The Player should be just that in the Indiana Derby

July 11, 2016 07:50am
The Player CD Allowance 615 X 400
Photo: Coady Photography

It’s not often that you see a major player in a half-million-dollar race be one that has never attempted stakes company before, but then again The Player is not your typical racehorse. “He’s a character,” says Buff Bradley affectionately. “He sits in his stall like a dog.”


Bradley has plenty of reason to have a special feeling about the three-year-old son of Street Hero, who is eight days away from taking his shot in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. Owned and bred in partnership with long-time family friend, Carl Hurst, The Player’s dam, Hour Queen, was the first foal from Bradley’s first stakes winner, Town Queen. Bradley has enjoyed plenty of good horses in the barn since that homebred filly became a stakes winner for him, Hurst, and Bradley’s recently passed father, Fred. Now, two generations later, The Player looks like a horse poised to make both an equine and a human family proud.


“He [The Player] loves the kids, the whole family – he grew up with them,” said Bradley. “The good ones always show their class. He’s always been a family favorite and a barn favorite.” From his yearling days of chasing after Bradley while he mows the field, to being just as happy around his kids as his own equine mom, as a young foal, The Player has always found a way to stand out, but would that carry over to the racetrack?


It certainly looks good to this point. The Player began his career in a loaded maiden special weight last fall at Churchill Downs. “We knew he could run a bit, but he got off to a really bad start,” said Bradley. He rushed up, and ended up finishing a decent fourth in a field that included graded stakes horses to be; Tom’s Ready, Forevamo, and Cherry Wine. “He would have had another start last year, but he came back with a chip in his knee,” added Bradley. Never one to rush his horses, Bradley gave his homebred plenty of time to recuperate, grow, and mature before bringing him back to the races as a three-year-old.


Away for more than six months, The Player made his return in a maiden race going seven-eighths at Keeneland in April. “He really was on top of his game going in, but he ran very greenly,” according to his trainer. “He started dropping back and drifting out, and looked like he was going to do no running at all. Then all of a sudden, he came in and took off. It was like, ‘OK, I’ll run now.’ He finished well and galloped out well.”


Being sure to space out his races, Bradley brought back The Player, after that second, in a one-turn, flat mile maiden event at Churchill Downs five weeks later. “We expected him to run big,” said Bradley. “We thought stretching out a bit would be a good thing for him.” It was. To the tune of a dominating 5 ½-length score in 1:34.97. He was now a winner, and also on the radar of anyone who saw him run that day. “Shaun [Bridgmohan] said, ‘run him anywhere you want,’ after that, but we thought getting in another one-mile, one-turn race would be good for him physically and mentally.”


That next learning experience would come on June 3 in another one-mile race at Churchill Downs. Despite facing winners for the first time, including a few good ones, like Unbridled Outlaw, the result was very much the same. The Player scored a professional looking 1 ½-length victory over Unbridled Outlaw in racehorse time of 1:34.73 for the eight furlongs. He clearly proved he was ready for the next step up. “Actually, I thought he bounced a bit,” Bradley told me. “I thought he was a little sharper in the maiden win, so we backed off a bit and let him have some time before his next one.”


“The Indiana Derby makes a lot of sense -- distance and timing,” said Bradley. “He gets 1 1/16 miles, in his first try around two-turns, and six weeks between races.” In a race expected to include the Preakness runner-up, Cherry Wine, and the Rebel winner, Cupid, his trainer is very pleased with where he is at following a strong five-furlong on Monday in :59.40. “The last work was exceptional. He relaxed early, finished up strong, and galloped out in eleven flat. It was about as good as any horse I’ve ever had work at Churchill. He’ll have an easier breeze next Monday.”


Talented, sharp, and a great horse to be around, as well, it would seem The Player has a big shot against more experienced competition in the Indiana Derby. “The goal is to relax early,” said the trainer who won the race back in 2004 with Brass Hat. “Not too far off, but not full blast early. Bridgmohan is on board. If he relaxes early, he has a big shot to be right there.”


I agree, The Player should be just that in the Indiana Derby.


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Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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