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Horse racing notes: Sleepy Eyes Todd tops field for Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes

Horse racing notes: Sleepy Eyes Todd tops field for Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes

03/02/21 - Chris Kotulak, Fonner Park CEO, told Hall County Commissioners that keno will still have a presence at Fonner Park as search continues for casino operator, detailed how casino will be developed. (Independent/Brandon Summers)

Defending champion Sleepy Eyes Todd tops a 10-horse field for Saturday’s $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes, the richest race of the Fonner racing season.

The 5-year-old Kentucky bred drew the No. 9 post in the 1 1/16-mile race that he won last year by almost seven lengths at the Grand Island track.

The horse went on to win stakes races at Charles Town (West Virginia), Keeneland (Kentucky) and Gulfstream (Florida). He most recently competed in the $20 million Saudi Cup in Saudi Arabia and the $12 million Dubai World Cup.

“It’s always special when the defending champ returns,” Fonner CEO Chris Kotulak said. “But it’s next to unthinkable that the same horse returns after having run against arguably some of the best horses in the world.”

Trained by Miguel Silva, the son of Paddy O’Prado has won eight of 18 career starts and earned close to $1.9 million. He is the even-money favorite in the early betting odds.

The Bosselman field (with post position, jockey, weight and odds):

1, Poderoso Equs (Jason Eads), 118, 25-1; 2, Mr. Tickle (Alberto Pusac), 118, 20-1; 3, Blue Harbor (Jose Medina), 120, 12-1; 4, Box Seat (Curtis Kimes), 120, 6-1; 5, Shades of Victory (Dakota Wood), 120, 15-1; 6, Mo Mosa (Armando Martinez), 122, 8-1; 7, Most Amusing (Adrian Ramos), 118, 25-1; 8, Downtowner (Alex Birzer), 118, 5-1. 9, Sleepy Eyes Todd (Jake Olesiak), 124, 1-1; 10, Minecraft Maniac (Kevin Roman), 124, 10-1.

Martinez hits 2,000

Longtime Nebraska jockey Armando Martinez recently picked up career victory No. 2,000 at Fonner.

Martinez, who has been riding since 1987, rode Upperclassman to victory for trainer Mark Hibdon to score the milestone win.

The defending Fonner riding champion credited his family after the race. That includes his wife Kelli — a trainer at the track — and son Damian, who serves as his agent.

“Damian has been doing a good job,” Martinez said. “My wife and family, they supported me and believed in me.”

He also thanked the trainers who “are giving me good horses to ride.”

Narrow lead

With two weeks of racing left at Fonner, Martinez holds a slim lead in the jockey standings.

He has 39 wins, two more than Jake Olesiak. Scott Bethke is third with 25.

In the trainer standings, David Anderson continues to lead the way with 31 wins. Kelli Martinez is second with 24 and Gilbert Ecoffey is third with 14.

Former Ak announcer retires

Former Ak-Sar-Ben announcer Richard Grunder, who has been calling races for almost 50 years, has retired.

The 68-year-old Grunder, a Kansas native, called his first race in 1973 at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Saskathewan. He has worked at several tracks over the years, including the past 37 at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida.

He also had some stints in the Midwest, including Nebraska. He worked in the Ak-Sar-Ben racing office in 1983, announced at the Omaha track in 1991 and 1992 and was the announcer at three other state tracks — Ag Park in Columbus, State Fair Park in Lincoln and Atokad Park in South Sioux City — in 1996 and 1997.

Grunder is believed to have called 37,000 races at Tampa Bay Downs, where he was the longest tenured announcer in the nation.

Concert Tour out

Concert Tour, owned by Omahans Gary and Mary West, will not be a part of the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Bob Baffert recently announced on Twitter that the colt, son of 2007 Derby champion Street Sense, will pass on the Derby and point toward the Preakness.

Concert Tour was undefeated in his first three races but finished third in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 10.

Baffert has won the Derby six times, most recently with Authentic in 2020.

Gaffalione gets mount

Tyler Gaffalione, a rider with Nebraska ties, is expected to have a mount in the Kentucky Derby aboard the gray colt Soup and Sandwich.

The 26-year-old Florida native is a third-generation jockey. His father Steve rode for 20 years and his grandfather Bobby, an Omaha native, rode for 41.

Most recently, Tyler has been riding at Keenland in Kentucky.