AQHA Racing Champions

Last To Fire is the 2013 World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse.

American Quarter Horse Association

Last To Fire is the 2013 World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse. PHOTO: Scott Martinez

A decade ago, Be A Bono streaked to the first world championship for owner and breeder Spencer Childers of Fresno, California. The respected horseman, of course, had raised a few champions in his time – Bunny’s Bar Maid, Black Sable, Blobby Charger and Jet View – but Be A Bono was the first overall championship for the American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer. Ten years later, a second Childers-bred was crowned world champion at the January 22 ceremony at Heritage Place Sale Co. in Oklahoma City. This was Jesus Cuevas and Jesus Avila’s Last To Fire, who earned the title of 2013 World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse after a tremendous year of racing. Last To Fire also is champion aged horse and champion aged gelding.

The 4-year-old gelding won five of six starts in 2013, with his only loss coming as a fourth-place finish in the February 17 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1). He went on to win the Vessels Maturity (G1) on July 7 to claim his first career Grade 1 win. That was followed by a nearly 2-length win in the September 15 Go Man Go Handicap (G1) and finally romped by daylight in the December 14 Champion of Champions, defeating an impressive group by 1 1/4 lengths. He earned $515,209.

Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio and Francisco Rubio, Last To Fire was trained by Jose De La Torre, who also conditioned and co-owned last year’s world champion, One Dashing Eagle. Last To Fire was purchased by the Fresno, California-based partnership of his owners, who are cousins, for $9,200 at the 2010 Heritage Place Yearling Sale. He has now won eight of 19 career starts and has earnings of $1,087,545. Last To Fire is the fifth champion for sire Walk Thru Fire, a 17-year-old son of First Down Dash, and is out of the Childers-bred Strawfly Special mare Last Shall Be First.

Feature Mr Bojangles is the champion aged stallion, the second champion title of his career. Owned by R.D. Hubbard and Heysol Howlet of Tularosa, New Mexico, the 4-year-old stallion won one of five starts in the year – the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (G1) – over several other leading contenders for aged stallion honors. He was twice second, in the Zia Park Championship (G1) and Lovington Stakes (G2); was third in the All American Gold Cup (G3) and fourth in the Refrigerator Handicap (G1), and earned $270,110 during the year. Trained by Paul Jones and C. Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath, Feature Mr Bojangles was ridden by Cody Jensen, Esgar Ramirez, G.R. Carter Jr. and Roy Baldillez.

Feature Mr Bojangles, who also was the 2011 champion 2-year-old colt, retires with a career record of 20-8-5-2 and earnings of $952,434. Bred by Joyce Erickson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Feature Mr Bojangles is by Feature Mr Jess and out of the First Down Dash mare Catch This Dash.

Check N Fetch is the champion aged mare, and as unlikely as it might seem, owner Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez owns two horses, both of which are champions. The Surprise, Arizona, resident’s other horse is the venerable Rylees Boy, who was the 2011-12 champion aged gelding. Check N Fetch was trained by Paul Jones and ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Cody Jensen and Eduardo Nicasio.

Check N Fetch blossomed in her 5-year-old year, ultimately winning six of 11 starts, with one second and two third-place finishes and earnings of $226,389. Her stakes races include victories in the Mildred N. Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1) and Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) as well as the Miss Princess Handicap (G3), California Breeders’ Matron Stakes (RG3) and Independence Day Handicap. She was second in the Native Empress Stakes, third in the Merial Los Alamitos Distaff Challenge (G3) and fifth in the Champion of Champions (G1). Her career record stands at 22-11-3-2 and earnings of $271,992. Bred by Mr. and Mrs. L. Judd Morse of San Jacinto, California, the mare is by Check Him Out and out of the Streakin La Jolla mare Shyann La Jolla.


Handsome Jack Flash
needed only five starts to get the job done – he is champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old gelding for breeder Debra Laney of Tularosa, New Mexico, who co-owns the gelding with Norma and Brenda Alvarez of Anthony, New Mexico.

