03/10/2011 1:31PM

Fonner: Budweiser-Tondi lures speedy Honkeytonk Stomp

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – A strong field of eight older horses take their first steps towards an ultimate goal of the $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes in late April when they go six furlongs in the $25,000 Budweiser-Tondi Stakes on Saturday at Fonner Park.

Two-time defending champion The Nutz makes his seasonal debut here, as does Reach One More and Tiger Lake. Any of them could be the favorite, but they will also have to contend with the blazing speed of the 4-year-old Honkytonk Stomp.

Honkytonk Stomp caught the attention of fans last year when he won the Hall of Fame Stakes and the Van Berg Derby at Columbus to end the year with four wins from six starts. He wintered at Beulah Park in Ohio where he won an allowance in January, then made his local bow here on opening weekend. He equaled Leaping Plum’s four-furlong track record of 44.20 while winning the Grasmick Stakes by over four lengths. Trained by Dudley Graham, Honkytonk Stomp earned a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 92 in that race.

The Nutz made his first start of the season in this race last year, coming from off the pace to draw off for a three-length win. He failed to win again last year but has been working forwardly for his 2011 debut with a five-furlong drill in 1:01 over the track on March 6 for trainer Steve Hall.

Reach One More closed out last year with a trio of stakes wins while moving his career record for 10-1-0 from 13 starts. His lone defeat from five starts last year was a gallant effort, as he forced the pace before yielding late to Shadowbdancing in last year’s Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes for trainer Chuck Turco.

Turco will also send out Tiger Lake as part of an uncoupled entry. Tiger Lake spent most of last year’s campaign running route races and he should have a strong pace to run at in this spot. He earned a pair of allowance wins last year but also made good showings when second in the Cyclones Handicap for Iowa-breds at Prairie Meadows and again second in the Claiming Crown Emerald going 1 1/16 miles over the turf course of Canterbury Park.