Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Early stars emerge in Louisiana and on the Road to the Triple Crown.
By Martha Claussen and Jonathan Horowitz | March 2, 2016
| RDD Lajollanfastdash
PHOTO: Coady Photography
Young Trainer Willie Simien Sets Sights on the Mardi Gras Futurity
By Martha Claussen
The $273,054 Mardi Gras Futurity (RG3) at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, March 12 is the first official futurity of the year.
Miguel A. Aguilar's RDD Lajollanfastdash won his 300 yard trial in :15.331 on February 20, the fastest clocking of 111 entrants in 12 trials. The gelded son of top Louisiana sire Heza Fast Dash out of the Streakin La Jolla mare La Jollan Queen is trained by Willie Simien Jr.
The 27-year-old has only been training five years and has had several successful runners to date. He conditioned Sam Houston Maiden Classic winner Plunge The Depths as well as Intriguing Jess Blue, who won the 2011 LQHBA Invitational (R), the consolation for the seven-figure LQHBA Breeders Futurity (RG1) at Evangeline Downs.
He and Aguilar purchased RDD Lajollanfastdash for $10,000 at the 2015 LQHBA Yearling Sale based on his pedigree and "his good, straight legs". The horse has advanced through breaking and schooling races with flying colors, much to the delight of his connections.
"His first sharp breeze was awesome and he's been incredible in every way," said Simien. "He's just a natural runner."
Simien lives in Rayne, Louisiana, and does the majority of his training in his hometown at the Quarter Pole Training Center. He's got 15 juveniles in his barn and credits his dad, Willie, for breaking the majority of the young runners.
He admits there is pressure in saddling the fastest qualifier for the Mardi Gras, but has tremendous confidence in RDD Lajollanfastdash, who shows the maturity and disposition of a much more seasoned racehorse.
The affable and well-liked horseman just smiles when he thinks about the final on March 12.
"We love this horse," said Simien. "Far from being an owner, Miguel is a good friend and we are having a great time!"
|The Kentucky Derby is only a few months away.|
The Triple Crown Primaries
By Jonathan Horowitz
March is when the talented start to separate themselves from their competition within states in order to join national races – in the many presidential primaries for the 2016 election, in the conference games that determine the field for college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, and in the horse races that produce the contenders for the Kentucky Derby.
With two months until Thoroughbred racing’s most-anticipated race, the candidates for favoritism when the gates open in The Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs are starting to emerge.
Nyquist, the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old colt, made a successful 3-year-old debut in Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes to remain unbeaten in six career races. Representing the same connections as 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another – owner Reddam Racing, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez – Nyquist is preparing to leave his home base in the Golden State for the Sunshine State and Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby. The bay colt is attempting to win a $1 million bonus for a horse purchased at Fasig-Tipton’s Florida sale who also wins the Florida Derby.
That leaves Mor Spirit as the top contender for Southern California’s two upcoming derby prep races, the San Felipe on March 12 and Santa Anita Derby on April 9, in trainer Bob Baffert’s quest to capture his fifth Kentucky Derby, one shy of Ben Jones’s record. Horses tend to run where they’re primarily trained until racking up the frequent flier miles during the Triple Crown, but Mor Spirit did race at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old with a second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November. His competition in the California preps could include undefeated California-bred dark horse Smokey Image, who is trying to become the second Cal-bred to win the Kentucky Derby in three years after California Chrome ended a 52-year drought for Cal-breds in 2014.
Mohaymen, a flashy gray with high expectations given his sales-topping $2.2 million purchase price as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2014 by owner Shadwell Stable, trounced a solid field in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth Stakes that included fellow unbeaten 3-year-olds Zulu and Awesome Banner. Now the Kiaran McLaughlin-trainee ridden by Junior Alvarado awaits a showdown with Nyquist.
American Pharoah began his preparations for Triple Crown glory in 2015 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. The 2016 Rebel will take place on March 19 with Suddenbreakingnews looking to write headlines again following his win in Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes. In New Orleans, Gun Runner prevailed over 40-1 longshot Forevamo and unlucky Mo Tom in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in preparation for the track’s Louisiana Derby on March 26.
The richest prep race for the Kentucky Derby takes place at Meydan in the United Arab Emirates. The $2 million purse for the UAE Derby on March 26 is the same as for the Kentucky Derby. Locally based filly Polar River, who won her first three races by an average of 10 lengths, could take on male horses before a possible trip to the United States. Showing that the Reddam-O’Neill-Gutierrez team that’s sending Nyquist from California to Florida isn’t afraid to travel out-of-state, their Frank Conversation is being pointed to the UAE Derby after winning the California and El Camino Real derbies at Golden Gate Fields. Isn’t life more interesting when we go outside our comfort zone?
Wrangler Racing Aces in March
Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen will be onsite at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, March 12 for the Mardi Gras Futurity and Derby. She will provide her tip sheet and AQHA handicapping materials as well as complimentary $2 betting vouchers, courtesy of Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (while supplies last).
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, Hialeah Park, Louisiana Downs and Rillito Park.
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.