01/05/2017 3:26PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: A. P. Indian

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Debra A. Roma
A.P. Indian won six of his seven starts on the year, topped by back-to-back Grade 1 races at Saratoga.

At age 6, A. P. Indian was finally able to realize the potential he had hinted at during his previous four seasons of competition. He went 6 for 7 on the year, swept the two Grade 1 sprint stakes at Saratoga, and won the top races in his division at both the Belmont Park spring meet and the Keeneland fall stand.

Coming into the 2016 season, A. P. Indian had made only a single graded-stakes start. By fall, he had developed into the best sprinter in the East. And now, with the year complete, he is one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award for leading male sprinter.

A. P. Indian, a gelded son of Indian Charlie, was bred and is owned by the Green Lantern Stables of Richard Masson. He started once at 2, winning by six lengths. He was then off 11 months before resurfacing at Churchill Downs, where he won an allowance race. He started twice more that fall and once in January of his 4-year-old season before returning to the sidelines.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

When A. P. Indian was put back in training for his 5-year-old season in 2015, it was with trainer Arnaud Delacour. A. P. Indian got off to a fast start that season, winning 3 of his first 4 starts, including a pair of stakes, the Decathlon at Monmouth Park and the Donald Levine Memorial at Parx Racing. But his form began to decline, and in his final two starts of the year he finished sixth in a restricted stakes at Saratoga and the Phoenix at Keeneland.

“In 2015, he started out very good but he had some issues we had to deal with and he tailed off,” Delacour said.

In 2016, A. P. Indian got better as the season progressed.

He was placed first in the Decathlon when the winner, Delta Bluesman, was disqualified for interference. He repeated in the Levine Memorial before venturing to New York for the Grade 3, $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, which he won by a head.

From there it was on to Saratoga, where A. P. Indian won the Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap, the first Grade 1 victory for both horse and trainer. He doubled down on that win by taking the Grade 1 Priority One Jets Forego on the Travers undercard.

Delacour planned to run A. P. Indian back in the Vosburgh at Belmont, but changed plans due to wet track conditions and rerouted him to Keeneland, where A.P. Indian proved a nose best in the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix.

“The most important thing this year is that he ran at his best all year,” Delacour said. “That we were able to do that and never back off him.”

A. P. Indian concluded his campaign with a fourth-place finish behind fellow Eclipse Awards finalist Drefong in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. He raced in good early position but lacked a closing response and was beaten 4 1/2 lengths.

“I was a little bit surprised how he ran,” Delacour said. “It looked like he got a little tired and I thought I had him ready. It is possible he did not like the track.”

A. P. Indian is now 11 for 18, with earnings of more than $1.3 million. Joe Bravo was aboard for all but the first of his races this season.

Following the Breeders’ Cup, A. P. Indian was given a vacation, first at Delacour’s home base, the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, and then on a farm in Ocala, Fla. Delacour put him back in training Jan. 1 for his 7-year-old campaign.

“I think he can stay at the same level again this year,” Delacour said. “At least, I hope so.”