Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Houston headliners: The "Money Man" and Sam Houston Maiden Classic

Q-Racing Journal

Houston headliners: The "Money Man" and Sam Houston Maiden Classic

 Rodrigo Vallejo.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

The "Money Man" Jockey Rodrigo Vallejo
By John Hernandez

He’s 50 years “old” according to his vital statistics, but you’d never know it the way Rodrigo Vallejo rides winners day in and day out at the top Quarter Horse tracks in the United States.

And he wasn’t always known as “The Money Man”! It’s a nickname bestowed on him a few years ago by track announcer Peter Aiello at Hialeah Park.

“He was ‘ice cold’ at one point of the 2013-14 meet,” said Aiello, now calling races at Oaklawn Park. “All of a sudden, he got hot, winning every stakes race on the program. When ‘the money was down,’ Rodrigo got it!”

As the “go to” jockey for top trainer Judd Kearl, Vallejo rides all the best horses for that highly competitive barn. More often than not, it puts him on a live runner in most of the races he rides.

“It has meant the world to me having Rodrigo as part of our team, not only for the talented rider he is, but for the great person he is,” said Kearl. “He’s ridden for me nearly 10 years. He’s not my first call rider, he’s my family! He’s an asset to every barn he rides for and I am blessed that he and his family are part of mine.”

Through the first 3 months of 2016, Vallejo rode 42 winners and tallied money earnings of over $800,000, good for the  No. 1 spot in both categories among all Quarter Horse jockeys in America. Vallejo rode 38 winners and finished second in the standings behind Omar Reyes during the 2015-16 season at Hialeah Park. He was the regular jockey for Enrique Carrion’s EC Jet One, who took the Hialeah Derby and finished in a dead heat for the win with stablemate Carters Sixty Six in the South Florida Derby.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Vallejo began riding in the United States in 1995. In 2008, he piloted Stolis Winner to victory in the Rainbow Futurity (G1) and also rode him to a win in the $1.1 million Remington Park Futurity (G1), at the time the richest race ever run in the state of Oklahoma. Vallejo nailed another big one in 2014 when he guided Stimulus to victory for trainer Charley Hunt in the $357,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows.

He is currently at Sam Houston Race Park, and through the first two weeks of their live racing season, Vallejo is the leading rider with 11 wins from 34 starts. He will pilot EC Cartel in Saturday's $21,510 Zoetis Texas Distance Challenge and on April 16, will ride fastest qualifier Jessies First Down in the $95,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).  On April 23, he will attempt to win the $540,600 Sam Houston Futurity for the fourth time. He has qualified Shakemwhileyoucan, trained by Kearl.

When the meet wraps up on May 14, it's a lock that Vallejo will, once again, be the "money man". He could earn his fourth Sam Houston Race Park leading rider title as well!

Kid Can Dash.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

Handicapping the Sam Houston Maiden Classic
By Martha Claussen

The final of the $98,300 Sam Houston Maiden Classic is set for Saturday evening at Sam Houston Race Park. The race, which remains popular with horsemen, is written for 3-year-olds and up "maidens at the time of entry to the trials".  This year there were 11 trials contested on March 26 with the ten fastest qualifiers returning to action for the winner's check of $39,320.  Not bad for a" maiden"!

The third trial produced the fastest qualifier when Kid Can Dash, a 3-year-old son of Down N Dash covered 350 yards in :17.577. Pete Scarmardo bred and owns the gelding, who came into the trials off two runner-up finishes at Lone Star Park and Evangeline Downs. Francisco Calderon was the winning rider, and will be back in the saddle on Saturday evening.

His trainer Leon Bard, reports that Kid Can Dash came out of the race in good order.

"He's bright-eyed and came back from his trial with no problems," said Bard. "We're okay with drawing the three hole; if he breaks well, he'll be hard to beat."

For the past three years, the fastest qualifier has won the Sam Houston Maiden Classic: El Chinito Boy in 2015; Emilanos Wagon in 2014 and Plunge The Depths in the 2013 edition of the race. The trials produced some very good performances, but I think that trend will continue this year, so my top selection will be No. 3 Kid Can Dash, who will likely go off at a shorter price than his 3-1 morning line.

I am a huge fan of the sire Apollitical Jess and believe that No. 9 Apollitical Wave will factor. Lightly raced with only two previous starts, this colt broke his maiden in trials for owner/trainer Scott Hamilton, with a strong rally. Drew well and gets veteran pilot "Jimmy" Guynes.

No. 5 So Smart, a TR Dasher filly bred by Dr. Ed Allred, posted the second-fastest qualifying time. Owned by Jamie Flores and trained by Homar Garcia, the 3-year-old made five starts in Louisiana before breaking her maiden in trials for this stakes. She will be ridden by Eddi Emanuel Martinez, who won the riding title at the 2016 Louisiana Downs Quarter Horse meet.

Rounding out my top four is No. 6 Dakota Slew, Jorge Haddad's homebred son of The Louisiana Cartel, who continues to make his mark as a top second-crop sire. This colt placed in both starts last year at Los Alamitos before breaking his maiden in trials under rider David Alvarez.

Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen's Selections:  3-9-5-6


Wrangler Racing Aces in April
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 the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Remington Park, Sam Houston Race Park, Sunland Park and Delta Downs, which gets underway on April 22.

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