Champs Advance to Ruidoso Derby

Grade 1 winners Ochoa and Mr Bojangles set to compete in $679,207 final.

May 26, 2012

Champions Ochoa and Feature Mr Bojangles each qualified for the Grade 1, $679,207 Ruidoso Derby on Saturday, however they will be tested by horses who showed they are ready for top-level Grade 1 competition.

The finals for the Ruidoso Derby will be held on June 9 and join the Grade 1, $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity to produce one of the most impressive stakes doubleheaders this year in American Quarter Horse racing. There will also be full wagering on the Belmont Stakes when I’ll Have Another makes his bid to win the Triple Crown.

The horses with the 10 fastest times from the 400-yard Ruidoso Derby trials qualify for the final, and the juveniles with the 10 fastest from Friday’s Ruidoso Futurity trials will compete in the 350-yard final of that race.

Last year’s champion 2-year-old and 2-year-old gelding Ochoa and champion 2-year-old colt Feature Mr Bojangles are each among the top-four derby qualifiers and figure to move forward in the derby after returning from extended rests for the Ruidoso Derby trials.

Ochoa, winner of the 2011 All American Futurity (G1), was sent off as the overwhelming 2-5 favorite in the first of six Ruidoso Derby trials and settled for second-place after not handling the closing rush of 31-1 longshot Dashing Spartacus.

J and L Stables’ Dashing Spartacus surprised after being winless in five previous starts while the Sleepy Gilbreath-trained Ochoa had won three of four starts with a third-place finish in last year’s Ruidoso Futurity. The Tres Seis-sired Ochoa absolutely dominated the Grade 1, $2,400,000 All American Futurity by 1 1/2 lengths as the 8-5 favorite. That was his previous start on Labor Day.

The Carl Draper-trained Dashing Spartacus, a $95,000 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale purchase, raced to the second-fastest time of :20.131 while Ochoa recorded a :20.204 time. All of the trials were raced into a very stiff headwind that ranged up to 30 miles per hour.

Two-time All American Futurity winner Draper also qualified RC Black Mamba and Texas Rockstar to the Ruidoso Derby, a race he has won three times in the last 10 years.

The Mr Jess Perry-sired Dashing Spartacus, whose best previous race was a third-place run in his Rainbow Futurity (G1) trial, was making his first start since finishing last in a Zia Park allowance race on October 9.

Feature Mr Bojangles, sired by Feature Mr Jess, showed he is ready for his summer derby campaign when he pulled away from RC Black Mamba to win the fourth trial by one-half length as the 7-10 favorite. Feature Mr Bojangles posted the third-fastest time of :20.157 while RC Black Mamba recorded the sixth-fastest time of :20.238.

Owned by R.D. Hubbard, Jim Helzer, SM Cattle Export Company and Jaime Dominguez, Feature Mr Bojangles has won seven straight races since finishing a troubled second in his first start. The Roberto Sanchez-trained colt won three futurities in New Mexico last year, highlighted by his one-half length win in the $700,000 Rainbow Futurity.

One of the new names in the Ruidoso Derby and the Grade 1 stakes ranks is fastest-qualifier Executive Brass, a $15,000 supplemental nominee to enter the Ruidoso Derby trials. The J.J. Gonzales II-trained gelding won his Ruidoso Derby trial by one length with a :20.121 time.

Owned by John Thurmond and Sherree Meridyth, Executive Brass was second behind Feature Mr Bojangles in last year’s Four Corners Futurity. Since then he has raced in trials and allowance races.

Racing resumes on Sunday afternoon with The First Lady Stakes for Thoroughbreds and the Fine Loom Handicap for 870-yard specialists. First post time is 1 p.m.

Ruidoso Downs racing information may be found at www.raceruidoso.com and important updates are sent through Twitter at Ruidoso Press Box (@RuiPressBox).