Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak shares slices of life from the Grand Island, Neb., racetrack throughout the 2021 meet in the Fonner Files.
In 2021, one Thoroughbred ran in all three of the most important multi-million-dollar races in a three-month span: the $3-million Pegasus World Cup, the $20-million Saudi Cup and the $12-million Dubai World Cup. That’s quite a feat.
The horse that won the Bosselman Pump and Pantry / Gus Fonner Stakes in 2020 is back to defend his crown in 2021; that’s nice, although not quite as significant.
But, what’s so incredibly remarkable is that both endeavors tie to the same horse: Sleepy Eyes Todd. And, what is even more impressive is that Fonner Park – “The little track that could” – is back in the horse racing limelight.
Fonner Park forged through an unthinkable 2020 racing season that found the tiny five-eighths-mile racetrack on the world stage as one of a very few tracks to continue racing during a global pandemic. Sleepy Eyes Todd also achieved the unforeseen after his 2020 Bosselman /Gus Fonner win by racking up three more mighty stakes wins on the way to his recent trilogy of appearances against some of the best Thoroughbreds throughout the world. Stranger things have happened in horse racing, although this is certainly one of the most unexpected turn of events.
But can Sleepy Eyes Todd win this race in a stroll with his eyes closed? Many will think so and believe him to be a deserving heavy favorite. However, will the weight of the grandstand and the toll of traveling nearly 20,000 miles by air and 635 miles by trailer from Dallas to Grand Island be just enough to open the door for his rivals? It sure could.
That’s why they open the starting gate and run the races on the racetrack and not off past performances.
And, order of finish is how they payout the purse money, not off reputation. Hats off to the connections of Sleepy Eyes Todd for returning to Fonner Park as part of his planned 2021 racing campaign, and kudos to the connections of those who entered to race against a foe who is the returning champion. There are hundreds of ways to lose a horse race and only a few ways to win. And there is no predicting the pendulum of luck.
Safe travels to the horses and riders and thank you to all the horsemen, staff, fans and friends of Fon for yet another memorable season. We couldn’t have done it without all of you.
P.S. Don’t forget about the mandatory payout in the Dinsdale Late Pick 5; the Saturday carryover starts at $129,454.
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