Over the past few years, the tough team of Jockey Berkley Packer and Trainer Randy Smith have dominated the Quarter Horse ranks at Indiana Grand. 2019 was no different as Packer earned his third title in the past four years in Indiana.
A native of Idaho, Packer brought 28 horses home as winners during the season out of 159 starts. He earned the most purse earnings of any other Quarter Horse jockey with a little more than $487,000 earned during the 120-day meet that generally includes at least one Quarter Horse race on the card. Packer completed the season with a win in the final race of the year aboard maiden Triple Cranky for Smith.
When asked about his success and who to attribute it to, he immediately turned the attention to Smith.
“Randy’s the man,” said Packer. “They all ran pretty good all year long. I have to thank Randy and his team for the success.”
Packer, who is headed on vacation to Hawaii at the conclusion of the meet at Indiana Grand, will resume riding in Oklahoma at Remington Park in March. His three titles at Indiana Grand is added to seven accumulated in Idaho and one in California at the fairs. Packer claimed the top spot in 2016, 2017 and in 2019.
Packer, who holds a few Quarter Horse riding records at the Indiana track, including most wins by a jockey in one evening five victories in 2016, moves into fifth on the list of all-time leading Quarter Horse jockeys with his success from 2019.
Smith scored his fifth consecutive title in 2019, earning 37 wins in 271 starts with purses in excess of $815,000. The Broughton, Illinois, native, who is Indiana’s all-time leading Quarter Horse trainer, now has 250 career wins at the Shelbyville, Indiana, track. Smith won two stakes during the season, the Leader of the Class Sale Futurity with Cinnamon Beach and the Gordon Mobley Futurity with Shakeitonthebeach.
“It takes a team,” said Smith. “You have to have a team that works together and works hard to have success.”
Smith, who owns a farm near Indiana Grand, will begin breaking babies soon for the 2020 racing season. He will shuttle back and forth this winter between Indiana and Florida to get his stock prepared for next season. And, if he has any spare time, he may revisit an old hobby this winter.
“A few winters ago, I got in a few roping events in Florida, so if I have time, I may do that again,” added Smith. “It was a lot of fun.”
Also, Tony Cunningham repeated at Indiana Grand's leading Quarter Horse trainer.
It was another solid year for the Cunningham Stable and as a result, Tony Cunningham won his fourth straight Leading Quarter Horse Owner title. With nine wins for the year, Cunningham now moves into the top spot as the track’s all-time leading Quarter Horse Owner with 54 career wins at the Shelbyville, Indiana, racetrack.
Cunningham has participated in all years of pari-mutuel Quarter Horse racing, traveling down from his farm in Michigan to race when the inaugural season was launched at Hoosier Park in 1997. Since that time, his stable has grown to prominence and he has numerous stakes winners in his barn, including the older hard hitting Beach Bum Eddie. Now six, the Escondido Beach gelding won the Born Runner Classic Stakes in May and continued throughout the season to be stakes placed in several other events.
“That was probably the highlight of the season for me,” said Cunningham. “Watching Beach Bum Eddie come back off an injury and win the way he did. That just made the whole meet special.”
Cunningham divides his time between his farm in Michigan and Indiana Grand, where he keeps a string of racehorses. With 14 at the track and 43 at home, Cunningham had a strong showing for 2019.
With the conclusion of the 2019 racing season at Indiana Grand, Cunningham will be traveling up and down the road a little less, but the work doesn’t stop. He and his team are already hard at work.
“We have 21 babies and we already have 15 of them galloping at our farm,” added Cunningham. “All but six of them are Indiana bred or sired. It feels great to have another good season. We have a great team to credit for that success.”
Jon Schuster, vice president and general manager of racing, and Kevin Greely, director of racing, made the winner’s circle presentation to Cunningham for his Leading Quarter Horse Owner title. Schuster pointed out the impact Cunningham continues to have on the Indiana Quarter Horse racing program.
“It is great to be down here again with Tony for this award,” said Schuster. “We thank him for being a big part of our Quarter Horse program and for showcasing a lot of talent on the track. He is a great asset to our Quarter Horse meet.”
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