Far Niente Fastest in Golden State Derby Trials

Son of FDD Dynasty wins first start as a gelding.

August 12, 2013

For the second time in his racing career, Tom Atwood and Vessels Stallion Farm LLC’s Far Niente posted the fastest qualifying time to a major stakes race at Los Alamitos Race Course. The Texas-bred son of FDD Dynasty was the fastest qualifier to the $392,000 PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity (G2) last year, and he is now the fastest qualifier to the Grade 1, $232,900 Golden State Derby after winning the third and final trial on Sunday at Los Alamitos. The Golden State Derby will be held on Sunday, August 25.

Ridden by Ramon Sanchez and saddled by Jose Hernandez Jr., Far Niente won his 400-yard heat by a neck over Howard Nichols’ Jess Being Valiant and did it in wire-to-wire fashion in the fastest time of :19.492. Bred by Bielau Oaks, Far Niente improved his record to five wins in nine career starts. His Golden State trial win came in his first start as a gelding.

“We had considered gelding him last year, but he is such a good horse that we didn’t want to do it,” Hernandez said. “Keeping him a stallion was costing him some races so we made the decision of gelding him. He is a more focused horse now and has a lot more potential as a racehorse. He has settled down a lot more and his training is a lot better. His behavior has improved greatly and we hope that he continues to get better now.”

Hernandez knew that Far Niente was going to deliver a special race as soon as he left the gate.

“He broke straight,” the trainer said. “In the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity, he broke out and he ended up running third. I was a little worried because of his post position (number eight) in this trial race, but I felt really good once he came out of the gate straight.”

Hernandez started training horses this year after many years working as an exercise rider and assistant trainer. The trainer qualified Emily Lawrence and J.P. Sample’s Checkspeed earlier this month to the August 23 Adequan Los Alamitos Derby Challenge, and he now has his first Grade 1 qualifier thanks to Far Niente.

“It’s an awesome feeling to have my first Grade 1 finalist,” he said. “Checkspeed gave me my first qualifier and that felt great as well. Both horses were coming off long layoffs and the trials served as their prep races. I’m excited to have qualified both of these horses and I’m looking forward to seeing them run for their owners in the finals.”

Bobby Cox’s outstanding gelding The August Heat, who ran second by a nose in last year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1), won his trial by a half-length while posting the second-fastest qualifying time of :19.510. Trained by Jaime Gomez and ridden by Rodrigo Aceves, The August Heat flew to a daylight lead right out of the gate and cruised home from there. The August Heat was making his first start since finishing sixth a trial to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on January 26.

“He had an operation to remove a small bone chip and then they turned him out to rest,” said trainer Jaime Gomez. “He trained for a couple of months at Cox Ranch before I got him here about a 1 ½ months ago. He arrived in great shape from the ranch. They did a great job at Bobby’s ranch preparing this horse. He has gained weight and he has matured a lot. He has a good workout here (on July 23) and he ran great tonight.”

Sired by Corona Cartel, The August Heat finished third in the Dash For Cash Futurity (G1) at Lone Star Park and led during the early part before running second in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity last year. He has won three of 11 starts and has earned $396,188 in his career.

Ridden by Gregorio Arriaga and also trained by Gomez, the aforementioned Jess Being Valiant finished as the third-fastest qualifier with a time of :19.521. The Utah bred son of Valiant Hero worked evenly with The August Heat in that 350-yard gate drill on July 23. A total of six horses from this trial advanced to the Golden State final. In addition to Far Niente and Jess Being Valiant, the other horses that qualified from this heat were Stel Redneck, Amore La Blue, Fireworks and Joy Roses Eagle SA.

John and Cina Sperry’s Revv Me Up won the first of three trials by a half length. The filly by Stel Corona has won three of 13 career starts while finishing in the top two in 10 of those outings. Ridden by Gregorio Arriaga, her winning time of :19.690 in the Golden State trials was the eighth-fastest of the night. In four of her five starts at the 400-yard distance, Revv Me Up’s final time has been in between :19.69 and :19.73. She ran a :19.93 when finishing third in the Governor’s Cup Derby (RG2) on July 27.

“She’s been very consistent in her career,” said John Sperry. “She had bone chips last year and we had to operate her. I think she’ll keep getting better as long as she stays healthy. I’m very proud of this filly.”

Revv Me Up won the La Primera Del Ano Derby (G3) earlier this year. She also ran second in the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes on February 24 and was a finalist to the Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1) last year.

The complete list of qualifiers to this year’s Golden State Derby is as follows: Far Niente (:19.492), The August Heat (:19.510), Jess Being Valiant (:19.521), Stel Redneck (:19.571), Watch Linda Ballet (:19.622), Amore La Blue (:19.657), Jabuti Eagle SA (:19.678), Revv Me Up (:19.690), Fireworks (:19.729) and Joy Roses Eagle SA (:19.771).