by Rose Flood, for Hoosier Park Racing & Casino
Anderson, IN — Sending six horses into a $2 million night of racing could cause nervousness for some trainers, but to Roger Welch, it’s treated like just another night. The Illinois native, who has amassed $18 million in career earnings as a trainer, says this is what he aims for.
“You coach the team, you’ve made it to the Super Bowl, and now you play in it,” Welch noted. “We’ve done our job; now it’s racing luck.”
Welch was born and raised into the harness racing industry. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather raised horses, so this is all that he’s ever known. Now in 2018, his barn continues to operate as a family business as he works with his wife Amy and his son Ryan. Welch has 34 training wins at Hoosier Park this season and his stable has amassed $540,410 in purse earnings through 138 nights of racing.
Welch is looking to increase those numbers in the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Finals on Friday (Oct. 12) as he sends six of his top horses behind the gate with the hope of meeting them in the winner’s circle: Queen Lagertha, Bridge To Jesse’s, Tatiana Romanova, Voom Or Bang, Gate Speed and Always A Vavoom.
Bridge To Jesse’s, a 5-year-old trotting gelding, is no stranger to the Indiana Sires Stakes stage. Taking 65 of his 66 lifetime starts at Hoosier Park and amassing 33 lifetime victories, he’s a multiple Indiana Sires Stakes champion, winning his respective Indiana Sires Stakes final at ages 2 and 4. The son of Jailhouse Jesse and Bridge To Nowhere has bankrolled $768,055 in lifetime purse earnings for his trainer, who shares ownership with William C., William P. and Ray DeLong.
“He’s a barn favorite and a people’s favorite. He’s a defending champion, and a champion in our eyes,” Welch noted. “He’s only ever had to race in Indiana until a few weeks ago. We try to keep him fresh and he also gets every winter off.”
Another rising star in the Welch barn is 2-year-old pacing filly Queen Lagertha. Once Welch starts talking about the filly, it’s clear she’s one of the favorites in her trainer’s heart.
“She has been a sweetheart from the first time I set eyes on her at the farm,” Welch laughed when asked about her. “I bought her as an anniversary present to my wife, but a week or so we sold half of her to some partners.”
The 2-year-old pacing fillies have been competitive this year, but Queen Lagertha is not one that should be overlooked. She’s named after a character in The History Channel’s “The Vikings,” due to her resemblance to the beautiful, tough queen. Queen Lagertha has earned $55,786 this season while winning three of 13 starts. The daughter of Always A Virgin and Wondering Heart has drawn the coveted rail position with David Miller enlisted to drive in the $220,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final.
“I’m having a good time watching her race, and you always have to cheer for your wife’s horse,” Welch quipped.
According to Welch, the best quality a trainer can possess is patience. While he’s careful not to reveal his hand, he says it’s important for the horses to be as fresh at the end of the season as they are at the start.
“That’s the important thing. That’s how you know you’ve been successful with a horse.”
“I love racing at Hoosier Park,” Welch noted. “I love racing in these races. This is what we work for every year, and this week is no different than a few weeks ago.”
Friday’s first race will line up behind the gate at 6:30 p.m. With purses in excess of $2 million, the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Night will be the richest night offered in the Indiana Sires Stakes program this season, featuring eight $220,000 finals on the evening’s 14-race card.
Friday’s stakes-filled card is part of Hoosier Park’s 2018 Championship Meet, which features a $5 million stakes schedule. The 12-week championship stretch, which kicked off on Aug. 10 with the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes, offers an unparalleled series of high-caliber stakes races. Friday will also feature a $5,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Handicapping Contest with a top prize of $2,500. To view all of the entries for Friday’s 14-race card, please visit www.hoosierpark.com.