Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

A world champion returns in Texas, and a new star prepares to be crowned in Oklahoma.

Q-Racing Journal

A world champion returns in Texas, and a new star prepares to be crowned in Oklahoma.

 JRC Callas First. PHOTO: Coady Photography

JRC Callas First Gets Campaign Rolling Friday at Sam Houston Race Park

By Martha Claussen

Certain memories last a lifetime and the night of January 21, 2015, will forever remain etched in the minds and hearts of Texas couple Dana and Brian Stroud. They own Texas-bred JRC Callas First, a son of Winners Award out of the Dirty Coup mare Calla Missy Jane.

It was that night in Oklahoma City that AQHA announced their 2014 Champions and JRC Callas First received the highest honor: World Champion.

"I almost fell backwards into the plant," recalled Dana. "We never dreamed we would own a world champion, but he just kept improving. Brian doesn't like to boast, but I think after he won the (2014) Refrigerator (Handicap (G1), at Lone Star Park), he knew how special our horse was."

It was a thrill of his lifetime for the Strouds; Dana had sold her Paint horse to help Brian afford the purchase of JRC Callas First. The gelding's career earnings of $549,931 helped the Strouds build their dream home in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as well as bankrolled his recent late enrollment into the Bank of America Racing Challenge program.

Brian is a native Texan who has been training since 1991. Conditioning a world champion in the Quarter Horse world is similar to winning the Kentucky Derby or Breeders' Cup Classic for a Thoroughbred trainer. The end result is that Stroud has more than doubled his stable since the big announcement in January, 2015.

JRC Callas First had minor surgery at the end of 2014 and made his first start last year in the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2), running third. His 2015 campaign got rolling at Retama Park, and the bay gelding won four consecutive stakes including the $150,000 Zia Park Championship (G1). He made his most recent start on January 3 with a second-place finish in the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park (G1).

He's had a short rest and has been training well for his return to Sam Houston Race Park on Friday, the meet's opening night. Jockey Damian Martinez is now riding in Louisiana, so Ricardo Aguirre will ride JRC Callas First, who is the 9-5 choice in the third and final trial for the $95,000 Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge (G2).

"He had a little break and is doing well," said Brian. "Our plan is to get him qualified for the Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos, and hopefully get a shot in the Champion of Champions. We're ready to see how he runs Friday."

One thing's for sure: the Strouds, like so many Texans, are relieved that the battle with the Texas Racing Commission is over (for now) and that the Sam Houston meet will run as planned.

"We were very worried as we have a lot of owners who want to run in Texas," said Dana. "They had made payments into derbies and futurities and we got plenty of calls about what would happen."

Brian, who finished a close second to Angel Sanchez in the 2015 Sam Houston trainer standings, has 56 stalls in Houston. He will saddle two first-time starters on Saturday night in trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic, and hopefully return with his "big horse" in the final of the Bank of America Texas Challenge on Saturday, April 16.

KG Johnny B Good.
PHOTO: Dustin Orona Photography

Oklahoma Futurity Preview
By Jennifer Hancock

It seems logical that the Oklahoma Futurity (G3) would be contested in the Sooner State, but part of the race’s 69-year history happened at Le Mesa Park in Raton, New Mexico. The race that began in 1947 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Leota W traveling the 220 yards in :12.40 for the win, has called Remington Park in Oklahoma City home for the past decade.

With a purse of $420,000, you can bet that a field of talented 2-year-olds will line up for their chance to etch their names in the history books. The race is carded as Remington’s 11th race on Saturday, March 25. Fifteen trials were contested on March 12 to determine the 10 fastest qualifiers, who each have just one start to their names.

With exactly one race to analyze in the past performances, handicappers will need to rely on their sleuthing skills to uncover more clues to find a winner. The trials provide a great place to start with your race analysis. The qualifiers all ran the same distance, and their times rank them from fastest qualifier to 10th-fastest. With 15 trials contested, conditions can change. Although there was no wind for the trials to the Oklahoma Futurity, making sure there was not a wind shift or other factors that could contribute to a slower time can be valuable information.

Trip notes are important in any Quarter Horse race, but especially true with freshmen runners. The fastest qualifier will always be one of the race favorites, but a horse that manages to qualify while overcoming trouble can surprise in the final with a clean trip. It’s a good idea to note whether a neighbor in the gate has any past issues at the break. A horse with a tendency to break in or out that will be next to your choice could cause problems. While the outside post gives one less rival to worry about, an inexperienced runner can sometimes use that extra space to run erratically.

While looking for clues, don’t forget to look at the connections. Some trainers are gifted with being able to work magic with young runners. Check out the leading trainers and jockeys lists to see who are hot. If a jockey qualified more than one horse to the final, be sure to note which horse was chosen for the final. The jockey will choose the horse with the best chance of winning.
Pedigree analysis can also give you a clue to a runner’s potential. Some sires are known to produce hot 2-year-olds, while other bloodlines are late maturing. AQHA offers a handicapping gold mine of information. You can find race leader information including sire statistics at www.aqha.com/services/raceleaders.

Let’s hear it for the girls! While colts have an advantage in the Thoroughbred world, fillies are faster maturing in the Quarter Horse world and can have an advantage over the boys early in the season.

Wrangler Q-Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock analyzed the Oklahoma Futurity and offers these handicapping suggestions:

Jennifer’s picks: #3 Coronas First Diva is by Corona Cartel, a sire who consistently ranks in the top of sires of 2-year-old money earners, and out of Spit Curl Diva, the 2011 champion aged mare. The filly broke first from the gate but lost a head bob in her trial making her the second-fastest qualifier to the Oklahoma Futurity.

#5 Feature Moonflash is the third-fastest qualifier and won his trial by a nose. Jockey Jimmy Brooks is winning at a 23 percent clip, and trainer Eddie Willis is winning at a 24 percent rate. Brooks and Willis know how to get the most out of young horses and should be tough in the final.

#7 KG Johnny B Good is the fastest qualifier. The Jonathan Perry gelding overcame a slow start to win his trial by a nose. With a better break, he can add another win to his streak.

#2 Freal is the ninth-fastest qualifier, but the colt got bumped at the break and still managed to finish third with a time fast enough to qualify.

Jennifer’s picks: #3 Coronas First Diva, #5 Feature Moonflash, #7 KG Johnny B Good, #2 Freal

Remington Park’s 12-race card gets underway at 6 p.m. CDT. In addition to the Oklahoma Futurity (G3), the $280,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) is carded as race 10 with a post time of 9:54 p.m. CDT. Visit www.remingtonpark.com for the latest information from Remington Park. 

Get handicapping help from the Aces! 

Wrangler Racing Aces in March

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 and Sunland 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.