Legends Evening is October 30

Legendary trainers to gather at Heritage Place Night of Legends.

TRACK Magazine

On October 30 in Oklahoma City, six of the breed’s all-time leading trainers will gather in the auditorium at Heritage Place for the fourth annual A Night With The Legends Of American Quarter Horse Racing.

The event takes place the night before the Heritage Place Fall Mixed Sale, which runs October 31-November 1.

Heritage Place and TRACK Magazine kicked off this annual event in 2011 on the evening before the Heritage Place Fall Mixed Sale, and it has grown to become one of the year’s most anticipated gatherings. TRACK Magazine owner Ben Hudson created the event in partnership with the owners and managers of Heritage Place. Hudson continues to host the event with a guest moderator each year.

In the first year, the Legends evening featured Marvin Barnes, Bubba Cascio, Joe Kirk Fulton, Pat Thompson, Johnny T.L. Jones, Dr. Charles Graham and Jack Brooks. Four of those men are members of the American Quarter Horse Hall Of Fame.

Jockeys were featured in 2012 and those riders included Tomey Swan, Tami Purcell (Burklund), Curt Perner, James Lackey, Danny Cardoza, Donnie Allison, Charley Smith, Kenny Hart and Jerry Burgess. Three of those former riders are members of the American Quarter Horse Hall Of Fame.

Last year’s panel included legendary farm managers Royce Rogers, Dr. Grady Stowe, Dr. Leonard Blach, Ellis Gragg, Dr. Charlie Graham, Larry Stevens, Jack McReynolds and Dee Raper.

Every year, the evening features industry leaders and legends in a lively discussion that usually lasts more than two hours. The 6 p.m. event is preceded by a reception at 5 p.m.

This year’s panel features some of the breed’s all-time leading trainers, all of which are still active:

Denny Ekins, trainer of earners of more $13 million including 1983 champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old colt Tolltac, who also was the 1984 champion 3-year-old colt. Tolltac won his first six outs as a 2-year-old (including the Bay Meadows Futurity and Kindergarten Futurity) before running second in the Dash For Cash Futurity. Tolltac then rebounded to win the Golden State Futurity, finishing the year with $827,218 in earnings. Tolltac won two Grade 1 stakes at 3, finishing his career with $1,143,043 in earnings. Ekins also trained the three-time champion and track record setter Ocean Runaway ($1,642,498), who won three futurities at Los Alamitos and then came back the next year to win the Champion of Champions. Ocean Runaway’s last race was that 2005 Champion of Champions, and he remains the No. 1 all-time earner sired by First Down Dash.

Russell Harris has trained the earners of more $17 million including such horses as champions Florentine, Calyx, Prissy Fein and Hold All Tickets. One of the most consistent runners of all time, three-time champion Florentine ($1,123,102) won seven Grade 1 stakes (2 at Ruidoso, 2 at Bay Meadows and 3 at Los Alamitos) and won two other races that were Grade 2 at the time and subsequently became Grade 1. Harris also trained Grade 1 winners Willie Wanta Dash, Big Time Hero, Special Shake, Artesia, Prissy Fein, Easily A Rogue and Deposit Cash.

James McArthur trained 1974 All American Futurity winner Easy Date and 1984 All American Futurity winner Eastex. Easy Date was the 1975 world champion after being the champion 2-year-old filly in 1974. Eastex was the champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old gelding in 1984. Both are former No. 1 money earners. James also trained 1979 champion 3-year-old gelding Dickeys Fireman, who won that year’s All American Derby, and 1998 champion 2-year-old filly Deelish.

Mike Robbins, who returned to training last year after nearly a 20-year sabbatical, trained 1991 world champion Special Leader, 1984 world champion Dashs Dream and 1982 world champion Sgt Pepper Feature. While maintaining a small stable consisting mainly of horses owned by Joe Kirk Fulton, Robbins won the Champion of Champions three times in 10 years. The only trainers with more wins in that big race are Paul Jones and Blane Schvaneveldt. Robbins selected First Down Dash as a yearling for Millie Vessels at the 1985 Phillips Ranch Sale and trained him to wins in the Dash For Cash Futurity (then at Los Alamitos) and Kindergarten Futurity.

Eddie Willis, who through September 10 led all trainers in the nation in 2014 with earnings at $2.6 million, is one of only six trainers with lifetime earnings of more than $25 million. Willis, who has been training since 1977, enjoyed his best year ever in 2013 when his horses earned more than $3.4 million. The Willis-trained Feature Hero scored an upset victory in the $2.8 American Derby (G1) in 2013, and that was the richest purse ever for an American Quarter Horse race. Horses trained by Willis have scored 15 Grade 1 wins at Ruidoso, Remington, Lone Star and Sam Houston.  

Blane Wood has trained the earners of more than $13 million in a training career that stretches back to 1975. Wood has won the Rainbow Futurity twice (Ms First Prize Rose in 2013 and Leading Spirit in 2005), the Ruidoso Futurity twice (in 1996 and 2005) and the West Texas Futurity twice (in 1996 and 2005). Wood often splits his stable with his son Trey, who in 2013 was the nation’s No. 5 trainer in money earned at $2.5 million. Blane Wood is the son of the late Leo Wood, who trained 1979 All American Futurity winner Pie In The Sky.

All-time leading trainer Paul Jones also has been invited to join this year’s panel, but may not be able to participate due to a conflict with the Golden State Million Futurity.

At the evening’s conclusion, participants are available for photographs and autographs as Heritage Place and TRACK Magazine presents them each with a trophy declaring them A Legend in American Quarter Horse Racing.

There is no charge for admission to the program, and a DVD of the evening will be available for purchase in December.

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