Q-Racing Blog: Aged Horses

Don't count out the Grade 1 older horses.

Q-Racing Journal

Heza Dasha Fire completed an undefeated season in the December 12, $600,000 Champion of Champions.

The photo-finish picture heading into the world champion voting probably clarified when the 3-year-old Heza Dasha Fire completed a 5-for-5 year with a daylight romp over older horses in the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at 440 yards.

However, the older horses are in the hunt. There is another open Grade 1 stakes for older horses still left in 2015. It is The Championship at Sunday Park on December 27.

Ronald Hartley’s Moonist and Dashin Brown Streak, owned by the Estate of C.W. Navarre and Mel Hatley, are the only older horses with two open Grade 1 stakes wins so far this year. Moonist was second to Heza Dasha Fire in the Champion of Champions while Dashin Brown Streak was third in the Champion of Champions.

Moonist will be looking for his second-straight championship season after being honored as the 2014 champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old gelding.

Moonist, trained by John Cooper, came into the Champion of Champions off those two Grade 1 wins as the odds-on favorite. The son of Separatist and blue-hen mare and champion Your First Moon, Moonist dominated the Go Man Go Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths and then made a winning 440-yard debut when he won the Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Championship over Far Niente by one-half length.

Trained at Los Alamitos by Paul Jones, Dashin Brown Streak won two open Grade 1 stakes this spring at Remington Park for trainer John Brasseaux. At Remington Park, the gelding scored a one-half length win in the Leo Stakes and came back as the 3-2 favorite in the Remington Park Championship to reward his supporters with a three-quarter-length score.

The other older championship contenders with an open Grade 1 win are, in alphabetical order, CR Tuckernuck, Daytona B, Far Niente, JRC Callas First, Matabari, Quirky, Rock You, Sudden Separation and Zoomin Effortlessly.

Kharlottie Urschel’s CR Tuckernuck is an 870-yard specialist that has won four of his five starts — all this year — at the distance. The Stacey Capps-trained gelding capped a three-stakes-race winning streak with a game head win in the Zoetis Distance Challenge Championship for his Grade 1 win.

Gregorio Garza’s Daytona B scored his ultimate 2015 win in his most recent start for trainer Rolando Almanza. After a head-bobbing win in the Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge, Daytona B traveled to Lone Star Park to dominate the Bank of America Challenge Championship by 1 ¾ lengths for his Grade 1 win.

Tom Atwood and John Wells’ Far Niente has been dangerous throughout the year at the highest level of racing at Los Alamitos, capped by a fifth-place run in the Champion of Champions. The Jose Hernandez trainee won the Vessels Maturity (G1) for the second-straight year when he cruised to a 1 1/4-length win back in July. Moonist finished third in the 2015 Vessels Maturity and Moonist then defeated Far Niente by one-half length in the Los Alamitos Championship.

Brian and Dana Stroud’s defending world champion JRC Callas First has won four of six starts this year, however it wasn’t until his latest race that he earned a Grade 1 win. Trained by Brian, JRC Callas First proved best by one length in the Zia Park Championship on November 29. He was fourth as the favorite in last year’s The Championship at Sunland Park, so he could return in that 400-yard Grade 1 test.

Balgo Racing Team and Marilyn Gonzalez’s Matabari, the 2013 champion 3-year-old filly, made only two starts early this year and then was retired due to a tendon injury this fall. She left racing on top by defeating Moonist by a head in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) back in February.

Edward Allred’s homebred Quirky has been the mare to deal with at Los Alamitos this year. The James Glenn-trained distaffer started the year with a win in the Charger Bar Handicap (G2) and then capped a five-race winning streak with a one-half length win in the Mildred Vessels Handicap (G1). Each of those stakes are for fillies and mares. After the Mildred Vessels, she was sixth in the Champion of Champions.

Reliance Ranches’ Rock You earned his Grade 1 win in the All American Gold Cup for trainer Eddie Willis and appeared to be entering the Champion of Champions in peak form for trainer Jaime Gomez. He gained his Champion of Champions invitation with a three-quarter-length win as the odds-on favorite in the Directors’ Trial, the race that took the top finishers to fill the Champion of Champions field. He was a very troubled last in the Champion of Champions.

Duane Murphy’s homebred Sudden Separation concluded a four-stakes-race winning streak with a Grade 1 win in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship. After three stakes wins by daylight, the Larry Sharp-trained mare got a rough start in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship and came on to win by one-half length.

Telesforo Perrett’s Zoomin Effortlessly has won five-consecutive races before gaining his only Grade 1 win in the Refrigerator Handicap for trainer Edelmiro Carrizales. A $5,000 claimer as a juvenile, the 4-year-old gelding won three-straight minor Texas-bred stakes before going to the lead and winning the Refrigerator.


JRC Callas First Headed to Sunland Park: Reigning AQHA world champion JRC Callas First is set to ship to New Mexico for the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (G1) on December 27.

 The Texas-bred son of Winners Award, co-owned by Stroud and his wife, Dana, earned his berth into the 400 yard stakes off his victory in the 2015 Zia Park Championship (G1).

"We're leaving on Tuesday," said Stroud, who resides in Stockdale, Texas.

JRC Callas First ran fourth in last year's edition of the stakes, but Stroud reports that his charge is doing very well and improving in the starting gate in his recent efforts.

"He broke a little tardy last year," Stroud commented. "This year he is breaking a whole lot better; we took the flipping rig away and it's made a difference."

Regular rider Damian Martinez will be aboard the bay gelding, who will make his 25th career start at Sunland. He has won 15 races to date with career earnings of $479,931.

Regarding the current status of the world champion, Stroud reflects on the difference a year has made.

"JRC is every bit as good this year," said Stroud. "The pressure is a little different. Last year he was considered a nice horse. This year, as the world champion, they are gunning for him.  But all that aside, we believe that every time he goes into the gate, he has a shot to win."

Bittersweet Day for Martinez: Last Saturday at Fair Grounds, Open Me A Corona closed out his career with a victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic Stakes (RG2).  It marked the sixth consecutive stakes win of the year for the Louisiana-bred son of Coronas Leaving You, who is owned by Charles Forbes Jr. and Tommy Hays. It was a bittersweet winner's circle celebration for Hays, trainer Bobby Martinez and the team behind the prolific runner.

Of course, they were thrilled that he won his final race, but knew the next step would be difficult. The decision had been made that Open Me A Corona would stand stud at Robicheaux Ranch.

After he cooled down, Martinez hauled the 5-year-old to in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, where he was welcomed by Jude Robicheaux.

"It was sad, really sad," said Martinez. "That horse has done so much for us and he was still so sound. But "Doc" and I felt the time was right."

Martinez picked Open Me A Corona in the 2011 LQHBA Yearling Sale, signing a ticket for $22,000. He retired with career earnings of $747,298, winning 12 of his 14 starts.

"I just remember that he was such a good looking yearling," said Martinez."He won the first million dollar futurity in Louisiana, and has been so easy to train."

The connections will find consolation in a few more years when the first offspring of Open Me A Corona begin their racing careers. Just yesterday, Jason Richards and Michael Leblanc announced that their two-time futurity winning filly Jessa Louisiana Zoom would be bred to Open Me A Corona.

Without a doubt, there will be many more mares heading to Robicheaux in 2016.

Wrangler Racing Aces in December: Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following Evangeline Downs, Los Alamitos and Sunland Park; their 72-day racing season gets underway on December 18

Also, Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake chronicled some great history on the Grade 1, Champion of Champions for the December issue of HorsePlayer.now magazine. 

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqharacing.com.