Q-Racing Blog: Thanks for the Memories

An era comes to a quiet close.

Q-Racing Journal

Thanks for the memories, Vessels family.

Thank you, Vessels family.

About a week ago cold, sterile reports appeared on racing websites. Their brevity would have made USA Today editors smile.

Daily Racing Form broke the story on October 8 with a six-paragraph story.

The first paragraph began:

“Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., a leading Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeding farm on the West Coast since the 1980s, was sold earlier this week to a private entity incorporated in Delaware, a person familiar with the transaction said on Thursday.”

Accurate, but lacking.

The sale of the 1,390-acre Vessels Stallion Farm is not a surprise. It was just a matter of when after it was listed for sale in May 2014 for $55.6 million.

There are more points to be made. Primarily, that without the Vessels family there may not be any American Quarter Horse racing in California.

The Vessels Stallion Farm went hand-in-hand with Los Alamitos Race Course. The track was developed by the Vessels family and is now owned and operated by Dr. Ed Allred, another iconic force in California Quarter Horse racing. If he sold Los Alamitos Race Course to “a private entity incorporated in Delaware” you can just use your imagination as to what would happen.

The top-two breeders of money earners in the history of Quarter Horse racing by money earned are Allred and Vessels Stallion Farm.

The tale begins in 1920 when 22-year-old Frank Vessels moved to Southern California from the heart of the bluegrass, Paris, Kentucky. Vessels made his fortune and in 1946, along with his wife, Grace, bought 435 acres along Katella Avenue, west of Anaheim. The following year, Quarter Horse races, without wagering, were held on Sunday afternoons. The iconic tale is that Grace sold hot dogs out of her kitchen window. On the first day, there were six races with purses ranging from $50 to $100.

Vessels went to work on folks at the state capital to obtain pari-mutuel racing on Quarter Horses. After three years of lobbying and fighting the opposition, he won and the first pari-mutuel Quarter Horse race was held on December 4, 1951. It was the first day of an 11-day meet.

scoop and first down dash 
 Scoop Vessels and First Down Dash. PHOTO: Robbi Knudson

If you have a racetrack, you need racehorses. Vessels opened Vessels Stallion Farm adjacent to the track. It moved to Bonsall in the mid-1980s; the property was purchased in 1983. The family operation was then run by Millie Vessels (who married Frank and Grace’s son, Frank Jr.) and Frank “Scoop” Vessels III, son of Frank Jr. and Millie. Following Millie’s death, Scoop picked up the reins, along with his wife, Bonnie. Scoop would become president of the American Quarter Horse Association in 2004. Scoop and his grandfather are each in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

The Los Alamitos version of Vessels Stallion Farm stood the first world champion Clabber, three-time world champion Go Man Go, Alamitos Bar, Tiny Charger, Timeto Thinkrich and a young Beduino (TB).

After Vessels Stallion Farm moved to Bonsall, the stallion battery would at various points list Beduino (TB), The Signature, Tolltac, FDD Dynasty, Dash Thru Traffic, Splash Bac, In Excess (TB), Apollo (TB), Devon Lane (TB), No Secrets Here, Fishers Dash and, of course, First Down Dash.

First Down Dash was the 1987 world champion while racing for Vessels Stallion Farm and went to Bonsall to become the all-time leading sire. His offspring have earned more than $84 million and he is in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

How many of your horses have at least one of these stallions in their pedigree?

Then there are the mares. We’ll begin at the start and go straight to the 2015.

Do Good, a 1938 daughter of St Louis, was the Vessels’ foundation mare. In 1950, she produced co-champion 2-year-old filly Chicado V, who set a 2-year-old world record for 350 yards in her first start. Chicado V produced sires Three Chicks, Triple Chick, The Ole Man (each by Three Bars (TB)) and champion 2-year-old colt War Chic. Chicado V’s daughter Table Tennis was named 1960 champion 3-year-old filly and produced stakes winner Rapid Volley, the second dam of 1986 champion 2-year-old filly Cash Perks.

