All American: Just A Little Magic

Houdini looks for another great trick in the All American Derby.

Q-Racing Journal

Cruz Villafranco, Luis' daughter Adamaris and Luis Villafranco. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Houdini could be the favorite in this Sunday’s All American Derby (G1). After Luis Villafranco sent him out under Cody Jensen to win the $1,048,642 Rainbow Derby (G1) on July 19, the Valiant Hero gelding won his All American Derby trial by three-quarters of a length while setting the third-fastest qualifying time of  :21.263.

Houdini prepared for his Ruidoso Downs’ season with a close second in the $50,000 Jack Brooks Stakes (RG3) at Remington Park.

“He was a little short (in his conditioning) at Remington Park, but that’s what I wanted,” said trainer Luis Villafranco. “He’s in peak form now.

The brown gelding is one of four stakes winner out of the Takin On The Cash mare Pure Oklahoma, who earned $36,758 and scored in the 1996 Shebester Futurity (RG3) at Blue Ribbon Downs. A full sister to graded stakes winner Sheza Neon Rose ($39,770), Pure Oklahoma is one of six winners and the earners of $168,218 from seven starters out of the Kennedy-bred, stakes-winning Real Easy Jet mare Kiss Me Real Easy ($21,558). Each of Pure Oklahoma’s 10 starters have come back a winner, for earnings of more than $1.52 million, and include stakes winners Adios My Amigos (by Make It Anywhere, $232,080), Oklahoma Bandido (by Take Off Jess, $162,609) and Oklahoma Cartel (by Carters Cartel, $59,756).

Houdini was bred by Ellen Kennedy of Owasso, Oklahoma, who died in 2010 after a short battle with cancer. Kennedy registered her first American Quarter Horse foal in 1963, and through 2011 had bred 133 named foals, including 15 stakes winners, 73 other winners and the earners of more than $4.64 million from 109 starters. They include Grade 1 winners Heza Ramblin Man ($750,907), Little Bit Of Ah Ha ($315,699), Rakin In The Cash ($242,707) and Spanish Boot ($128,208). Houdini races in the name of Ellen Kennedy Racing LLC of Owasso, Oklahoma, which is managed by Ellen’s son, Allen.

As a freshman, Houdini was second in the Texas Classic Futurity (G1) and the Remington Park Oklahoma Bred Futurity (R), third in the Southwest Juvenile Championship (G1), and ran in the All American Futurity (G1) as a $50,000 supplemental entry. He comes into the All American Derby with a record of 13-8-3-1 and $904,149.

“He’s more focused this year and we think he’ll do a really good job,” says Cruz Villafranco, Luis’ brother and assistant trainer. “He’s more focused now, more serious about it, than he was last year. When he was a 2-year-old, he’d lay around, didn’t really want to pay attention – wanted to play and didn’t really want to work.

“We brought him back this year, and he’s really doing good,” Cruz says. “He knows what he’s doing, he’s more confident and he wants to work. We let him rest after the Derby trials, and we took him back to the track five days after the trials. When we came off the track, I asked Cody what he thought, and he said Houdini was doing really good, said he thought the horse was doing better than he’d ever seen him before, so we’re feeling good.”

In the Derby final, Houdini will break from the 8 post, the same as he did in the trials.

“That’s right where we wanted him,” Luis says. “He’s runs real good on the outside. He got a little behind (in his All American trial, when he was length off the pace in the early going) and I was a little worried. But then he came running. He loves the quarter mile.”

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