The brown gelding by First Moonflash and out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Shez Jess Nice made those five starts count. After breaking his maiden, he won the Zia Futurity (RG1) by a half length, then ended up with the big prize, the All American Futurity (G1) by a neck. His only defeat was a second-place finish in his All American trial. Earning $1,482,271, he was trained by Juan Gonzalez and ridden by Jaime Parga Leos.

Five Bar Cartel danced all the major freshman dances at Los Alamitos and is the champion 2-year-old colt. In his third start, he won the Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1). He also qualified to the finals of the Grade 1 Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Two Million futurities. Owned by San Gregorio Racing Stables Inc. of Mira Loma, California, which was co-owner of last year’s world champion, One Dashing Eagle, Five Bar Cartel won five of seven starts and led his category’s earnings with $654,368. Five Bar Cartel was trained by Danny Montes and ridden by Saul Ramirez and Cruz Mendez. Bred by Esmerelda Flores, Five Bar Cartel is by Corona Cartel and out of the Dash Ta Fame mare Five Bar Molly.

A devastating turn of foot in the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1) impressed fans and clinched the 2-year-old filly championship for Kates Dynasty. The sorrel filly contested trials to the major Ruidoso futurities, but did not qualify for a futurity final until the Texas Classic. In that final, she annihilated a top group of horses to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

She won four of six races, with one third-place finish, and earned $454,090. Kates Dynasty is owned by breeder and AQHA Past President Jerry Windham of College Station, Texas, in partnership with Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie. Kates Dynasty was trained by Mike Joiner and Tommy Zarate, and ridden by Salvador Martinez, G.R. Carter Jr. and Luis Vivanco. Kates Dynasty is by FDD Dynasty and is out of the Vital Sign mare Jennifer Kate.


In 2013, Reliance Ranches LLC’s Feature Hero won the richest race in the history of American Quarter Horse racing and is the champion 3-year-old gelding and champion 3-year-old.

Racing for the Edmond, Oklahoma-based ranch, the gelding made eight starts, with two wins, two seconds and two thirds, and earned $1,290,050 during the year. His big victory came in the All American Derby (G1), which he won by a neck. He also finished second behind champion Brace For Bernal in the Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Derby, was third in the Town Policy Handicap (R) and fourth in the Champion of Champions (G1). Feature Hero was trained by Eddie Willis and ridden by Jimmy Brooks and Jay Conklin. Bred by Lana Merrick and Kent Jackson of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, Feature Hero is by Valiant Hero and out of the Feature Mr Jess mare Illegal Feature.

Matabari in her freshman season won the prestigious Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1). But as good as she was then, she was even better when she returned as a sophomore to be crowned champion 3-year-old filly. Making only five starts, the filly had three wins and two third-place finishes, and earned $464,904. After a half-year off, she returned a winner in her prep race, then was third behind eventual champion Brace For Bernal in a non-qualifying All American Derby (G1) trial. She went on to win the Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) and run a well-represented third in the Champion of Champions (G1). The filly is owned by her breeder, Jose Maria Gonzalez’s Balgo Racing Team LLC of Hemet, California, in partnership with Maria Gonzalez of Santa Rosa, California. Matabari was trained by Guillermo Morales and Paul Jones, and ridden by Ramon Sanchez. Matabari is by Mr Jess Perry and out of the Separatist mare Hold Me Now.

In 2013, nothing outran Brace For Bernal, the champion 3-year-old colt. Making six starts, the colt won each of them by a combined distance of more than 7 lengths, including the Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Derby (R) over eventual champion Feature Hero and the Heritage Place Derby (G2). Brace For Bernal, who earned $251,199 during the year, was bred by Joaquin Lopez and raced by his father, Noel Lopez Prieto of Canadian, Texas. The brown colt with the unusual gray tail, who was trained by Luis Villafranco and ridden by Paul Nieto, is by Furyofthewind and is out of the Shazoom mare Zoom Bracer.
Distance and International

Winning the only open Grade 1 race in the distance division clinched the championship for 4-year-old Honoroso. Owned by Richard Gardner and Jim Hanson of Rigby, Idaho, Honoroso in his championship year won five of seven starts, with two seconds, and earnings of $66,889. His big win came in the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1), but he also won the Red Cell Les Bois Distance Challenge. He was trained by Ryan and Mark Hanson and ridden by Ramon Guce, R. Alan Corson, Dirk Crane, Jay Conklin and Paul Greene. Bred by Sassy Farms LLC of Salt Lake City, Honoroso is by Fly Jess Fly and out of the Spanish Boot mare Abla Espanol.

