Q-Racing Blog: Another Big Year?

Trainer Jose Flores could be poised for another banner year.

Q-Racing Journal

Jose Flores accepts cheers from fans as he escorts Ima Fearless Hero to the winner's circle. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Trainer Jose Flores had a breakout year last year and he has the horses to have another banner year in 2016.

Flores, 41, is riding high. He is the trainer of reigning world champion Heza Dasha Fire and his half-brother Ima Fearless Hero, the 2015 champion 2-year-old gelding. They are homebreds from Kathy, Don and Shawn Meneely’s S-Quarter K LLC in Kennewick, Washington. S-Quarter K LLC was honored as 2015 champion breeder. Last year, Ima Fearless Hero earned $982,699 with the bulk coming from his neck win as the even-money choice in the $1,957,175 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1). Heza Dasha Fire earned $726,432 in 2015 with five wins from five starts. He scored Grade 1 wins in the $600,000 Champion of Champions and the $859,400 Los Alamitos Super Derby, and a Grade 2 victory in the $180,200 Golden State Derby.

Heza Dasha Fire and Ima Fearless Hero are each out of Dasha Freda, who was recently named an AQHA dam of distinction.

Heza Dasha Fire is already back at work in 2016. The Walk Thru Fire gelding raced to a second-place finish behind Moonist in their trial to the $139,700 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1). They are the top-two qualifiers. There were 13 contestants in the two trials, with 10 horses earning a berth in the Winter Championship on February 14.

There is a growing rivalry between Heza Dash Fire and Moonist. Heza Dasha Fire defeated Moonist by 1 1/4 lengths in the Champion of Champions, their first meeting. It could be argued that their meeting in the first of two Winter Championship trials should not count in the rivalry. With only 13 horses in the trials and 10 making the finals, essentially second is as good as first. Both made the finals and that’s the goal.

“I got beat,” Flores said of the trial. “He was on the inside and prefers the outside, but he got beat.” Flores didn’t seem too concerned about that outcome.

The outcome of the Winter Championship final has much larger ramifications. The Winter Championship winner receives the year’s first invitation to this year’s Champion of Champions, and that can have a big impact on the horse’s racing schedule. The winner’s connections don’t need to map out a plan that includes getting into the Champion of Champions because that has already been achieved.

“We’ll look at his future schedule after the Winter Championship,” Flores said.

The trainer enjoys working with the Meneelys. Flores calls the shots on the day-to-day stuff and the Meneelys are actively involved in the larger plans. “It’s good to have them,” Flores said of the Meneelys.

Ima Fearless Hero is sitting on the sidelines after recently having knee surgery for chip removal.

“We’re thinking of a similar schedule that we had with Heza Dasha Fire,” Flores said.

That would indicate the Golden State Derby and then the Los Alamitos Super Derby.

If he would win the Los Alamitos Super Derby, he would be in the Champion of Champions. If he is not in the Champion of Champions after the Los Alamitos Super Derby, he could run in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors’ Trials, if he is eligible. Otherwise, the Southern California Derby would be an option.

“He works harder than his brother,” Flores said.

Flores has paid his dues.

His father and uncle match-raced horses in New Mexico and Flores helped them as a youngster. He admits that he “really didn’t know anything” when he went to Los Alamitos in 1995. He had a few stalls across from Rodney Hart’s barn and Hart gave him some stall gates and buckets.

One day, Hart came over to Flores and said, “You’re my assistant trainer.” Hart had some legal issues and Flores picked up the slack in the Hart barn.

Hart, known locally as Sir Rodney, was one of nine trainers to win more than 1,000 races at Los Alamitos with 1,035 wins.

Flores also learned from two other trainers with 1,000 Los Alamitos’ wins. “I learned a lot from Blane Schvaneveldt (3,982 wins) and Jaime Gomez (1,135 wins) really helped me,” Flores said. “I was at Blane’s sale and he told me to buy a horse. I said I didn’t have the money. He said not to worry about it. He trusted me,” Flores said.

“I just thank God every morning for doing what I love and having nice horses and owners.”

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.