Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Will Rogers Downs heads into the final stretch.

Will Rogers Downs heads into the final stretch.

Willis Family Always Tough at Will Rogers Downs
By Jonathan Horowitz

Saturday, November 12, is shaping up to be a busy and long day for the Willis family of trainers.  Father Eddie and son Kasey will each saddle horses in three stakes races on the final day of the season at Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma. Then Kasey will fly to Texas where he has also qualified a finalist for the Texas Classic Derby at Lone Star Park later that evening.

“Those are the days worth staying up for,” Kasey said.

Kasey trains Hold Air Hostage as the fastest qualifier in the 350-yard, $167,000 Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Futurity (RG3) for Oklahoma-breds. The 2-year-old sorrel gelding owned by the Darling Farms and ridden by Cesar Gomez had a relatively late start to his career, debuting in a maiden race at Will Rogers Downs on October 2 before running in the Mystery Futurity trials.

“I’ve been keeping him out of races all year long because he’s been a touch shin sore, just never perfect,” Willis said. “But I felt like he was the best 2-year-old I had in my barn all year long.  It’s hard to save a horse like that, but so far it’s paying off – two-for-two.  And he kind of dominates when he wins, too.”

Kasey won the Mystery Futurity in 2015 with Bye Byefreighttrain, who is the second-fastest qualifier for the 350-yard, $64,000 Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Derby (R) on Will Rogers’ closing day.  The trainer also won that race in 2015 with Cartel Rosie.

Brother Kevin captured the 2015 Black Gold 440 Championship Futurity (RG3) with First Sweet Midnite, and this year it’s father Eddie who holds a strong hand in the 440-yard, $303,000 race.  He’ll saddle the two fastest qualifiers, Aberdonian and Shades of Midnite.

“His full-brother won the ‘440’ last year, so that’s kind of what I was waiting for,” Eddie said about Shades of Midnite, who was winless in four starts until the trials on October 28.

Racing officials say they are optimistic about how this year’s Will Rogers Downs meet has gone.

“Will Rogers Downs has provided some great fall racing this season,” said Debbie Schauf, executive director of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association.  “Good purses and twelve races a day were enough to entice exceptional fields of fast horses and well-known trainers.”

If closing day goes as well for the Willis family as it did last year, the Claremore, Oklahoma, track could be nicknamed Willis Rogers Downs.

Handicapping the $35,000 Jerry Jaggars Memorial Stakes
By Martha Claussen

With the extended post times in between Saturday's Breeders' Cup Championships at Santa Anita, racing fans can enjoy the 12-race program Saturday at Will Rogers Downs. The action begins at noon and includes the first running of the $35,000 Jerry Jaggars Memorial Stakes.

A field of ten will compete at 350 yards and it is an interesting mix of stakes winners and stake hopefuls. Leading the credentialed runners is Dashin Brown Streak, owned by Melvin Hatley and the Estate of C.W. Navarre.  Trainer John Brasseaux conditions the 6-year-old Hotdoggin gelding, who was named as an AQHA Supreme Race Horse last month. The prestigious award is given to an Quarter Horse who during its career earns $500,000 or more, wins two or more open Grade 1 stakes races and at least 10 races.

#2 Dashin Brown Streak will make his 24th career start on Saturday with jockey Andrew Samaniego in the irons. The graded stakes winner has trophies in both the 2015 Remington Park Invitational Championship, and Leo Stakes. He ran second in this year's edition of the Leo Stakes at Remington Park and exits a fifth-place finish last month in the Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park. He is the high earner in the field and must be respected.

However, I am going to tip my hat to #9 Exquisite Stride, a California-bred son of Carters Cartel, who brings a two-stakes win streak to this race. Owned by Sherry and David Dunn, jockey Joe Badilla, Jr. will make the trip to Claremore to ride the 4-year-old.  He has earned $250,000 to date and could easily pad his bankroll Saturday afternoon. 

While #4 Apollitical Man does not have the back class of the two aforementioned runners, he has won his last four races in Oklahoma, including an $18,000 stakes on October 15. Bred by James and Marilyn Helzer, he is trained by Gerry McLean for owner Terry McLean.

The 5-2 post time favorite is #8 Candy Cartels Cat from the barn of Clint Crawford. The 4-year-old daughter of Red Storm Cat was a game runner-up in the $70,000 Eastex Handicap last May at Remington Park.  However, she returned to action on September 10 at Zia Park and showed little. She certainly could improve in her second race off the layoff.

Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen's Top Four:  9-4-2-8

Wrangler Racing Aces in November
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, Lone Star Park, Will Rogers Downs, Evangeline Downs and Zia 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.