Homebred Corderoy Road is the Canadian champion for owners and breeders Gary and Marlene McNichol of Coburg, Ontario. The 3-year-old gelding won four of seven starts, with two second-place finishes and earnings of $57,693 in the year. He won the Picov Derby and Ontario-Bred and -Foaled Derby (R), was second in the Maple Leaf Derby and fourth in the Ontario Jackpot Derby. The gelding by Rock Solid Jess and out of the Reckless Dash mare Reckless Wish was trained by David Ward and Michelle Woodley and ridden by John McInerney.

Mexican champion One Famous Episode was a three-time stakes winner during her 3-year-old campaign. Owned by Jose Agustin Osornio of Aculco, Mexico, the filly made seven starts, with four wins, one second and two thirds. She earned $63,233 in her championship year. Her victories include the Easily A Possum Classic, A.M.C.C.C.M. Classic and Adequan Mexico Derby Challenge. She was second in the Mexicano Derby and third in her only start outside the Hipodromo de las Americas – the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G2) at Los Alamitos. One Famous Episode was trained by Eleazar Rubalcaba, Saoul Fernandez and Ryan Hanson, and ridden by Manuel Molina. Bred by Burnett Ranches LLC, the filly is by One Famous Eagle and out of the Corona Cartel mare A Corona Episode.

The South America champion is Italia Gold. The award is given to the horse who wins the Bank of America South America Challenge, which the 2009 gray mare did in February, earning $55,000. Bred by Gianni Franco Samaja, she is owned by Haras Sao Matheus. The mare was trained by M.C. Cruz and ridden by A. Dutra. She is sired by Gold Medal Jess and is out of the Chicks Beduino mare Jusjumpin.

The partnership of Johnny Trotter and Burnett Ranches LLC has been an extremely fruitful one, and in 2013 it proved to be a championship one, as they are the champion owners. AQHA Executive Committee First Vice President Trotter lives with wife, Jana, in Hereford, Texas, and Burnett Ranches is based in Fort Worth, Texas. During the year, the partnership’s horses made 43 starts, with 13 wins and earnings of $1,204,901. The partnership raced Ms First Prize Rose, who won the Rainbow Futurity (G1) and contested the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1). Trotter and Burnett Ranches also had Viva Mi Corazon, who won the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity (G2) and ran a gallant second in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

Burnett Ranches LLC also is the champion breeder. The ranch sat just behind all-time leading breeder Dr. Ed Allred on the list of breeders by money earned, while having only one-third as many starters. The ranch’s horses racked up $2,064,155, with 55 wins from 280 starts. Its stakes winners include three-time stakes winner and two-time Grade 1 winner Wicked Courage, Grade 1 winner Big Biz Perry, Grade 2 winner Captain Strawfly, stakes winners Eagles Magic and One Famous Glass, and Mexican champion One Famous Episode.

Trainer Paul Jones picks up his record-tying 12th Blane Schvaneveldt champion trainer award. Jones has now won the award consecutively since 2002, tying the record set by the award’s namesake, who won consecutively from 1985-96. Jones’ trainees earned $3,758,877, with 158 wins from 883 starts. His Grade 1 winners during the year include champions Feature Mr Bojangles and Check N Fetch, as well as Jabuti Eagle SA and Rylees Boy.

Jockey Cody Jensen returned to riding after recovering from injury in 2011, and had a banner year in 2013. The two-time All American Futurity-winning jockey picked up his first champion jockey award after booting home the earners of $3,156,175. His horses won 64 of 415 starts, and included Grade 1 winners Wicked Courage and champion Feature Mr Bojangles.

The 2013 Champions Individual Voting

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