Q-Racing Blog: These Are The Good Old Days

Take your time, the opportunities are out there.

Q-Racing Journal

Take your time, the opportunities are out there.

The first futurity of 2016 is set to run on March 12. It is the $273,054 Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) for Louisiana-breds at Louisiana Downs.

It has been a big step forward since the days when there were yearling futurities and the serious futurity season started in January with the Blue Ribbon Downs Futurity.

The change from January to March for 2-year-olds competing in AQHA-sanctioned races is the direct result of an AQHA rule that states 2-year-olds cannot start until March 1. There is one grandfathered exception: the Mardi Gras Futurity trials, which are run in February. This year they were held on February 20.
 
The top qualifiers for the Mardi Gras Futurity are RDD Lajollanfastdash (Heza Fast Dash-La Jollan Queen by Streakin La Jolla) and Streakin PYC (JLS Party Wagon-Electric La Jolla by Streakin La Jolla). RDD Lajollanfastdash topped the qualifiers with a :15.531 time for 300 yards while winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Streakin PYC was second-fastest qualifier from 12 trials with a :15.875 time with a three-quarter-length win. RDD Lajollanfastdash should be the strong favorite after his trial score by the equivalent of more than two lengths over Streakin PYC.

The Blue Ribbon Futurity was highly anticipated and produced winners that went on to reach Quarter Horse racing’s highest level.

The Walter Merrick-bred, -owned and -trained Easy Jet won the 1969 running with a $48,614 purse and went on win 22 of 26 two-year-old starts. As a yearling he, reportedly, won an unofficial race over stakes-winning full brother Jet Smooth, also from the Merrick program. Winning 22 races and starting 26 times as a 2-year-old is totally amazing by today’s standards.
 
William Mitchell’s Gold Coast Express won the 1985 $258,328 Blue Ribbon Futurity for trainer Bud Gladd. The palomino then joined the Bob Baffert barn at Los Alamitos. The powerful gelding won the 1986 Champion of Champions and was the 1986 world champion. He was second to world champion First Down Dash in the 1987 Champion of Champions.

These horses were freaks. Easy Jet had his 26 starts as a juvenile while Gold Coast Express needed to be held by a pony while galloping.

That was then. This is now. It’s a different sport.

The reason is money. When Easy Jet won the All American Futurity the purse was $600,000, it is now $3 million.
 
Now the seven-figure purses start in late spring with the Heritage Place Futurity, Ruidoso Futurity and Ed Burke Futurity. The $1 million-plus futurities continue throughout the year, capped by the Los Alamitos Two Million in December.

Another difference between the Blue Ribbon Futurity days and today are the derbies. Decades ago, there was a saying that most 2-year-olds lost half their value after the All American Futurity was run. The sarcastic point was that all the rich races had been run.

Not so now.

The derbies at Ruidoso Downs and Los Alamitos have stepped up. The Ruidoso Derby projects to join the $1 million club, the Rainbow Derby looks for a $1.2 million purse and then the season-finale derby at Ruidoso Downs, the All American Derby, could reach $2.5 million. Each of those derbies has a $100,000 race for non-qualifiers. Therefore, the entire package of those six races have total estimated purses of $5 million, the same as the three Triple Crown races for Thoroughbred 3-year-olds. The Los Alamitos Super Derby is expected to offer $800,000 this year and then jump to $1.1 million next year.

The field for the 2015 All American Derby totaled 100 starts among the 10 contestants. No horse had more than 11 starts with six starters having 11 starts. Those 10 All American Derby finalists had 57 starts as a 2-year-old. There were two finalists that were maidens after their juvenile season and three horses had one win as a 2-year-old. That’s half the field.
 
Listen to the horse. If the horse has the God-given talent to compete at the highest futurity and derby level, the opportunities have greatly expanded. It isn’t 1969 anymore.

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