Duncan Taylor admitted he was nervous prior to Friday night’s $325,000 Dan Patch S. at Hoosier Park. Having bought a Standardbred, the Taylor Made team was stepping into unknown territory and outside its comfort zone. And though their horse, Lazarus, was considered a superstar in his native New Zealand, not every Southern Hemisphere Standardbred makes a successful transition when shipped to the Northern Hemisphere.
But Lazarus did not disappoint. In his first start outside Australasia, he won the Dan Patch by a length in the time of 1:48 4/5. Yannick Gingras was the winning driver aboard the 1-2 favorite.
“It was only his second start here (including a qualifying race) and he was taking on McWicked, who is one of the better horses in the division,” said Taylor Made President and CEO Duncan Taylor. “So, yes, I was nervous. McWicked had raced six days before. Even though we had the nine hole, we were still able to get the best of him. Coming down the stretch when Split The House pulled up beside him I was worried, but when I looked at Yannick he hadn’t used the whip yet and when he did he spurted back out a little bit. You couldn’t have asked for anything better”
Lazarus, who had won 35 of 45 career starts before being purchased by Taylor Made, drew the far outside post, which forced Gingras’s hand. Driving a horse who is versatile enough to go to the lead or come from off the pace, Gingras gunned Lazarus to the lead rather than risk getting too far behind early or caught wide on the first turn. He was 1 1/2 lengths in front after a half-mile in 54 2/5 and maintained his lead to the top of the stretch. For a brief moment, it appeared that Split The House might spring the upset, but Lazarus had plenty left in the tank and had little problem holding off the 19-1 shot. McWicked was third.
“I was leaving and looking to get a spot mid pack but when I saw he was going to get an easy lead I took it,” said Gingras. “I think he’s a horse you can do anything you want with.”
The Taylor Made team had T-shirts made up that said “Taylor Made Stallions” on the front and “Lazarus the Wonder from Down Under” on the back and had them autographed by Gingras and trainer Jimmy Takter. From the winner’s circle, the shirts were shot into the crowd out of a T-shirt launcher.
Lazarus will race next in the Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk. The eliminations for that race are Aug. 25 and the $615,000 final goes on Sept. 1.
Though Taylor Made would obviously like to win as many races as possible with Lazarus, their foremost goal is to cash in on him as a stallion. The plan is to shuttle him back and forth from the U.S. to the Southern Hemisphere. With his reputation already well established in New Zealand and Australia, he will be a hot commodity down there. But Lazarus needed to prove himself in North America before breeders here would be sold on him. So far, so good.
“I think he basically secured his ability to stand up here now, now that people have seen what he can do,” Taylor said. “Now, it’s just a matter of what level can he reach. We still have a lot to do, but he’s done everything right so far.”
Lazarus will not actually stand at Taylor Made’s Farm in Kentucky. In harness racing, it is where the sire stands, and not where the horse is born, that determines what state the horse was bred in. Because Kentucky does not have a strong harness racing program, there are no major sires in the state. Likely, Taylor Made will reach a deal with a farm in Pennsylvania or New York, where the horse will serve as a stallion, though his stud career will still be controlled by Taylor Made.