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Ronnie James Wins Firecracker

Valiant Hero gelding earns rich payday in Grade 2 futurity at Delta Downs.

July 7, 2012

Winning for the third time in four career starts, Brett Mennen’s homebred Ronnie James scored in the $327,715 Firecracker Futurity (G2) on Saturday night at Delta Downs. Sent off at odds of 7-2 under jockey John Hamilton, the gelding by Valiant Hero rallied to win by a half-length in :17.354 for 350 yards. Heath Taylor saddled the Texas-bred.

Ronnie James kicked off his racing career at Sam Houston Race Park, where he won a March 31 trial for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2) but failed to qualify to the final. He then won a $15,000 allowance contest at Delta before finishing second in his Firecracker trial with the second-fastest qualifying time. He brought earnings of $10,600 into the final and picked up another $163,858 for the win.

Ronnie James is the seventh stakes winner sired by Valiant Hero, who just surpassed the $2-million mark in progeny earnings with two crops on the racetrack. Ronnie James is out of the Feature Mr Jess mare Jess A Lil Bit, who ran eighth in the 2005 Firecracker Futurity and is the dam of this year’s Sam Houston Derby (G3) runner-up and last year’s Firecracker Futurity fourth-place finisher The Lizzard King, also by Valiant Hero.

Curtis Crenwelge’s homebred Braggin Bout My Zoom, the 10th-fastest qualifier and longest shot in the field at odds of 62-1, rallied to get up for second. The Shazoom filly was ridden by Jeff Jerman for trainer Michael Zingelmann.

Javier Ramirez’s Interesting Man, who came in with a perfect 3-for-3 record including a win in the Harrah’s Entertainment Futurity (G3) at Louisiana Downs, was last early and closed to take third. The gelding by Heza Fast Dash, ridden by Jarrod Deschamp for trainer Javier Contreras, improved his earnings to $139,410.

Tommy Hays and Bobby Barnett’s Runaway Wagon entered the starting gate for the $144,065 Firecracker Derby with earnings of just $7,250, but :19.439 seconds later the PYC Paint Your Wagon gelding earned nearly 10 times that amount as he scored by three-parts of a length in the 400-yard dash. David Alvarez rode the Kansas-bred for trainer Bobby Martinez.

Runaway Wagon, who was bred by Michelle Meiwes, posted the fastest qualifying time of :19.454 in the trials, which marked the gelding’s 3-year-old debut. As a 2-year-old, Runaway Wagon won a trial for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2) and finished third in an All American Futurity (G1) trial but failed to qualify to either race. The gelding has now banked $79,283 with three wins in seven trips to the post.

J.E. Jumonville Jr.’s homebred Sizzlin Cartel, a colt by Corona For Me who won last year’s Firecracker Futurity, made a late rally to finish second. Surfin Waves, a 13-1 longshot, took third.

Also on the card, Casey Haywood’s Heza Gand Ds Dash, an 8-year-old gelding by Heza Fast Dash, picked up his 15th career win in the $20,000 Par-A-Dice Stakes for non-winners of a sweepstakes. Alfonso Lujan rode the Louisiana-bred for trainer Vann Haywood and stopped the timer at :15.082 for 300 yards.

In the $50,685 Open Graduation Stakes for maidens as of March 1, J. Baxter Brinkmann’s Wicked Hero got up to win by a neck as the 5-2 favorite. The Texas-bred gelding by Valiant Hero broke his maiden at Delta in May and then finished second in his trial for the Open Graduation Stakes. Jockey David Alvarez rode for trainer Greg Lofland and got the 350-yard distance in :17.573.

Because of the restrictions in the conditions, neither the Par-A-Dice nor Open Graduation is an official AQHA stakes.