07/15/2017 9:01PM

Western Reserve breezes to Warrior Veterans triumph

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John Engelhardt
Western Reserve takes an early lead in the Warrior Veterans.

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Kent Sweezey spent six years as an assistant trainer before going out on his own in April, but it took him just six starters to win his first stakes race.

Western Reserve, racing for the first time after being claimed, went straight to the front under Florent Geroux and never was headed, drawing away to win the $100,000 Warrior Veterans grass race by almost four lengths at Indiana Grand on Saturday.

On behalf of Turf Stable Racing (Rusty Jones, principal), Sweezey was one of two parties that dropped a claim slip when Western Reserve, a stakes winner in December, was offered up for a $62,500 claiming price June 4 at Churchill Downs. Sweezey brought Western Reserve into his 15-horse string at Keeneland, worked him three times, and sent him out to a good-looking score here Saturday evening.

Geroux said there was no specific plan to go to the lead, but Western Reserve broke running from an outside gate, comfortably made the front over Chocolate Ride, and set splits of 23.89 and 48.13. Chocolate Ride, his former stablemate, applied token pressure to his outside. Western Reserve gave Chocolate Ride the slip with a third quarter-mile in a solid 23.93 seconds – and he was gone.

Increasing his advantage through the homestretch, Western Reserve won by 3 3/4 lengths, as One Mean Man came through along the inside to get second, a neck in front of Special Ops. Favored Chocolate Ride slipped back to third.

“I was riding Chocolate Ride against this horse at Fair Grounds, and Chocolate Ride could never get past him,” Geroux said. “I was just hoping he was in the same condition.”

Western Reserve ran 1 1/16 miles on a turf course called firm, but was almost certainly closer to good, in 1:41.83 and paid $10.80 to win.

Bred by Juddmonte Farms, Western Reserve, a 5-year-old gelding, is by Indian Charlie out of the Oasis Dream mare Visit. He won for the fifth time in 20 starts while giving Sweezey his second winner from just six starters.

Sweezey, a 31-year-old Lexington native whose parents own Timber Town Farm, spent three years as a California-based assistant to Eoin Harty, then three more with trainer Jimmy Jerkens before going solo earlier this year.

“This was my first stakes run,” he said. “I’d have been very happy to hit the board, split the field, something like that.”

Sweezey’s sites were set too low, but Western Reserve ran one of his best races Saturday.