Day At The Track

Indiana champion back on track

02:13 PM 14 Aug 2015 NZST
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Airman Batten will look to score his second consecutive victory of 2015 at Hoosier Park on Friday (August 14
Airman Batten will look to score his second consecutive victory of 2015 at Hoosier Park on Friday (August 14

It was typical Thursday evening at  the harness racing meeting at Hoosier Park with a series of Indiana Sires Stakes eliminations, but the crowd, horsemen and employees alike awaited the 11th race with bated breath for there was a particular black colt they had waited for nearly 10 months to see.

He had not been in Anderson since his second place finish in the $220,000 Indiana Sire Stakes final for his age, sex and gender last October, but Airman Batten swiftly dispelled the drama and resoundingly responded to any inquiries about his current form.

Last year's state champion assumed command at the three-quarter pole and promptly returned to where he belongs: the winners' circle.

"Obviously we were disappointed we could not start with him a little earlier in the year," said Erv Miller, the colt's conditioner.

"Towards the end of last year he had a knee that was bothering him and then we found a suspensory problem behind."

"It was not a tear, but he had some problems with the fibers."

"We just gave him the time off and we took it really slow, but he came back great."

"He's actually bigger and stronger than he was last year and we are looking forward to the rest of the year with him."

A son of Swan For All and the Yankee Glide mare Ladylike Volo, Airman Batten is owned by Paymaq Racing, Harvey Eisman and Greg Gillis.

At age two, he compiled a record of 14-10-2-2, earned $296,760 and trotted in 1:55.4s.

Although he competed primarily at Hoosier Park, the colt did take his show on the road by competing in the Kindergarten series at The Red Mile and Vernon Downs, where he came home third in the $240,500 final.

On Friday (August 14) Airman Batten is targeting his 16th career triumph and his second Indiana crown when he leaves from post position seven in his $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Final.

Despite the long lay-off, he is 7-2 second selection on the morning line behind only Homicide Hunter (3-5), who is a perfect nine for nine this year, and his regular driver, LeWayne Miller, will be in the bike.

The race is the ninth on the $300,000 Dan Patch Stakes card with the field scheduled to be sent from the gate at 8:25 p.m.

"He has such a nice mind and excellent manners," (Erv) Miller said.

"He's also beautifully gaited and has never been a problem since his first day in the barn."

"The only thing we ever had to do with him is give him time, but good horses are always worth that kind of wait and with the season he had last year, he deserved anything we could do for him."

So just how talented is this handsome young man?

Well, he's pretty close to being undefeated as all four of his losses can be accounted for.

His first loss was in his second pari-mutuel contest, coincidentally in a $75,000 Indiana Sires Stake Final, on July 5, 2014.

He broke stride prior to the start and got away ninth. In a display of sheer ability, Airman Batten immediately recovered, steadfastly trotted home and finished a strong third after the miscue.

He did not taste defeat again, as he won seven straight, before finishing an outstanding second to Whataworkout in $10,000 Kindergarten leg at The Red Mile on September 18, 2014.

The winner paid a whopping $99.60 and the reason Airman Batten did not have his picture taken was due to interference from a breaking horse in the first quarter mile.

The next occasion he failed to visit the winners' circle was on October 18, 2014, when he was a close second to Quiet Hall in the $220,000 Indiana Sire Stakes Final and his final loss, a third place finish, was in the aforementioned Kindergarten Final.

"He was really running out hard on the left line that night in Indiana," Miller said.

"After he raced at Vernon Downs is when we found out he was sore in that knee, so that's when we shut him down and pointed him towards this year."

After Airman Batten competes in this upcoming engagement, he will likely remain in Anderson for the remainder of 2015, much to the chagrin of his respective rivals.

"He is eligible to the Gault and several other local stakes in the Midwest," Miller said.

"The money right here in Indiana is so good though, there really is no reason to take him anywhere else."

" He can stay home and make a nice living."

"We have confidence in him and although the late start was not ideal, we are excited to race him the rest of the year."

Airman Batten's $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes final will be part of the star studded card at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday that features the 2015 installment of the $300,000 Dan Patch Stakes.

The entire racing card will be part of a special weekend tagged as the "Dan Patch Festival Weekend" and will feature extreme entertainment, giveaways, and racing.

The thrill-themed weekend will showcase some of the most notable names in harness racing alongside free fireworks, giveaways, and interactive family-friendly entertainment.

First post is 5:15 p.m. For more information, visit www.hoosierpark.com.

 Kimberly French

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