Day At The Track

Cullipher sends six into finals night

04:28 PM 11 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Jeff Cullipher,Harness racing
Jeff Cullipher, current leading trainer at Hoosier Park, is sending six into Friday’s Super Finals.
Dean Gillette photo

ANDERSON, Ind.-October 9, 2019- With earnings of over eight million dollars and 601 lifetime training wins, the name Jeff Cullipher is synonymous with harness racing and success at Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

Whether it's holding leading training titles or sending his horses into Grand Circuit action, Cullipher is in the midst of his best season to date as a trainer, on track to nearly double his 2018 earnings. As Indiana gets ready to host its biggest night of harness racing on Friday, October 11, it's only fitting that Cullipher is sending out six horses, the most of any trainer, into the $2 million card for the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Finals.

"The season really starts at the sales," Cullipher revealed. "You start training the babies down to make sure they're ready to go. It's like they're starting first grade and you're hoping to get them ready to graduate by this time next year."

Even with the nature of the Indiana Sires Stakes season, Cullipher doesn't favor stakes horses to race horses.

"I love the race horses because you get to race them every week. Yes, the stakes horses are fun, a little bit because racing for that kind of money tends to be a bit more fun. You have to have the race horses to have the stakes horses."

It's no secret that the Indiana Sires Stakes program breeds some strong rivalries throughout the season, and Cullipher is no stranger to that concept. He spent three-year-old trotting filly Kota's Swan's sophomore season trying to give her a chance to split battling rivals Grand Swan and Measuredperfection. While those two continue to hold the favor of the betting public, Kota's Swan has held onto second place in the points standings, taking home victories in the third, fourth and fifth legs. The daughter of Swan For All-Casual Chick has won nine of 29 lifetime starts and sports a lifetime bankroll of $220,346. Kota's Swan will be the first Cullipher contender to grace the track Friday night guided by regular pilot Sam Widger in the sixth race on the evening's 14-race card.

"I had Kota's Swan as a baby, and she's done a complete 180 on her maturity level in the last year," Cullipher had to say about the filly. "She's pretty hot and spunky, and she's much more versatile this year. I didn't get the best post position with her, but I chose to take her off Lasix for the final with the hope she'll get back to those strong finishes she's accustomed to."

Trying to best another set of rivals is three-year-old trotting colt Martini Show. While Cullipher didn't train him during his freshman campaign, he's hoping this will be the year Martini Show can overcome heavy rivals Swandre The Giant and It's A Herbie. In fact, the son of Swan For All-Barmaid finished third behind the battling pair in last year's super final. This year, he hopes to pad his current lifetime bankroll of $196,515.

"I think I've got Martini Show going at the right time. He's such a big colt but he's finally developed into himself, even though he's a big kid all the time. With both him and Kota's Swan, I'm hoping the heavy rivals will get focused on a battle and we can catch them at the end. He's absolutely getting better and better so I'm hoping to see him firing on all cylinders in the final."

Martini Show will hope to finally best the trotting rivals for the first time in Friday's 11th race with Sam Widger at the lines. Cullipher's third sophomore contender, pacing gelding Rockin TJ, will be the last of the barn representatives in stakes action in the 13th race with Dale Hiteman in the sulky.

Cullipher's current superstar is two-year-old trotting colt Tj's Top Pick. Cullipher purchased the son of Swan For All-J A's Ayd with co-owner Tom Pollack at the Hoosier Classic Yearling Sale for $40,000. While Cullipher and Pollack weren't overly impressed with his pedigree, his video stuck out to them like no other had.

"We weren't even going for trotters, but we felt so strongly about Tj's Top Pick, so clearly it was meant to be," Cullipher laughed. "When we were training him down this winter, I liked the way he trotted all along, but it wasn't until we got moved into Hoosier Park that he really found his stride."

Piloted by co-owner Trace Tetrick, Tj's Top Pick will play the role of morning line favorite in race 9, as he looks to cap off his impressive stakes season by winning the $270,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super final. With the exception of one miscue earlier on in the season, TJ's Top Pick has won seven of eight starts this season, including a track record-setting performance in stakes action.


Tj’s Top Pick will look to cap off his stakes season with a Super Final win       --Dean Gillette Photography

Cullipher's other freshman gelding, My House, will attempt to best a competitive field of pacers in the 10th race with John De Long in the bike. Five-year-old pacing gelding Incredible Shark with Sam Widger will take on a field of aged horses in the 12th race as Cullipher brings him back to his home track.

Cullipher has a total of six going into Friday's card, including one aged competitor. Each has its own racing style and traits that make it a great horse but if asked to pick a favorite, Cullipher gravitates toward one of the new kids in the barn. It just happens to be the favorite that has made $177,871 in their sophomore season and has won seven of eight lifetime starts.

"I've got to go with Tj's Top Pick. I wish he was the only one in on Friday. I also with it was the first race so I could get it over with so I didn't have to stress, which I know my family would also appreciate. I don't know if it's his personality that made me love him or if it's because he's so good, but he's a dream horse. He's in a different league."

Cullipher believes in the necessity of patience and management skills when it comes to being a trainer-skills Cullipher no doubt possesses as he's won the leading trainer title at Harrah's Hoosier Park in both 2017 (tied with Jamie Macomber) and 2018. He also moved some of his horses out east this year to get them racing on the different tracks, and has been seeing success on the Grand Circuit as well.

"I feel fortunate to have the other stable. If one horse is struggling out east, I can always bring it here. I do have to attribute a lot of my success to Tom Pollack, though. He's second to none for owners," he noted. "I also couldn't be where I am without my family, who is incredibly supportive."

Even with the appeal of racing somewhere new, Cullipher has no plans to leave Indiana in the rearview mirror, especially not with the Indiana Sires Stakes program.

"It's a great program, though at the start of the year I wasn't sure of the new format. Obviously I don't mind it now that I'm doing well, but I'd like to see something where every horse is getting what they deserve and not just the top ones. But the bottom line is, Indiana is home for me and this is the place that made me."

So while Cullipher has already established an impressive repertoire for himself at his Hoosier Park home, Friday could be when he finally secures his spot in the Indiana Sires Stakes record books.

First post for Hoosier Champions night at Harrah's Hoosier Park is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, October 11 with a 14-race card. With purses in excess of $2 million, the evening's racing action will feature the $270,000 Super Finals for the two and three-year-old competitors and the $50,000 Finals for the aged competitors.

With a daily post time of 6:30 pm, live racing at Harrah's Hoosier Park will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and be conducted through November 9. For more information on the upcoming entertainment or live racing schedule, please visit www.harrahshoosierpark.com.

 

Rose Flood

Race Marketing & Operations Admin

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