Second-Career Star: Cuz Iba Okey

This All American runner is still racetrackin'.

Q-Racing Journal

Former Grade 1 runner Cuz Iba Okey ponies racehorses for the Villafranco stable.

Having a pony horse with enough speed to keep up with high-octane racehorses is a big help. But how about having one with All American speed?

Enter trainer Luis Villafranco and his pony horse, Cuz Iba Okey. Villafranco trained the horse throughout his 16-race career.

The gelded black son of Okey Dokey Dale was bred by Risha Lindsey of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and owned by Wesley Lindsey. Out of the Special Depth mare RG Special, he is a sibling to Grade 2 winner Cuz Eye Said (by Mr Eye Opener, $254,880), three-time stakes winner Firstdown Goal To Go (by Dashing Cleat, $118,766) and stakes winner Thats The Way I Roll (by Sweet First Down, $74,476).

Do you know of a second-career racing American Quarter Horse that should be profiled in Second Career Stars? If so, write to

“When we were breaking him, he was a really tough horse to break, and I really didn’t think he’d ever be any good,” noted Cruz Villafranco, Luis’ brother and assistant trainer.

The tough gelding jumped straight into the deep end in racing, making his career debut a stakes outing. That debut was the 2010 $34,500 Bugs Alive In 75 Stakes (R) in which he ran second, just a half length off the pace. He then contested the $32,380 Lady Bugs Moon Handicap (R) in his second out, and soon found himself atop The Mountain in the summertime sun.

At Ruidoso, Cuz Iba Okey qualified to the John Deere Ruidoso Juvenile Challenge with a game head victory, but scratched from the final to await the All American trials.

The wait was worth it: The gelding qualified to the sport’s most prestigious race, the $1.9 million All American Futurity (G1). Ridden by Cody Jensen in the final, the horse made a late bid to finish sixth, 1 1/4 lengths off the pace set by winner Mr Piloto.

He unfortunately chipped an ankle in the process, and had surgery and was rested for eight months. He returned as a 3-year-old, but the magic had been lost.

“He wasn’t the same horse like he was as a 2-year-old,” said Cruz. “He didn’t want to run anymore, and we didn’t want to just keep trying to run him and hurt his leg. So we stopped running him.”

Cuz Iba Okey retired healthy in 2012 with a career record of three wins, two seconds and two thirds in 16 career starts and earnings of $96,348.

“The owners are really good friends of ours,” Cruz said, continuing the story. “They told us they were going to retire him and said he’d make a really good pony horse. But he was really hyper and aggressive, and I really didn’t think he’d be a pony horse. (laughs) I was like ‘What?!’

But Cruz took on the task of converting the tough Cuz Iba Okey to his second career, saying that the horse’s height and strength would help him succeed as a pony.

“It was hard, because (at first) he would never settle down, I had to walk him a lot to get him settled down a little bit,” Cruz said. “Then later, when we started ponying on him and he saw another horse beside him, he’d try to bite the other horse. I thought ‘Oh no, he’s not going to be a good pony.’ And I had to sit right in the middle of him – he was trying to buck me off, too! But with time and working with him every day, he was doing better and better.”

And, two years later, Cuz Iba Okey has indeed fulfilled his promise in his second career.

“What I really like best about him is that he never gets tired,” Cruz says. “He never gets tired. When I’m ponying horses on him, I’d probably take 20 or 25 horses from the barn, and he’d still look like he was wanting to keep it going. That’s the kind of horse you need. I don’t want to use him too much, because I don’t want to hurt his legs, but I really like this horse – he never gets tired! He’s a really good pony now.”

So here’s to the Okie-bred gelding, who had All American speed….and still has All American stamina.

Do you know of a second-career racing American Quarter Horse that should be profiled in Second Career Stars? If so, write to

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