Q-Racing Blog: The Top 2-Year-Olds

Time to count a few blessings.

Q-Racing Journal

It's time to count some blessings.

Thanksgiving nears and we all should recognize our blessings. We are all blessed in some way. Some American Quarter Horse folks are especially blessed when it comes to racing.

These are the owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys connected to juveniles who have won an open Grade 1 stakes this year and some of them may be picking up year-end championship hardware. There are two more Grade 1 races to be contested – the Los Alamitos Two Million at Los Alamitos and the Southwest Juvenile Championship at Zia Park.

Coming into those two Grade 1 stakes there is only one 2-year-old with two Grade 1 wins. Terry Sennett’s Tres Friends won the $1 million Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso Downs and recently the $1,151,777 Texas Classic Futurity. A pair of wins in $1 million futurities is a powerful resume when championship voters go to work.

A gelding by Tres Seis and out of All American Futurity (G1) finalist Lotta Love For Robyn, Tres Friends showed his grit in the Rainbow Futurity when he held on for the neck win and then just outran his rivals in the Texas Classic Futurity to win by three parts of a length. He was trained by Blane Wood at Ruidoso Downs and his son Trey at Lone Star Park.

Horsemen who do what’s best for the horse should be recognized. A few days after the Rainbow Futurity win, Blane Wood said that Tres Friends would not compete in the trials for the $3 million All American Futurity (G1) because of shin problems. Tres Friends connections passed on racing for the largest purse for any 2-year-old in the world and rested the gelding. It paid off. After rest and a fourth-place run in his Texas Classic Futurity trial that put him in top shape, he won the largest purse in Texas racing.

The juveniles with one Grade 1 win are, in alphabetical order, BV Midnite Express, Famous Little Reba, First Valiant Sign, Jess Good Candy, Little Talks and Walk Thru Crystal.

Bella Vista Farms’ homebred BV Midnite Express became the first 2-year-old this year to win an open Grade 1 stakes when he scored a mild upset win in the $1,170,000 Heritage Place Futurity on May 30 at Remington Park. The Freighttrain B-sired gelding sprinted to the lead and held his rivals safe to win by one-half length. The Eddie Willis-trained gelding then went on to take the $200,000 All American Juvenile at Ruidoso Downs by three quarters of a length.

Johnny Trotter’s homebred Famous Little Reba, racing for trainer Gilbert Aguirre III, made her first start in a stakes race count with a narrow win in the $448,515 Dash For Cash Futurity, her most recent start on October 10. The One Famous Eagle daughter made a late rush to win by a nose in a three-way head-bobbing finish.

Owned by R.D. Hubbard, Scott Bryant, Joe Dee Brooks and Derrol Hubbard, First Valiant Sign qualified for all three Grade 1 futurities at Ruidoso Downs. The Mike Joiner-trained gelding won the $750,000 Ruidoso Futurity, finished second to Tres Friends in the Rainbow Futurity as the odds-on choice and raced to a fourth-place in the All American Futurity. The gelded son of Valiant Hero has not raced since the All American Futurity on Labor Day.

Bred by Carl Pevehouse and owned by the Estate of Carl Pevehouse, Jess Good Candy has responded to every asking this year. After winning his maiden in his only Remington Park start, trainer Clinton Crawford took him to Ruidoso Downs and he kept winning. The strapping Good Reason SA-sired colt won his Ruidoso Futurity trial, but did not qualify for the finals. He passed on the Rainbow Futurity and prevailed by a nose to qualify for the All American Futurity. In the 440-yard classic he finished with a rush and won by a neck over a late-running One Fabulous Eagle, the 2-1 favorite.

The final two Grade 1 winners, Little Talk and Walk Thru Crystal, each scored their open Grade 1 wins at Los Alamitos. They are each eligible for the Los Alamitos Two Million trials and the opportunity for an important second Grade 1 win.

Steve Burns’ homebred Little Talks is the most recent winner of a Grade 1 futurity, the $995,043 Golden State Million Futurity on November 1. The Favorite Cartel-sired filly was fourth in the Governor’s Cup Futurity against California-breds back in July. She was then off until the Golden State Futurity trials on October 18 and just missed, finishing a nose behind Docs Best Card as the 6-5 choice. The Mike Casselman-trained filly then won the 400-yard Golden State Million by a neck over Docs Best Card.

EG High Desert Farms’ Walk Thru Crystal won her fifth-straight race when she won the $1 million Ed Burke Million Futurity on June 21 by three quarters of a length as the odds-on favorite. The Yanet Rodriguez-trained miss won the $294,500 Kindergarten Futurity (G2) during that career-starting winning streak. After the Ed Burke Million win she was off until the Golden State Futurity trials and finished a qualifying second in her trial. The Walk Thru Fire-sired filly was a close fourth in the Golden State Million.


