What does it take to win the $75,000 Bosselman-Gus Fonner Stakes of which $45,000 goes to the winner?
Kevin Hulse, a long-time Grand Island resident and local businessman, is gambling upwards of 50-grand or more
that Joy Boy, a five-year-old California-bred gelding, can satisfy a life-long dream, and win the most prestigious thoroughbred
horse race in Nebraska.
Hulse warns however that, "Our goal was not just to get something to win the Bosselman. That's setting yourself up
Instead, the 48-year-old native of Burwell has designs on a graded-stake this summer in Iowa. He adds, "We think he
fits for bigger races in Indiana, Mountaineer (West Virginia), Churchill Downs and later on at Santa Anita."
And, if Joy Boy develops under the care of trainer Kellyn Gorder, as Hulse hopes, the Breeder's Cup Mile might not
be out of the question either.
Joy Boy's journey to Grand Island started five weeks ago when Hulse dropped a claim for $40,000 (plus sales tax)
at Santa Anita, located in Southern California. Three previous claims, prior to the aquisition of Joy Boy, were unsuccessful.
A cross-country trip to Kentucky, where Joy Boy has been working out at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs, followed
by a van ride up to central Nebraska earlier this week, finds what Hulse calls, "A happy horse....and happy horses run."
As for adapting to the local surroundings, Hulse was quick to point out that Joy Boy, "broke his maiden on a (five-eights
mile track) at Pleasanton County Fair in Northern California. My only concern is the distraction caused by all the ducks
and geese who fly in and out of Lake Fonner (located in the infield)."
Hulse is also bringing in his own rider. Marcelino Pedroza, a 20-year-old native of Panama, is due in Friday night,
from Bluegrass Airport, located outside Lexington, Ky.
Pedroza comes from a long line of jockeys. His father was a rider. Uncle Martin Pedroza still hangs his tack
on the west coast, while another uncle, Cornelio Velazquez, is a longtime fixture on the New York racing circuit.
My take on this year's Boss' Cap?
On paper, it's second to none of the previous nine races I've had the privelege of calling. In fact, the last minute
addition of Kate's Main Man, who ships in from Prairie Meadows following two allowance wins at Oaklawn Park down
in Hot Springs, Ark., upgraded the overall field from a B to a B+ and possibly even an A.
Last year's top two finishers in Fonner's premier event return. Is it possible that Ransom Roberto and Wild Jacob
won't even hit the board on Saturday?
I certainly think so.
Joy Boy is all speed when racing on the dirt. The five-to-two morning line favorite is the one they'll have to catch.
The key will hinge on the strategy trainer Chuck Turco uses with his talented four-year-old Nebraska-bred gelding, Diamond
Joe. Does he send him and risk the chance of a meltdown in a brutal speed dual up front. Or does Diamond Joe stalk
the pace with hopes of wearing Joy Boy down in the later stages of this mile and a sixteenth test?
I'm hoping for the latter. Diamond Joe has a big heart and refuses to lose when he comes off the pace at sprint
distances. Pressing the early speed, going a route of ground, will be something they've never asked Diamond Joe to do
in his 20 race career. Yet, I believe it's his best chance to win. And remember, a Nebraska-bred horse has never won this
race since it's inception back in 1990.
Should a ding-dong battle ensue up front, it sets up perfectly for the closing antics of Unsaddled Glory, who's
improving by leaps and bounds since the removal of blinkers, along with Kate's Main Man and Ransom Roberto.
To win, I like Joy Boy. A game Diamond Joe should run second, with Kate's Main Man and Ransom Roberto slugging
it out for third. Unsaddled Glory, who's never run this far in his life, will make his presence felt midway into the far
turn, but I'm just not sure he can handle the pressure by the top two?
May the 'Horse' be with you. Good Luck. And Good Racing.