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The 24th running of the Indiana Derby (G3) is this Saturday at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino. Indiana Derby Day is always the most exciting day of racing in the Hoosier State. For the general racing fan it may just be another Derby on the 3-year-old calendar. But for me, it’s so much more.

I was enthralled with the 2003 Triple Crown run of the “gutsy gelding” Funny Cide and so began my visits to Indiana Downs where I fell in love with the sport of horse racing.

The first wager I ever placed was at Indiana Downs and on a horse named Apollonea. This was a turf handicap race and the filly was 12-1. My $10 win wager resulted in a $130.00 payoff and I was hooked. From that point on, I went to Indiana Downs weekly. I started playing the odds board and betting the top three favorites. I would bet $5 to win on one of the top three betting choices. I had decent luck with it, but eventually I learned how to read the Form.

By the fall of 2004, I started really picking up on angles: speed and fade, speed figures, class, and breeding. I quickly forgot about betting the odds board and went straight into angle handicapping. My love for the sport grew even more on the first Saturday in October 2004.

On a brisk fall night, I stood by the paddock and watched trainer Buff Bradley carefully saddle his charge for the biggest race of his career. This was the Indiana Derby (G3) – it was like the Kentucky Derby to me – and I found my horse in Brass Hat. He went on to score that night at odds of 10-1.

I was at Keeneland for Brass Hat’s last win the Sycamore Stakes (G3). I remember shooting text messages back and forth with Brian Zipse before the race. He told me he liked a longshot to hit the board – Southern Anthem at 54-1. I used him, but only for third.

Brass Hat won. My win wager scored but, low and behold, Brian’s longshot won a photo for second which led to me tearing up my trifecta ticket. From then on, any horse Brian touted was a must use for me.

Over the years through social media I met the most amazing people – friends, family, brothers. I met a huge horse racing fan named Tim Reynolds.

Tim, Brian, and myself had some amazing times at the races. Keeneland was a must for us. We frequented Old Friends Retirement Farm, also.

One of my favorite Indiana Derby moments was in 2010, when it was held at Hoosier Park. Indiana was going through what seemed like a 40-day drought. Tim drove up from Kentucky for the Indiana Derby, and – of course – it rained.

Oh, did it rain.

Lookin At Lucky was the heavy favorite as the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Haskell Stakes (G1) winner. He had a brutal trip in the Kentucky Derby and now the best 3-year-old in the country was here in Anderson, Indiana, and it was a monsoon.

Tim and I stood about 30 feet away from where Bob Baffert was watching the monitor. Lookin At Lucky broke dead last. He went on to circle the field and draw off in a runaway. Baffert was happy and so were we.

Throughout this time, our group became very close. We’re like family now. During that time, Brian Zipse became Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, before founding Derby Day Racing. Brian and Horse Racing Nation gave me the opportunity to write and express my love of this sport and Indiana Racing.

Derby Day Racing was founded on a Saturday this past winter in Kentucky. When the four of us (Brian, Matt, Brett, and myself) began talking about what trainer we would use, the first name that came up was Buff Bradley – the very trainer I watched carefully saddle his horse in the 2004 Indiana Derby. And just like Southern Anthem, Brian saw a horse that piqued his interest: a filly whose sire was Lookin At Lucky.

Fast forward nearly twenty years from my first racing experience, I’m a proud partner of Derby Day Racing and partner in Sooner Schooner, our Lookin At Lucky filly trained by Buff Bradley.

This all started with a trip to Indiana Downs and an amazing experience at the Indiana Derby.

Indiana Racing and Indiana Grand Racecourse will always have a special place in my heart. I can’t tell you how well the amazing people from there have treated me. From Tammy Knox to Rachel Mclaughlin at Indiana Grand, to Cliff Frasier and now Emily Gaskin at Hoosier Park, Indiana Racing is a family.

Much like Indiana Grand and Indiana Racing, we here at Derby Day Racing consider ourselves family. So when you’re walking to the rail or to the paddock or even when you’re picking out your Indiana Derby horse and you dream of one day owning an Indiana Derby competitor, we here at Derby Day Racing believe dreams can come true and family can win together!

Photo of Lookin At Lucky courtesy of Coolmore Farm