Do Good and Chicado V are each in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

Vessels Stallion Farm bred 2014 champion 3-year-old Moonist, a top contender for championship honors again in 2015. The gelding is out of the 2001 champion 2-year-old Your First Moon and herself a Vessels-bred, and the dam of four stakes winners.

Moonist’s sixth dam is Do Good and his fifth dam is Do Good Bam, the dam of Alamitos Bar.

So the end goes to the beginning.

Thanks Frank. Thanks Grace. Thanks Frank Jr. Thanks Millie. Thanks Scoop. Thanks Bonnie. It’s been a great ride.


*A note from Wrangler Ace Martha Claussen:

jumpn streak 
 Jumpn Streak. PHOTO: Coady Photography

Jumpn Streak Preparing for Derby Challenge Championship: Ovidio Sandoval's Jumpn Streak will represent Texas in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G1) on November 7 at Lone Star Park.

The Terrazas Family-bred son of Jumpn Chic was a convincing winner in the $55,170 Adequan Sam Houston Derby Challenge on May 16 at Sam Houston Race Park.

He won his recent prep at Lone Star Park, and his connections are looking forward to the graded stake opportunity on November 7.

Josue Ponce is a young trainer who will likely tap Santos Carrizales to ride Jumpn Streak in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship.

“He's doing really well,” said the 20-year-old Ponce. “We are pleased with his recent prep, which he won pretty easily.  Santos has a very good connection with the horse; it will be a challenge, but I believe that he has a good chance."

Ponce, who resides in Natalia, Texas, also won the $77,100 Sam Houston Maiden Classic with El Chinito Boy.  This will be his first appearance in the Bank of America Challenge Championship final.

"To be in a national championship in just my second year as a trainer is pretty cool," added Ponce.

Winning it would be even cooler!

gilbert ortiz 
Gilbert Ortiz. PHOTO: Coady Photography 

Ortiz Nears 3,000: Accomplished veteran rider Gilbert Ortiz is just nine wins away from reaching the coveted milestone of 3,000 victories.  Born in Pleasanton, Texas, Ortiz, 52, has ridden close to 20,000 races, mostly in Texas and Louisiana. Despite several serious accidents since he began riding, Ortiz won three leading rider titles at Sam Houston Race Park before shifting to the Louisiana circuit. 

Only six other Quarter Horse jockeys have surpassed the milestone of 3,000 wins: G.R. Carter Jr., Alvin “Bubba” Brossette, Danny Cardoza, Eddie Garcia and John Creager.

Ortiz is currently riding at Evangeline Downs, and the countdown is on with each victory. His three grown children, Jessica, Kourtney and Gilbert, Jr., all keep close tabs on their dad.  Fans and officials at Evangeline Downs are equally enthused.

"We are all excited for Gilbert and hope it will happen this meet," said Michael Chamberlain, Evangeline Downs track announcer.

Wrangler Racing Aces Headed to Lone Star: Denis Blake, Martha Claussen, John Hernandez and special guest Jonathan Horowitz will be heading to Lone Star Park on behalf of the Wrangler Racing Aces. Claussen will be onsite Saturday, October 24, to promote the 2015 Bank of America Challenge Championships on November 6-7 and to preview the trials for the Texas Classic Futurity (G1) with Lone Star Park handicapper, Rick Lee.

From Thursday, November 5, through Saturday, November 7, all four Aces will be at Lone Star Park, greeting fans and providing valuable information and insights on the Bank of America Challenge Championships. In addition to appearing during live racing, the Wrangler Aces will appear at the state-of-the art sports book, the Bar & Book from 2- 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter to learn more about the upcoming Bank of America Challenge. Excellent videos, produced by RaceView Network, are posted with recaps of the regional Challenge winners heading to Texas for the Championships!

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.