11/09/2010 4:09PM

Midwest Thoroughbreds putting up big numbers in 2010


STICKNEY, Ill. – Drawn in the two inside posts for the featured sixth race Thursday at Hawthorne are the coupled entry of Down the Road and See I A. Take note of the ownership name on the horses, Midwest Thoroughbreds, because this stable has gone viral.

Midwest Thoroughbreds came into being in 2009 when owners Richard and Karen Papiese began running horses under a stable name rather than their own names. In 2008, the Papiese stable won 64 races from 512 starters, but just two years later Midwest has reached the top of the heap, quadrupling its win total while doubling its number of starters. From 1,027 runners in 2010, Midwest has notched 288 wins, 61 more than the next-highest owner total in the country. The stables’ runners have earned $3.89 million, the second-highest total among North American owners this year.

Papiese, a businessman from the Chicago area, has kept a minimal public profile throughout his stable’s growth. Here in Chicago this fall, two different branches of the operation, one overseen by Midwest’s main trainer, Jamie Ness, another by Chicago-based Roger Brueggeman, have converged at Hawthorne with significant success. Entering this racing week, Midwest has won 13 races at the meet, nine more than the second-highest total.

Down the Road inhabits the Brueggemann string of the Midwest operation and reaches back to the earlier days of the stable: The 4-year-old’s most recent start came June 13, 2009, when Midwest was still running horses at Evangeline Downs with trainer Al Sider. Despite the layoff, Down the Road has a chance in race 6, a second-level, six-furlong dirt allowance also open to $30,000 claimers. The colt, a 4-year-old by Indian Charlie, has won 3 of 6 dirt starts and sports an excellent work pattern for Brueggemann. See I A resides in the Ness string of the operation and easily won a $12,500 claimer here in his last start. The class hike would be highly positive if he gets the call, but with jockey Pablo Morales named on both Midwest horses, one is likely to be scratched.

A hot early pace – entirely possible on paper, at least – could aid Bravo Whiskey or Lalo’s Baby Bear. Bravo Whiskey won his most recent start over Turfway Park’s Polytrack but is at least as good on dirt. Lalo’s Baby Bear was victorious here in last spring.

Berndt tops trainer standings

While Midwest has surged to the top of the owner standings this fall, there’s an unfamiliar name atop the trainer standings as well: Joel Berndt. Berndt, 41, hails from Mobridge, S.D., the hometown of Hall of Famer Bill Mott. Berndt, who started training in 1988, has never won a training title, nor come close, but his 14 winners so far this Hawthorne meet are three more than second-place Brueggemann has sent out. And with 45 horses in his suddenly expansive stable, Berndt might be able to keep up his pace.

“I have the horses to do it,” Berndt said. “I have a lot of maidens, horses with conditions. You just need luck.”