*A note from Wrangler Ace Martha Claussen:

Tres Friends wins the Texas Classic. PHOTO: Dustin Orona

Three is Trey’s Lucky Number: It was a very memorable Saturday night for trainer Trey Wood at Lone Star Park on November 14. He and his first-call rider Ricky Ramirez swept all three of the stakes on the card, culminating with a victory in the $1.1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1).  It marked the third time the third-generation horseman had captured the richest race in Texas. His first victory came in 2010 with Johnny Trotter's Bodacious Dash, who defeated favored American Runaway in an upset. Last year, Wood saddled Torts On Fire for Terry and Irene Stennett, who celebrated again this year with a powerful score from the aptly named Tres Friends.

Winning each of the three Texas Classic stakes had never been done before at Lone Star Park, and three victories in the Texas Classic Futurity was very emotional for Wood, who makes his home in Brock, Texas.

Many conditioners have been in the game for decades without a tally in a million dollar futurity. For Wood, it happened when he was just 22. He readily admits that he was not prepared for the enormity of that moment back in 2010.

"I was in shock," recalled Wood. "In my opinion, it was one of the toughest Texas Classics I had ever seen. I remember watching the race and could not believe the way he almost beat the gate open.  We always thought he was capable of a Grade 1 win; it was the greatest experience of my life."

Winning his third had an equally humbling effect on the conditioner.

"You never expect it, and when it does happen, you still can't believe it!" he admitted.

Wood acknowledged his hard-working staff, led by assistant trainer Paul Leal in his post-race interview.  Standing just two feet from him was his father, Blane, who is an integral part of the Wood racing team.  When asked about Blane, Trey got a roar out of the crowd with his well-delivered response.

"I thanked the help, didn't I?"

Stennett was effusive in his praise for the father-son duo.

"Winning this two years in a row was unreal; our horse ran a phenomenal race," said Stennett. "Trey gives his staff a lot of credit, but I owe so much to Trey and Blane. They are true hands-on horsemen."

There is more exciting news for Trey Wood and his wife, Sabra. They are expecting a baby in April. Congratulations!

G.R. gets a congratulatory cake-to-the-face.
PHOTO: Dustin Orona

No Fear of Frosting for G.R.: AQHA champion jockey G. R. Carter Jr. also had a very interesting day on Saturday, November 14! He ran second in the $310,000 Black Gold 440 Futurity (RG3) Saturday afternoon at Will Rogers Downs on Brave Heart Won. Then he and his wife, Shaena, hit the road to Lone Star Park, where he had mounts in several of the races on the final night of the 2015 Meeting of Champions. His mount, A Tres Of Paint, finished fifth in the $1.1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1). He ran third in the $93,387 Texas Classic Futurity aboard Patriot Pearl for trainer Sleepy Gilbreath and won the finale with another Gilbreath trainee, PYC Laveaux.

In between races, Lone Star Park's president, Scott Wells, wanted to honor Carter as he has announced he will retire from the saddle at the end of the year.  Surrounded by his fellow jockeys and Lone Star racing officials, Wells took to the microphone to commend Carter on his contributions to the Quarter Horse industry. He was eloquent and convincing in his sincerity and then shocked the group in the winner's circle by presenting Carter with a chocolate cake, right in the kisser! The photo, taken by track photographer, Dustin Orona, captures the gamut of reactions from the onlookers, from total shock to laughter. 

"It was pretty surprising to say the least," admitted Carter. "When I saw everyone gathering in the winner's circle, I was more worried about Joe Badilla doing something with the cake! But I've known Scott forever; it's amazing all the good things he's done for me throughout my career. I guess that was his way of keeping it from getting too emotional."

All credit goes to the affable and amazingly composed Carter, who kept his sense of humor and then, even with icing hanging off his eyebrow, agreed to do an interview.  He spoke very eloquently about his fondness for Texas racing and the many wonderful horses he has ridden in the Lone Star State. 

 Martha Claussen will be at Evangeline on Nov. 28.

Aces Head to Evangeline on November 28: Martha Claussen will be heading to Evangeline Downs on  Saturday, November 28, on behalf of the Wrangler Racing Aces.

The card will be highlighted by the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity (RG1) with the ten fastest qualifiers from 14 trials contested on November 6. Claussen will join Evangeline Downs announcer Michael Chamberlain for a televised pre-race show and will write a tip sheet for the card. The first 150 fans will receive a free wagering voucher, courtesy of LQHBA.

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter to learn more about future live appearances and social media on Quarter Horse racing across North America.

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 www.aqharacing.com.