Q-Racing Blog: Memories in the Making

Q-Racing Blog: Memories in the Making

This pair of horses is providing their connections a memorable year.

Tell Cartel Los Alamitos Winter Derby

text size

By Ty Wyant


Trainer Matt Fales, 35, and Los Alamitos fixture owner-breeder Mimi Wells are living a lifelong memory.

They have Tell Cartel in the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) on December 12 and second-fastest qualifier Old School Icon in the $165,550 Southern California Derby (G2) on December 20. They will never forget this time.

Tell Cartel has been a top 3-year-old at Los Alamitos since his victory in the $190,550 Winter Derby (G1) back in February. The colt known for his closing charge sprinted to a three-quarter-length win in the 400-yard Los Alamitos Winter Derby.

A son of Favorite Cartel, Tell Cartel built upon his derby respect in the $213,300 El Primero Del Ano Derby (G3) for males. He dominated the 400-yard dash by finishing 1 3/4-lengths ahead of stablemate Old School Icon. 

After the El Primero in late March, Tell Cartel was rested and returned to racing in August with a pair of lackluster, throw-out efforts – although he did finish fourth in the $204,100 Golden State Derby (G2). That would be a career race for most horses, but not for the derby-winning machine Tell Cartel.

Tell Cartel returned to top form in the fall. He set the fastest qualifying time to the $1,052,350 Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) and then showed, once again, that the 440-yard distance of the Champion of Champions should be to his advantage. In the 400-yard Super Derby, he raced with the leaders and then put them away with his late run to win by one-half length.

“It will be his first time going 440 (in the Champion of Champions),” Fales said. “Based on his condition, he should like the extra 40 yards.

“He came out of the Super Derby amazing. I couldn’t be happier. Right now, he looks like a fine-tuned machine.”

After the Super Derby on November 8, it was time to prepare for the Champion of Champions.

“I gave him 10 days of hand walking after the Super Derby and then galloped or jogged him two or three times a week. I really like the way he has galloped. He’s full of energy. We’ll see how he does coming up to the Champion of Champions and decide if we’ll make any changes.”

The Champion of Champions will be Tell Cartel’s last race. He is scheduled to be retired and will stand the 2021 season at Fales Ranch, owned by Matt’s parents, Ralph and Carrie Fales. It is located in Coolidge, Arizona, between Phoenix and Tucson. His stud fee is to be determined.

Old School Icon has not built the elite 2020 race record that Tell Cartel has amassed. However, he has proven to be a genuine racehorse.

By Texas Icon, Old School Icon was a well-beaten second to Tell Cartel in the El Primero Derby and picked up another second in the $25,000 Dillingham Handicap.

The gelding has several advantages going into the Southern California Derby. He has only made seven starts this year – with a breather last summer – and will be making his third start off that layoff in the Southern California Derby.

“He ran tremendous in his trial,” Fales said of the very close second-place finish by a nose with the second-fastest qualifying time of :19.802. “We’ve been pointing at the Southern California Derby since the El Primero.”

The time between the Champion of Champions and the Southern California Derby is a watershed nine days for Fales and Wells. “It’s the highlight of my training career. I don’t feel that much pressure because I have the animals,” he said.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqha.com/racing.