Ground Transport Delivers the Goods via First Stakes Victory in Harrison E. Johnson Stakes at Laurel
Ground Transport earned his first stakes win for owners St. Elias Stable, Get Grounded Stable & West Point Thoroughbreds in a sparkling wire to wire performance March 22 in the Harrison E. Johnson Stakes at Laurel Park.
Off as the second choice in a field of eight, the Big Brown colt owned the race from start to finish, setting comfortable fractions at every pole and crossing the wire a comfortable three lengths and one quarter lengths in front of his closest pursuer.
The Mike Stidham trainee was ridden by leading Laurel Park jockey, apprentice Trevor McCarthy.
In the winner’s circle, McCarthy expressed a deep appreciation to veteran rider Mark Guidry who provided some valuable tips on riding the sometimes bullish colt who prefers to have things his own way around the oval. “Mark called me Friday. He gave me some instructions about how he (Ground Transport) and I could get along,” said McCarthy. “I just want to thank Mark so much for his help. This is such a nice, classy colt and I’m very grateful for the opportunity the trainer and owners gave me to ride him.”
It was Ground Transport’s second win in four starts this year. Trainer Mike Stidham phoned in after seeing the race and said, “He's turned around so much this winter. My assistant Chris who traveled with the horse from New Orleans to Laurel jogged him over Laurel’s track Friday morning and said he’s doing so good it’s scary. If they let us get away with an easy lead, I knew we’d take it and be tough to beat.”
West Point’s marketing officer Dawn Lenert attended the race and knew Ground Transport was in a good spot going into the first turn when she saw the colt going easily with nobody glued to his flank. “I became very confident heading around the far turn when Mr. Palmer was asked for some run and Trevor hadn’t even asked Ground Transport for any yet,” she said.
West Point Thoroughbreds president Terry Finley, in Florida for the Fasig-Tipton sale, said, “This was a good test for this horse and he aced it.”
Ground Transport vanned back to Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday where he joined up with Stidham’s Keeneland string.
The Harrison E. Johnson Stakes is named in honor of the Maryland based trainer who died in a private plane crash in 1985. Johnson trained 1973 Hopeful winner Gutsy O-Shay. Johnson’s wife, children, grandchildren and other family members were present at Laurel to present the trophy.