Sparks Fly Upsets in Oak Grove Open; Finale a No Contest

Atlee Bender and Erv Miller trainee Sparks Fly persisted through a first-over push to clinch a tight win in the $40,000 Open Trot at Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel on Tuesday afternoon (July 2). 

Leaving from post 1, Bender found himself in third with Sparks Fly as Pioneer As (driven by Marvin Luna) ventured forward to grab the lead from Oh Look Magic (Devon Tharps) after a :27 first quarter. Pioneer As then coasted to a :56.3 half and raced unchallenged on the lead until Bender slyly angled Sparks Fly first up in the backstretch. Sparks Fly then cruised towards Pioneer As to three-quarters in 1:25.3 and muscled to a narrow lead turning for home. Pioneer As kept digging at the inside and Amigo Volo (Joey Putnam) steamrolled off cover and came lunging late. Sparks Fly reached the beam in time to wade the last charge from Amigo Volo by a nose in a 1:54 mile while Pioneer As settled for third and Oh Look Magic raced locked in fourth. 

A 4-year-old gelding by Bar Hopping, Sparks Fly has now won nine races from 25 starts and earned $156,950 for owners Ervin Miller Stable Inc. and Douglas Overhiser. He paid $16.06 to win. 

The finale at Oak Grove was declared a no contest due to an accident occurring just after the three-quarter pole. All horses involved in the spill got up following the accident. Several drivers — Devon Tharps, Stephen White, Marvin Luna, Cordarius Stewart and Atlee Bender — were loaded into ambulances. Zyler Maxwell, Joey Putnam and Pat Curtin all got up and were walking following the accident. Oak Grove will provide any necessary updates on the accident as information becomes available. 

Live racing resumes at Oak Grove on Sunday (July 7) with a 15-race card of Kentucky Sire Stakes starting at 3 p.m. (CDT). Oak Grove will also shift to a three-day racing schedule of Sunday through Tuesday starting on July 7 and lasting through the end of the meet. Free program pages for every race day, courtesy of TrackMaster, are available on the Oak Grove Racing website (

Sparks Fly with Atlee Bender winning the $40,000 Open Trot