Day At The Track

Unbeaten Homicide Hunter seeks baker's dozen

06:12 AM 19 Sep 2015 NZST
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Homicide Hunter
Homicide Hunter
Linscott Photography

Louisville, KY --- For a horse that has yet to taste defeat this season Homicide Hunter sure has not received his fair share of ink. The gelded son from the first crop of Mr Cantab and the Like A Prayer mare Evening Prayer has mowed down his harness racing rivals with pinpoint accuracy on 12 occasions this season and seeks to extend his victorious ways on Saturday (Sept. 19) in the $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes final at Hoosier Park after one of the most grueling contests he has performed in.

“He fought back in that race,” said Curt Grummel, the horse’s conditioner, of his win in the Sept. 11 Indiana Sire Stakes elimination. “The transformation this horse has made since last year is unbelievable. He showed how much courage he has by coming back on after he was passed. He really wants to win.”

Homicide Hunter has constructed a season any trainer or owner would dream of. Owned and bred by Patrick Graham, the handsome gelding has morphed from a boy into a man after chasing Airman Batten around the Anderson, Ind., oval as a freshman. That campaign netted him $86,736 with a record of 10-3-2-3, which is certainly not shabby for a horse that needed to grow into himself, but in 2015 he has pushed his rival to the side and exceeded any expectations that were ever associated with him.

The gelding is a perfect 12 for 12 this year, has earned just under $220,000, tied the track record at Hoosier Park for his age, sex and gait (1.53.4) and flown under the radar due to the presence of pacing sensation Freaky Feet Pete. Churita is another undefeated colleague Homicide Hunter must share the spotlight with, so only the Hoosier Park faithful may really know what this trotter has accomplished.

In Saturday’s contest, Homicide Hunter is handicapped with the nine hole in the 13th race on the card, but is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line after defeating the talented Hominy Hill by a half-length on Sept. 11 in a $24,000 Indiana Sire Stakes elimination. He will have the services of his regular pilot, John DeLong, for his mile.

“Other trainers probably would not agree with me,” Grummel said. “But I just jog the heck out of him all the time between races and it seems to work for him. I have not changed a thing since the season started. All I do is listen to what John tells me and as long as he is happy with the horse, there is no reason to change anything we do with him.”

Besides being a state champion and gliding through a season that will forever be memorable, Homicide Hunter is an absolute pet. He was a barn favorite long before he commenced this season’s campaign and everyone associated with him could not be more pleased with the world seeing what kind of horse they care for on a daily basis.

“He was tough last year training,” Sis Arnold, Grummel’s assistant trainer, said. “He would jump at anything when you hooked him up to the jog cart and just do the opposite of everything you wanted him to do. But he has always been the teddy bear of the barn. You can do anything you want with him and he loves attention. I don’t harness him and take care of him all the time like Francie (his caretaker) does, and she does a tremendous job, but he has always been a favorite of mine.

“I’m not ashamed to say I cried all over his face holding him in the winner’s circle after his last race. For him to win parked like that and to come back after he was beaten, showed why we love him so much. There are just some horses you get attached to and he is it.”

It seems natural to feel a connection with Homicide Hunter. His coat glistens, his stride is near perfection and he would snuggle up to anyone that has a cookie. This boy loves his food, his time in the field and his contact with his caretakers. He is the epitome of what transpires when you have a happy horse, with ability and the perfect conditions.

“He possibly has five more starts for the year,” Grummel said. “I’m based at Balmoral Park so we will take him back home, as I’m from Illinois, for the winter and turn him out and then plan for next year depending on what he tells us.”

Although it was never discussed how his connections would feel should Homicide Hunter not be in the winner’s circle on any of these five ensuing engagements, Arnold summed it up succinctly.

“Every horse gets beat,” she said. “If he loses it does not matter. Look at what he has already done. He looks like a million bucks, he contends with whatever he has to deal with and you know he is always going to do the best he can. He’s Hunter and no one can take away the money he has earned or his record or who he is to be around. He has earned it and his personality is just who he is.”

by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent
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