Holsapple's Winning Envelope / Mellon's Hide the Demon / Miller & Susmarski's Chance

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois – The Arlington-Washington Lassie, the most important 2-year-old filly race in Illinois, has Hutch Holsapple’s fingerprints all over it. Never in a million years would any equine detective have figured that to be the case.

Holsapple, a longtime blacksmith at Arlington and Hawthorne and a one-time trainer before turning to farrier work, spent a total of $6,500 last winter to buy two 2-year-old fillies at the Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton auctions in Kentucky. This is standard annual practice for Holsapple. During winter dark time in Chicago, his daily business on hold, Holsapple travels to these auctions and takes a couple shots on bargain purchases.

“I’ve always done okay with it,” Holsapple said Thursday evening.

Winning Envelope went for $3,000. The filly, by the good sire More than Ready, was stamped as a broodmare prospect, supposedly compromised by an early injury to the extent that she wouldn’t be able to race. Holsapple bought her anyway and never had a problem with the horse. Neither did the vet who okayed her sale to prominent owner Robert Lothenbach after Winning Envelope, already a talking horse on the Arlington backstretch, aced her career debut on Arlington Million Day, Aug. 11. Chris Block took over Winning Envelope’s training from Justin Johns and Holsapple and the filly is listed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the $75,000 Lassie.

The 5-2 second choice in the race? That would be Thunderous Gem – the other filly Holsapple bought this winter. There was no warning sign on this one – just an early 2-year-old by the young sire Gemologist who got passed over at the Fasig-Tipton sale. Holsapple paid $3,500 for her, and this week, she, too, passed the vet, sold for a whole lot more dough than Holsapple coughed seven months ago. Thunderous Gem, provided the bill of sale was finalized Friday, will run for Krystle Holsapple, Hutch’s wife, and her new owner in the Lassie. The purse will be split between the two entities before Thunderous Gem moves into the barn of trainer Kelsey Danner.

The Holsapple horses have been running in Krystle’s name since 2009, and through 127 starts since that year have earned a total of $275,358. From 1996 through 2010, Hutch Holsapple had 168 starters earn a total of $142,797. No one has officially reported the sale price of Winning Envelope, but according to multiple sources she alone was sold for an amount comparable to the entirety of the Holsapple horses’ earnings. Add whatever Thunderous Gem fetched, and it has been a very, very good year for the Holsapple family. And the family is consequential. The Holsapples have five kids between the ages of 1 and 12.

“It’s been huge. It’s made life more comfortable,” Holsapple said. “I was putting a lot of money into horses and it was time to get something out. We were in the market for a bigger house and we were trying to figure out how to pay for it. Now, the question is what Illinois racing is going to be.”

That is a good question. But in the short term, Hutch Holsapple found himself a real Winning Envelope.

Hide the Demon could find Futurity finish first

It’s all happened fast with a colt named Hide the Demon.

George Mellon, whose Mellon Patch Inc. has campaigned horses in Chicago since 1996, forked over $150,000 for a Run Away and Hide colt named Hide the Demon at a Florida 2-year-old-in-training sale on June 13.

These 2-year-old auction buys often require plenty of time to get beyond the rigors of being prepped to run a fast furlong or quarter at a sale, but less than two months later, Hide the Demon made his career debut in an Arlington maiden race. He won going away and ran himself right into a start Saturday in the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity, where he appears to have a real chance.

Hide the Demon showed ability in his first race and has, perhaps, shown even more in his subsequent works. Breezing on his own – and only breezing – Hide the Demon whipped through a half-mile in 46.60 on Aug. 19. On Aug. 29, he went six furlongs in 1:10.40, a somewhat mind-blowing clocking for the distance, even considering how fast the Arlington Polytrack has recently played during morning training. Joel Campbell, son of trainer Mike Campbell, worked the colt both times and both father and son were mightily impressed by the drills.

“I never had a horse work like that, and Joel said he never worked one like that either,” Mike Campbell said.

If Hide the Demon runs to his work, things might work out for Mellon and Campbell despite their early-summer 2-year-old prospect, Agi’s Cait, hitting a snag. Agi’s Cait, a $250,000 purchase in March, was second in her debut but won her second start at Arlington by more than six lengths. She finished second in the Prairie Gold Lassie on July 20 at Prairie Meadows and hasn’t posted a workout since.

It’s good to have a B team, and sometimes the B team becomes the A team.

Chance pays off for Miller, Susmarski

The winner’s circle was especially raucous by low-level maiden-claiming standards following the seventh race on Sept. 2 at Arlington.

The horse standing there getting his picture taken was Desani’s Chance. Desani’s Chance is a 10-year-old. He raced on Aug. 18, 2011 and didn’t start again until July 20, 2018. If there have been longer layoffs in modern Thoroughbred racing history, they’ve been kept well hidden.

Desani’s Chance had tendon injuries in both forelegs, stem-cell therapy and a lot – a lot! – of time to heal the second one. Desani’s Chance, an Illinois-bred by Leroidesanimaux (sire of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom) had shown real ability during the early phase of his career, and his owner, Nancy Susmarski, remained determined to get him back to the races.

No one would have advised her to persevere. In fact, when Susmarski first approached trainer Patti Miller about taking on the horse, and when Miller realized how old he was, she told Susmarksi her plan never would work.

It worked.

Desani’s Chance went into off-track training during the fall of 2017. He made it into Miller’s barn in March, and after being scratched from an intended start in June because of a sinus infection, Desani’s Chance made his comeback July 20. He wasn’t bad. In fact, he was damn solid, finishing a close fourth in his first start back, then second on Aug. 9. Miller managed to land leading rider Jose Valdivia for the Sept. 2 race. In the paddock, Valdivia understandably asked for a bit of reassurance from Miller, who gave it without hesitation. Then the 10-year-old went out and beat favored Sharp Money and, well into middle age, left the maiden ranks.

“The whole family was there, and it was like they’d won the Kentucky Derby,” Miller said.

Desani’s Chance ate all his feed after his win, something he didn’t do following his first two starts. The horse has stayed perfectly sound and if that changes Miller will hustle him into retirement. For now, Desani’s Chance has proven more than a mere curiosity.