Wagons, Ho!

The Wagon Boss is ready to roll on the Prairie.

Quarter Racing Journal

JD Wagon Boss, with his humans: Monica and Jose Rocha, Beverly and Buckey Stockwell. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Buckey Stockwell has been a horseman all his life. And that’s saying something. Still going strong at 73 years of age, the Canadian cowboy from Camrose, Alberta, will send out two starters in Saturday’s Bank of America Challenge Championships at Prairie Meadows, in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona, Iowa.

The first will be the PYC Paint Your Wagon colt JD Wagon Boss, who will go in the $130,000 John Deere Juvenile Championship (G2). Buckey and wife Beverly bought the colt from Jean Dillard of Ringling, Oklahoma, who in more than 60 years of developing her program has bred the earners of more than $4 million, including her most famous, the world champion On A High mare See Me Do It ($913,464). JD Wagon Boss is one of three winners from four starters out of See Me Do It’s maiden Fishers Dash mare Elly Mae.

“He’s a beautiful horse,” Stockwell told the Quarter Racing Journal. “He’s unbelievable, the best horse I’ve ever had in 40 years of training. ‘Wagon Boss’ is great in the gate and he can really run. I’ve never seen one like this. I hope he’s that good here at Prairie Meadows.”

An earner so far of $14,855, JD Wagon Boss is undefeated in three races, the first at 300 yards, the last two at 350. Jose Rocha is the only rider who’s ever been on his back.

The colt’s first start was a June 23 maiden event over 300 yards at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club at Lethbridge, Alberta.

“He won his first out by 5 lengths, got a 97 speed index and broke the track record,” Stockwell said.

The Stockwells then took JD Wagon Boss to Grande Prairie, in northwest Alberta, where he ran in the August 5 trials to the Evergreen Park Juvenile Challenge. At the wire, the closest horse to him was 3 lengths behind.

“He ran a 102 speed index, while the rider had his feet in the dashboard,” he said. “Jose never touched him. The stewards couldn’t believe he could run that fast while being ridden that way. And he pulled up sound.”

The comment line in the race record describes the run in two words: “Complete runaway.” When the jockey brought him back, he also had but two words: “Champion, champion.”

On August 20, JD Wagon Boss went to post for the $24,120 Juvenile final.

“He got bumped coming out of the gate,” Stockwell said. “And he still won by a length and a half, ran a 103 speed index and was 2/100ths off the track record there at Evergreen. And that was after getting bothered at the break, so I think he might have had the track record if he’d got away clean. He just pinned his ears, got out of there and ran away from them.”

The Wagon Boss does a lot of it on his own.

“He doesn’t take too much training,” Stockwell said. “But he gets pretty ‘rammy’ going to the track, he always wants to bounce and play. He’s not misbehaving. He’s a good-feeling horse and he always wants to go. He’s just full of himself. But he’s not studdy at all. He’s just like a gelding, very good in the barn, easy to handle. He eats like crazy, cleans up everything you give him.”

The Stockwells liked the colt from the first time they saw him.

“He’s a real clean-built horse, very good conformation,” Stockwell said. “We’re very happy with the way he looked when we first saw him, and he’s grown a lot since we bought him. His conformation is why we bought him – that, and because of his breeding: We own a half-sister. We phoned Jean Dillard and asked her if she had another one out of that mare, and so we went down to Oklahoma and looked at him.”

The half-sister is the 4-year-old Favorite Cartel mare See Me Do It Too, whom Stockwell conditioned to win three of five races and earn $14,706. The Stockwells paid $20,000 for her half-brother.

Stockwell also will saddle a starter in the in the $330,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). Trainer William Leech sent Mals First Down to Buckey to saddle.

Bred by Bill Robbins of San Jose, California, the sorrel gelding is owned by Jim Plume and Charlie Weaselhead of Cardston, Alberta. One of 71 stakes winners and the earners of more than $24.49 million sired by Shazoom, Mals First Down is one of five winners out of the winning First Down Dash mare First A Princess. 

“He’s a good-looking horse, a big horse, really good conformation and really sound, too,” Stockwell said. “He’s 6, and when the vet checked him the other day, he said he was really sound for his age. He’s coming off two wins in Alberta.”

Those two wins were at Grande Prairie, where Leech sent him out to score in a July 16 allowance and the August 26 Evergreen Park Championship Challenge. A career earner of $65,857, Mals First Down has a record of 31-9(2)-8(1)-4. The gelding has won three of five races and earned $24,990 this season.

“I’ve only had him since I shipped down here three weeks ago,” Stockwell said. “William told me he does everything right, he’s easy to get along with, doesn’t matter what post position he gets – he’s just a good horse. And Jose Rocha rode him in a win at Edmonton last spring, so things are looking good right now.”

So Buckey Stockwell is still going strong after seven decades with horses.

“I love it,” he declared. “And I have since I was little. I was raised on a ranch in Alberta, so I’ve been around horses all my life. I got into cutting horses first, but my racehorse barn got fuller than the cutting horse barn, so I stayed with the racehorses. I’m not about to quit.”

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