seven races this season (with a second and third in her two setbacks) and $138,670 in purses, a total that ranks among her division’s best. All her starts have come at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, where on Friday she will make her Grand Circuit debut against nine rivals in the $400,000 Jim Doherty Memorial for two-year-old female trotters.

She will start from post four with Kyle Wilfong in the sulky for trainer Jay Hochstetler and is 6-1 on the morning line.

“From the time we started training her down, she had the gait to be a nice horse and her effort level was always excellent,” said Hochstetler. “She really liked training, she liked beating horses, liked fighting them off. That’s what is separating a lot of them nowadays. They all can go fast, it’s a matter of whether they want to beat horses.

“She’s big, beautiful, and she loves to race. The closer somebody is to her, the more she wants to try. Whether she can beat them or not is up to what the other horse is, but [Ponda Title] is going to try her hardest. She’s gritty. She’s just been a joy to train.”

The Doherty is part of a 14-race card at Hoosier Park that also includes the $420,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old male trotters. The Doherty and Haughton were held previously at The Meadowlands.

As was the case last year, the Doherty and Haughton will offer “Win and You’re In” status for the 2023 Breeders Crown. The official winner of each race, if Breeders Crown eligible as of June 1, will advance directly to their respective final, with no starting fee, and the opportunity to draw for post one through five.

This year’s Breeders Crown will be hosted by Hoosier Park in late October.

Ponda Title opened her career with five consecutive wins, including three in the Indiana Sire Stakes (INSS) series. Following two INSS setbacks, one by a neck, she will make her first start on Lasix in Friday’s Doherty.

“I’m intrigued to see about that,” said Hochstetler. “The last couple starts hadn’t been quite what we expected from her, so at least we kind of found a reason, and we’re hoping that will help her.”

Ponda Title, a daughter of Muscle Massive-Elin, was purchased for $32,000 at the Hoosier Classic Yearling Sale. Her family includes Allegiant, this season’s fastest two-year-old female trotter, as well as past stakes winners such as Beer Budget, Tigers Too Good, Only Lonely, Celebrity Eventsy, and more distantly, Dan Patch Award winner Mystical Sunshine.

“That family is kind of hot right now,” said Hochstetler, who trains Ponda Title for Connie Hochstetler, Robert Buddig and Allen Schwartz. “I’ve seen that family a lot through the sales catalogues. It seems like they produce racehorses.”

Hochstetler also will send out Miss Dior in the Doherty. She has won two of seven starts and finished second to Allegiant in the early Kentucky Sire Stakes final in July at Oak Grove. The daughter of Six Pack-Sweet Thing is owned by the same group as Ponda Title, with the addition of Homer Hochstetler. She will start on Friday from post eight with driver John DeLong and is 20-1 on the morning line.

“We didn’t know what to expect from her at Oak Grove and she kind of overachieved and put up a big mile to be second against Allegiant,” said Jay Hochstetler. “We’ve always been high on her because she’s got a beautiful way of going. She’s a little quirky to drive sometimes, but she’s so good gaited that even though she’s quirky you can still rely on her.

“If she gets tripped out, she’s got enough natural talent to make a little noise in there.”

The competition facing Ponda Title and Miss Dior includes Soiree Hanover, who is coming off a win in last week’s New Jersey Classic at The Meadowlands in a career-best 1:53.1, which is the third-fastest mile of the season for two-year-old filly trotters. She is the 10-horse field’s top money earner, with $192,425, and will start Friday from post nine with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Lucas Wallin. She is 7-2 on the morning line.

Wallin-trained The Moment (10-1) and Ake Svanstedt-trained Slip Sliding Away (5-2 morning line favourite) also have a Kindergarten win this summer. Slip Sliding Away, who will start from post six with driver Dexter Dunn, was beaten by a nose in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes (PASS) championship on Sept. 2 at Mohegan Pennsylvania’s Pocono Downs. The Moment, who was just a half-length back in third in the PASS final, will leave from post three with Brian Sears.

Graceful Design (3-1), who drew post one, has hit the board in three Grand Circuit starts for trainer Tony Alagna and driver Andy McCarthy. She heads to the Doherty off a third-place finish in the Peaceful Way Stakes on Aug. 26 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Cheval Rapide (5-1) has two wins in the Kindergarten Classic Series to her credit, including a 1:54.2 score on July 28 at the Big M. She will leave from post two with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Nancy Takter.

“I think it’s a pretty deep and evenly talented field,” said Hochstetler. “There’s nobody where you say that one doesn’t really belong. It’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out. It might end up being whoever gets the trip is the lucky one to get it all.”

The Haughton features T C I, who brings a seven-race win streak to the event for driver David Miller and trainer Ron Burke. The colt’s victories include the William Wellwood Memorial on Aug. 26 at Mohawk and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship on Sept. 2 at Pocono.

Also among the 10-horse field are Wellwood second- and third-place finishers Mars Hill and Amazing Catch, PASS second- and third-place finishers Security Protected and Greenspan, and once-beaten Ohio Sire Stakes runner-up Spaaaanzano.

Racing begins at 6:15 p.m. (EDT) at Hoosier Park. The Doherty is race 10 and the Haughton is race 12.


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