Blackberry Czech Graduates Kindergarten

Fastest qualifier finds the Los Alamitos winner’s circle at odds of 6-1.

May 21, 2012

Fastest qualifier Blackberry Czech gave owner and breeder Salvador Pimienta his first ever stakes win at Los Alamitos Race Course after the filly held off Bonanza Racing Stables’ The Cartel Straw by a head in the Grade 2, $268,200 Kindergarten Futurity on Sunday night.

After the race, Pimienta was all smiles in the winner’s circle as he talked about the dream of winning a stakes race with a homebred.

“When you get into the business of breeding horses everyone’s dream is to win a stakes race one day,” Pimienta said. “A lot of steps go into making that happen. Everything has to go right because all it takes is one bad step to undo all of the good.”

As a small breeder, the challenges can be even greater, Pimienta added.

“I only have a couple in my broodmare band so I only have one or two opportunities a year to win as a breeder,” Pimienta continued. “If something goes wrong with one of those babies then that can be the end of the dream for that particular year. All it takes is one bad step.”

Ironically, the story of Pimienta’s Blackberry Czech started with a bad step.

“I’m an agent and a client from Mexico called me looking for a good older horse for racing,” he said. “I bought Ra Noble from owners Ron and Rosie Alvarado for this client. When it came time to load her in the trailer to take her to the client, she acted up and kicked the gate. She hurt her hocks badly. My client, he didn’t want her because she was no good for racing anymore. I keep the mare and she eventually produced Blackberry Czech.”

Trainer Felix Gonzalez trained Ra Noble for the Alvarados and Blackberry Czech for Pimienta. The veteran trainer couldn’t believe it when he saw Blackberry Czech had scored big in the Kindergarten.

“I always tell people before a race that I’m going to win, but this race looked very tough,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t think we were going to hold on for the win. I thought Blackberry Czech was going to end up second because from where I was watching I didn’t know if she had held on. You never know because the angle can fool you. I’m happy that she won because of the people involved with this filly, the Pimientas, and this filly’s mother, the Alvarados. They’ve been special people in my life.”

Gonzalez has had his share of ups and downs. He’s won big races in the past, including the Kindergarten with Dash To End in 2004, but he’s also faced some struggles.

“I had three very difficult years, very tough years,” Gonzalez said. “People would ask me how I was doing and I would tell them that I was broke because I was. Things are still tough right now, but this victory is great because of the money and great for my heart. A win like this is such a positive thing; it’s the type of thing that keeps you going forward.”

Through the purchase of Ra Noble, Pimienta and Gonzalez continue to develop a good working relationship.

“Salvador sent me a client and then he started sending me his own horses,” Gonzalez said. “I trained Rey Tiburon for him and I also had a filly out of Ra Noble named A Regal Star that did pretty good in Arizona and ran in the Grade 3 Desert Classic Futurity and a 2-year-old named Bingo, who is a sibling to Rey Tiburon.”

The owner and trainer have high hopes for Bingo, but this night belonged to Blackberry Czech’s victory at nearly 6-1 odds. In her previous start, the Corona Czech filly had posted the fastest qualifying time to the Kindergarten in :15.43. Ridden by Alex Bautista, Blackberry Czech ran faster in the final with a 300-yard time of :15.355. She earned $112,644 for the victory.

“This is incredible,” Pimienta said. “The feelings that you get with a win like this are incredible. I have a lot of family here with me. My wife, my daughter, my sister-in-laws, my nephews, etc., they all came to support this filly. To have the family here on such a special occasion it’s something that is priceless. Horses can keep a family united. Right now, I’m getting so many messages on my phone from people from all over Mexico. In Tecolotlan, Mexico, which is the town that I grew up in, a lot of people were following this race closely.”

Even in the winner’s circle after the Kindergarten, Pimienta was being asked if the filly was for sale. Pimienta was not ready to wheel and deal yet.

“I’m going to enjoy this moment my family,” he said. “This filly is a special animal for us. I think she’s going to be a special runner. She’s going to be my next broodmare.”

At home in Marana, Arizona, Pimienta keeps about 10 horses in total. An ever present figure at all the Quarter Horse auctions throughout the country, Pimienta credits his family for keeping the family business running going.

“I travel a lot because of the sales, but when I do I never worry about the horses because my wife and my kids are handling it,” he said. “They are there when the babies are born and they do the feeding and everything else that goes with taking care of horses. They all know how to care for horses and they enjoy it. I’m very blessed to have them.”

Blackberry Czech’s schedule for the year is headed by the trials to the John Deere Juvenile Challenge. Pimienta will also look into some derbies for her in 2013.

“We didn’t expect big things from this filly because she’s small,” he said. “I didn’t think she was the type of horse that could go 400 yards in races like the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, but maybe she’ll surprise us again.”

Trained by Juan Aleman and ridden by Francisco Rubio, The Cartel Straw earned $45,594 for finishing second. She was the second-fastest qualifier in the trials and came into the race unbeaten after two starts. Mr Ease Cartel, trained by Jose Flores and now racing for Tremor Enterprises, earned $32,184 for running in third-place. Mama Mia Bella, Revv Me Up, Super Long Straw, Tres Racer, Sugarbear Sax Man, To Catch This Wagon and Jess Another Czech completed the field.