American Band Played On for Haran

April 4, 2024

American Band (outside) winning the Matron. (Coady Photography/Renee Torbit)

A Total Eclipse

By Robert Yates

The luck of the Irish came a bit late for owner/trainer John Haran.

Haran, 13 days after St. Patrick’s Day, pulled maybe the biggest stakes upset of the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting when American Band captured Saturday’s six-furlong $250,000 Matron for older fillies and mares.

Making her stakes debut, American Band ($57) wore down Grade 1 winner Daddysruby to win by three-quarters of a length under Walter De La Cruz. Hoosier Philly, a Grade 2 winner, was fifth. Heavily favored Zeitlos, bidding for a second consecutive stakes victory and fourth consecutive victory overall, finished sixth for her powerhouse connections, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and breeder/co-owner Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke).

The Matron was the biggest career victory for the Irish-born Haran, 62, who won a seven-way shake, or blind draw, to claim American Band for $12,500 last May at Oaklawn. Almost a year later, the 5-year-old daughter of Flatter has quickly climbed the class ladder. She has won three consecutive races at the meeting and is possibly headed to a Grade 1 event next month in Kentucky.

“I love Flatter,” Haran said Tuesday morning. “I like them (offspring) as they get older. They can either run or they can’t. I’ve had a few Flatters that could run and a few that couldn’t.”

Haran said American Band, initially, couldn’t because of bad wheels. The fix? Rest and gelatin in her feed to promote foot health.

After being claimed, she didn’t resurface until Dec. 15 at Oaklawn. American Band finished a troubled second against $30,000 claimers before beginning her winning streak at the same level Jan. 12. American Band, at 12-1, cleared her first allowance condition March 9. American Band (time waiver) wasn’t eligible to be claimed in her first two starts at the meeting.

“We gave her the whole summer off to work on her,” Haran said. “Her feet were kind of bothering her. Two bad feet, so we had to grow them out a bit. A lot of Jell-O for about eight months.”

American Band received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 82 for her Matron victory, which was her sixth in nine starts overall and bumped her earnings to $332,205. After finishing ninth in her Sept. 17, 2022, career debut at Churchill Downs, American Band has finished first or second in her last eight starts.

Haran said American Band is targeting the seven-furlong $600,000 G1-Derby City Distaff Stakes May 4 at Churchill Downs – if she isn’t sold first.

“We want to give her a shot there and see what happens,” Haran said. “I’ve had a lot of calls about her already, looking to buy her.”

The Matron was Haran’s 499th career North American victory and ninth at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 8. Haran’s horses have earned $571,802 in purses this season at Oaklawn. His previous Oaklawn highs, six victories and $255,314 in purse earnings, came last season.

“Blessed,” said Haran, who has had approximately 20 horses at Oaklawn. “Blessed, for sure. I’ve got a good crew, good horses. It’s all about the crew and the horses. All we do is direct the orchestra.”

Haran said he’s been around horses his entire life. A homebuilder and plumber, Haran said he came to the United States in 1982 to play Gaelic football, returned in 1985 and never left. 

Haran purchased Kentucky’s Eagle Valley Farm in 2004 and said he would send horses he owned that were stabled there to other trainers, including Eddie Kenneally, Frank Kirby and Ray Sibille, to compete around the country. 

Among the best horses campaigned by Eagle Valley Farm was multiple stakes winner Kathleens Reel. Haran sold Eagle Valley Farm in 2013, two years after he started training his horses to shave expenses. 

Haran, as an owner, has 199 career victories under the Haran Thoroughbreds, LLC banner. Haran Thoroughbreds started its first horse in 2012. Haran Thoroughbreds has eight victories this season at Oaklawn, including three by American Band, to rank fourth in the owner’s standings.

A Total Eclipse

Gun Pilot won an allowance at Oaklawn March 10. (Coady Photography)

Sunday’s $175,000 Eclipse Stakes drew a field of 10, including Gun Pilot for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

The Eclipse, a six-furlong restricted stakes race for older horses that haven’t won a stakes race in 2023-2024, was a late addition to the schedule after Oaklawn added two racing dates (Sunday and May 5) to help offset cancellations Jan. 14 and Jan. 19-21 because of winter weather.

The Eclipse closed March 29 with 34 nominations.

Gun Pilot is two-for-two this season, including a sharp 3 ½-length allowance score March 10 at Oaklawn in his last start.

Asmussen also entered two other horses, one being Grade 3 winner Morello. Oaklawn stakes winner Kavod will be making his first start for trainer Mike Maker since being claimed for $80,000 March 14 at the Fair Grounds.

Probable post time for the Eclipse, the eighth of nine races, is 4:26 p.m. (Central). First post is 12:35 p.m.

The Eclipse Stakes will be run one day before a well-publicized total solar eclipse. Because it will be visible in Hot Springs, Oaklawn is hosting an Eclipse Festival Monday in the infield. Admission is $20, with children under 12 free. The event will feature live music, concessions and attractions for children.

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Jon Bercher @JBercher View testimonials

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