Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Somewhere over the Rainbow.

Q-Racing Journal

Trainer Judd Kearl has a shot to win Saturday's Rainbow Derby with fastest qualifier Valiant Rogue.

Big Shot for Valiant Rogue and Trainer Judd Kearl in the Rainbow Derby
By Martha Claussen

Ask a Hollywood star about winning an Oscar, and many obligingly say "it's just an honor to be nominated." Is it the same for the connections of a finalist in a $1 million dollar Derby or Futurity? Probably not, as qualifying a horse for a million dollar race is not easy on the heart. Just ask trainer Judd Kearl!

Back in 2012, Kearl had a very talented colt, JNB Racing's PYC Kant Katch Me, who was undefeated heading into the final of Oklahoma's richest race, the $1,115,000 Heritage Place Futurity (G1) at Remington Park.

He loaded into the gate as the favorite, with a huge title and paycheck just seconds away. However, the horse beside him became unruly, causing PYC Kant Katch Me to false break face first into the gate and then sit back on his haunches. In silence, Kearl watched as his horse was scratched and BP Cartels Alibi took the prestigious Heritage Place Futurity title.

The next year, his trainee, Wagon Tales was the fastest qualifier to the $2.6 million All American Futurity (G1). The bay colt overcame a poor start, but rallied for third.

But Kearl did win the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1) at Lone Star Park in 2012 with Valiant Lil Lady for owner Bryon Gardner.

So, there is hope on Saturday when Kearl will saddle Wyok Ranch LLC’s Valiant Rogue, a gelded son of Valiant Hero, purchased for a modest $20,000 at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale. The late-developing runner appears to be peaking in his 3-year-old season and won his Rainbow Derby trial in :21.705, fastest of the day. Jockey Tanner Thedford had the mount, subbing for Kearl's first-call rider, Rodrigo Vallejo, who is with his ailing father in Mexico.

The final cannot get here fast enough for Kearl, his heart and stomach!

"We've done all we can do," he said. "He's a great big horse and he is very fast. I like where we drew and think Tanner has done a good job."

It's been a pretty good year for the 41-year-old Kearl, who is the top AQHA trainer by earnings so far this year, and won the Hialeah Park and Sam Houston Race Park training titles. He has 88 wins and $1.5 million in purses.

A victory Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs would boost those numbers significantly. But having been down this road a time or two, Kearl acknowledges that there are immense challenges in getting to the finish line.

Take Volcom Bay, a very highly-regarded filly that Kearl prepped for the $1 million Ruidoso Derby (G1). She was the fastest qualifier, but had to be vanned off after her defeat by Jess Good Candy in the June 11 final.

"The filly had an entrapped epiglotis and underwent surgery," reported Kearl. "She still ran second without being able to breathe!"

Look for Volcom Bay to return in trials for the All American Derby next month, and another round of Pepto Bismol for Kearl preparing for yet another million dollar event!

A Revenant the One to Beat in Rainbow Futurity
By Denis Blake

Cody Jensen had some amazing success in the two days of trials for the $1 million Rainbow Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs, as he qualified half of the 10-horse final field, with four coming from the Mike Joiner barn.

Of course in situations like this, a handicapper needs to give strong consideration to the horse that jockey ultimately rides in the final. Jensen opted to ride #10 A Revenant, and that certainly seems like a good choice after the son of Mr Jess Perry set the fastest qualifying time of :19.812 for 400 yards. Prior to that, the Oklahoma-bred just missed winning the $1 million Ruidoso Futurity (G1) by a head. A Revenant won from the rail in his trial and now draws the far outside post, and that might work to his advantage as he tends to break out and will not have to worry about bumping a horse on that side. He’ll be a heavy favorite here but looks tough to beat.

One of the horses with a chance to upset is #9 Muddy Watters, who Jensen piloted to victory in the trials for trainer John Stinebaugh. This colt appears to be rapidly improving with two wins after a lackluster seventh in his career debut. He is a half brother to champions Ocean Runaway and Wave Carver, and he sold for $105,000 at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale, so he has the pedigree to be a Grade 1 winner.

On the inside, #1 Paint My Pilot will get some attention after crushing the field by 2 ¼ lengths in his trial. His time was barely fast enough to qualify, but when a horse wins by that much it stands to reason he could have gone faster.

For a longshot, take a look at #5 Soar Like An Eagle at 30-1 on the morning line. He ran second to A Revenant in his trial at 52-1. That’s impressive considering it was this colt’s career debut, and he could move forward again in the final.

Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake’s Top Four Selections:
#10 A Revenant
#9 Muddy Watters
#1 Paint My Pilot
#5 Soar Like An Eagle

Wrangler Racing Aces in July
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