Fiscal Responsibility

Iowa native The Fiscal Cliff looms large.

Quarter Racing Journal

The Fiscal Cliff and Kasey Willis. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Every year around this time, as the nation’s pocketbook is just about empty, Congress stares at a fiscal cliff and tries to avoid catastrophe with a last-minute continuing resolution on the budget.

In American Quarter Horse racing, The Fiscal Cliff is anything but catastrophic.

“He’s flawless,” said Kasey Willis, who trains the 4-year-old Iowa-bred PYC Paint Your Wagon stallion for breeder/owner Tom Lepic of Iowa City, Iowa. “You’d never know ‘Fiscal’ is a stud. He’s been class from Day 1. He’s very ‘goey’ – he’s always on the move. That’s what’s neat about him. Now that he’s a 4-year-old, he’s finally settled into himself and he conserves his energy. The day of the race, he’ll sleep all day and then he’s ready to go. No problems in the gate or anywhere else. He’s perfect, knock on wood. He’s flawless.

“Fiscal always puts out 100 percent,” the horseman continued. “He could be sick and on three legs, but he’ll put out 100 percent. It does not bother him. Nothing bothers him. He’s got the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ever seen.”

That’s saying something. The son of well-known trainer Eddie Willis, the 37-year-old Kasey has been training on his own since 2006 and has already conditioned the earners of more than $6.5 million. He has saddled the winners of 344 races from 1,860 starters, with 512 second- and third-place finishers.

The Fiscal Cliff is the second stakes winner out of the winning Shazoom mare Signs Zoomer ($30,044), who has produced four winners and the earners of more than $875,000 from six starters. The Fiscal Cliff is a full brother to the Mixer Ranch-bred stakes winner Wagon Tales, an earner of $427,579 who finished third in Handsome Jack Flash’s All American Futurity (G1), and to The Fiscal Storm, who ran fourth in the September 16 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge.

An earner of $401,835, The Fiscal Cliff has a career record of 22-12(7)-7(3)-2(2). The bay stallion has won three of seven races this season, with two seconds and two thirds. Each of his wins have come in stakes, one of his second-place finishes was in a stakes and both of his thirds were in stakes.

The Fiscal Cliff kicked off his 4-year-old campaign in the March 12 Eastex Stakes (G2) in Oklahoma City.

“This year, Fiscal started off really good,” Willis told the Quarter Racing Journal. “In his first stakes at Remington, he ran second to Bodacious Eagle, which is a pretty good feat in itself. Then the next stakes race was the Bob Moore Memorial (G2), and he won pretty handy all by himself. We were pretty impressed with him. Then he carried on to Canterbury for the summer, and he won two stakes in a row there.”

The wins in Minnesota were the June 18 Skip Zimmerman Memorial Stakes and the July 4 Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge. In both races, he was ridden by Benito Baca, this year’s Wrangler Champion Jockey in Challenge races.

“The 440 Championship on The Fiscal Cliff was a pretty good deal,” Baca said. “He won it pretty easy, just ran away with it.”

“He was really the class of that field,” Willis agreed. “And he really showed it. He was the big man up there and he let everybody know it.”

The Fiscal Cliff then returned to Prairie Meadows, where he finished third three times, to Ferrari James in the August 19 Keokuk Stakes (G3); to TLC Dale in the September 2 trials to the Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (from which he was moved to second upon the positive lab report of the first-place finisher); and to AJs High in the Grade 2 final on September 16.

“But I think that going into this big race, Fiscal’s probably the best I’ve had him all year, so we’re looking forward to it,” Willis said. “Now, having said that, I don’t think 440 is an advantage for him, but he’ll maintain his speed – for a little horse anyway. I think he really likes 350 to 400. He’s still getting faster at that point, but he’s still just kind of maintaining his speed over the last 40 yards of a 440.

“This is his home turf,” Willis added. “He’s an Iowa-bred, so it’d be kind of neat to get it done here for Tom.”

An Iowa businessman, who in his younger days was a jockey, Lepic in his own name has bred 15 winners and the earners of more than $715,000 from 26 starters.

“I’ve trained a few horses for Tom,” Willis said. “We counted it up the other day, and we think we’ve won 12 stakes together. That’s over a four- or five-year span, so we’ve done well together. Tom used to ride a little bit, so he knows what’s going on. He’s been in the business for a while, and he’s had more good horses than most people have been blessed with. Tom’s a go-getter and he deserves what he gets.”

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