The $501,000 Kentucky Futurity ended Saturday with the little horse that could, Wishing Stone, beating large horses in a tall upset in straight heats.
The winning connections shouted a rousing chant of "Dee Wayne, Dee Wayne" at The Red Mile while punching the air with their fists.
If you'd looked around for Thoroughbred trainer D. Wayne Lukas when you heard this commotion, you would have seen another man grinning throughout the accolades: Wishing Stone's trainer, Dewayne Minor, who proudly held the trophy and gave Wishing Stone's owner, Knud Erik Raven of Aalborg, Denmark, his greatest win in trotting racing with the 118th renewal of this classic.
Wishing Stone trotted home the second heat in 1:512⁄5 for driver George Brennan, leaving Lucky Chucky and Break The Bank K in second and third. Wishing Stone cruised home 13/4 lengths in the clear despite Lucky Chucky's late charge.
On a mellow autumn afternoon of Grand Circuit stakes racing, the outcome could not have pleased the winning owner more.
"I have won the Derby," Raven said, pronouncing the big Danish trotting race "Darby. But the Futurity, he said, "is huge. And to do it in two heats."
Wishing Stone did not go postward as a top betting choice in either heat. That role fell to Lucky Chucky in the first heat and to Break The Bank K in the second. Still, he holds a reputation as a little horse who tries hard and is now putting his career back on track after losing some major races.
He is smaller than most horses and, last year as a 2-year-old, he stood only 14.1 hands, or 57 inches tall: one inch shy of regulation horse size.
For this reason, he is known as a little horse with a big engine. He also likes The Red Mile: He is undefeated at the track in four starts, accounting for the majority of his seven lifetime wins.
For his Futurity victory, Brennan drove Wishing Stone closer in both heats than the son of Conway Hall has raced in the past. Minor, the trainer, said he was slightly surprised to see the colt up front by the first half-mile in the first heat and on the lead in the final turn of the second mile.
"But he's always been a tough horse if he gets there early," Minor added. "This guy has got such a big heart that he'd rather burst his heart than let anyone get by him."
Minor said Wishing Stone now will be sent to Italy to race in early November. But for this one October day in Kentucky, the crowd saw two heats worthy of the storied track's long history.
Wishing Stone had won the first heat in 1:523⁄5, finishing 11/2 lengths ahead of Muscle Massive and Break The Bank K.
If he had not won the second heat, a raceoff would have been called with the top finishers from each heat returning. Wishing Stone returned a $10.60 for the win in the first heat and paid $7 in the second.