Wrangler Racing Aces Blog: Deep in the Heart of Texas

A decade of success in Houston for trainer Judd Kearl.

Q-Racing Journal

Trainer Judd Kearl has made his mark in the Lone Star State.

The 2016 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse meet will wrap up on May 16, and Judd Kearl will accept his seventh leading trainer title Monday afternoon.

Kearl, 41, grew up in Tremonton, Utah and got his start in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. He won his first stakes in 1996 with a chestnut gelding named Fatherhood. The California-bred made 19 starts and set a new track record at Pocatello Downs on June 9, 1996.
"He's about 23 now and one of my owners, Mickey Tiner, has a grandson who rides him," said Kearl."

Judd Kearl has been leading
trainer at Sam Houston Race
Park for the past seven years. 

Kearl made his move to Texas in 2004 and resides in Spring, just ten minutes away from Sam Houston Race Park and operates a farm and training center in New Waverly, Texas.  He was second in the Sam Houston Race Park standings in 2005 and earned his first title in 2006. With his seventh score, he will tie the late Steve VanBebber, who dominated from 1994-2000.

Both on the farm and in the shedrow, the Kearl trainees are well-cared for in a clean and efficiently run setting.

"Having a happy horse is really important to us," said Kearl. "You're only as good as your horses, your help and your owners."
It's the perseverance and passion of Kearl that attracts and sustains a solid core of owners. They trust him in their daily care and race selection as well as identifying prospects in annual yearling sales.

"I've got Texas owners who love to see their horses run," said Kearl. "Many have been with me for a long time, with the economy the way it is, I have lost some owners  Some have gotten out completely. I wish I didn't have to leave Texas to run."

He is deeply appreciate of each owner for their support.

"They put their trust in you to do what the horses need to do," said Kearl. "So far we have done well and they have confidence in us."

Kearl is perceived to be quiet by many, but has a quick wit and does not flinch when expressing his opinions.  Take his stance on bidding at yearling sales, for example.

"I've always believed that if you spend over $40,000, that you're taking way to big of a risk," states Kearl. "I could outrun some of the six-figure purchases I've seen."

But lest you think he is flip when it comes to his inner circle, which includes his parents, Steve and Debbie, as well as his stepmother, Sarah; Marcus Paley, or his staff, you would be 100% wrong.  Rodrigo Vallejo is the first call rider for Kearl; the native of Jalisco, Mexico, is an integral part of the barn's success. Rider Noe Villatoro has done well for the Kearl barn this year and Kearl is very happy to have childhood Utah friend Jimmy Padgett as a trusted assistant.

Q-Racing Ace Martha Clausen
poses with trainer Judd Kearl
and jockey Rodrigo Vallejo.

At the end of February, Kearl won the title at Hialeah Park with 39 wins, highlighted by an exciting dead-heat by stablemates EC Jet One and Carters Sixty Six in the $204,265 South Florida Derby. Heading into the final three days of the Sam Houston racing season, Kearl has 32 wins, 15 more than Angel Sanchez. He will saddle fastest qualifier Moe Lassus in the $30,597 Bank of America Texas Maiden Challenge on Friday and BM Casino Royale in the $44,640 Adequan Texas Derby Challenge and Gustafame in the $69,390 John Deere Juvenile Texas Challenge on Saturday evening.

The year is going superbly for the Texas-based horseman, who is the #1 Quarter Horse trainer in the AQHA standings with 69 wins and $1.1 million in purses. He is ranked 38th on the list of all-time trainers by money earned.

Each victory is significant to Kearl and his team, whether it comes in Houston, Remington Park, Hialeah, Delta Downs or Ruidoso Downs.

"The money is important, but I have multiple goals," said Kearl. "Just like every other trainer, I want to win the All American Futurity. But, it's fun to win races, whether it's a $5,000 claimer or a stakes race. We don't go out there to lose."

$44,640 Adequan Texas Derby Challenge Up for Grabs
by Denis Blake

The Adequan Texas Derby Challenge, which will run as the eighth race on the Saturday, May 14th card at Sam Houston Race Park, is a challenging handicapping puzzle.  The field includes several 3-year-olds who appear to be emerging talents but few proven stakes competitors. This is confirmed by the morning line, with six horses listed at 8-1 or less. While this race is tough to handicap, it does present some excellent wagering opportunities.

This is the kind of race in which to look for value, and that might be with #4 Ima Dashing Gator. The daughter of top sire Tempting Dash didn’t really fire in her trial, but that was her first start since November and she likely needed that race. This filly won three races last year, including a stakes at Lone Star Park, and her connections thought enough of her to run her in three trials for Grade 1 futurities. Trainer Amanda Buchanan-Hadley is off to a good start at Sam Houston with three wins in 11 starts, so give this one a long look.

Although #7 BM Casina Royale lost to Ima Dashing Gator last year at Lone Star, this filly debuted with a nice allowance win this year and just missed winning her trial for this race. The daughter of PYC Paint Your Wagon from the Judd Kearl barn has more wins than any other runner in the field and she sports a nice record of 4-2-1-0 at Sam Houston.

#6 Swifter Deal has only a single victory but this filly has hit the board in each of her last four starts, including a third behind Grade 2 winner Ivan James two starts back. It took a while for her to figure out the racing game—she was no factor in her first three starts—but she’s another one with a chance to surprise here.

The tepid morning line favorite is #9 Brookside, who will making her stakes debut after winning two of her three career starts. It’s interesting to note that Francisco Calderon, who rode her to those two wins, will be aboard Swifter Deal.

The winner will earn a berth to the $200,000 Adequan Challenge Championship on October 29 at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake's Top Four Selections:

#4 Ima Dashing Gator
#7 BM Casina Royal
#6 Swifter Deal
#9 Brookside

Wrangler Racing Aces in May
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,  Indiana Grand and Delta Downs.

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