Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Lone Star closes its season with a Classic card.
By Martha Claussen and Denis Blake | November 9, 2016
By Martha Claussen
It doesn't take a racetrack insider to know that G.R. Carter Jr. is not only a champion jockey, but a truly nice guy. When his fellow rider and good friend, Cody Jensen, broke his collar bone prior to the October 22 trials for the Texas Classic Futurity, Carter agreed to fill in.
Returning to Lone Star Park proved to be a very good move, as he qualified a finalist for the rich, $1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1) and also secured himself a very nice mount in the $362,848 Texas Classic Derby (G1).
Carter, 48, is Quarter Horse racing's all-time winning rider and has been honored ten times as AQHA champion jockey. Saturday night, he will pilot Julianna Hawn Holt's homebred Midnight Heat in the rich Texas Classic Futurity. The son of Corona Cartel was the second-fastest qualifier, winning his trial in :19.851. It was his first race since running seventh last April in the $540,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) for trainer Mike Joiner.
Oklahoma-born Carter has ridden numerous graded stakes champions throughout his career, and won the 2006 Texas Classic Futurity on another Holt-bred runner, Valiant Hero. And as much as he is looking forward to reuniting with Midnight Heat, he is also very high on his Texas Classic Derby mount, First Valiant Sign. Also trained by Joiner, the classy son of Valiant Hero ran fourth in the 2015 All American Futurity under Carter and will break from the far outside post Saturday.
"He is all class," stated Carter. “He has it all and is drop dead gorgeous as well. I remember gate breaking him as a 2-year-old. I told Mike that he would be my All American horse and to not let anyone else have him!"
Interestingly, the last time Carter won the Texas Classic Derby was in 2009; his mount was 2008 All American Futurity champion, Stolis Winner. He has fond memories of Texas racing and Lone Star Park, but November 14, 2015, was truly one for the memory books.
Last September, Carter announced that 2015 would be the final year of his noteworthy career. When he arrived at Lone Star Park to ride A Tres Of Paint in the Texas Classic Futurity (G1), Scott Wells, Lone Star Park's president and general manager, wanted to honor Carter. Surrounded by his fellow jockeys and Lone Star racing officials, Wells took to the microphone to commend Carter on his contributions to the Quarter Horse industry. He was eloquent and convincing in his sincerity and then shocked the group in the winner's circle by presenting Carter with a chocolate cake, right in the kisser!
"It was pretty surprising, to say the least," admitted Carter. "When I saw everyone gathering in the winner's circle, I was more worried about Joe Badilla doing something with the cake!"
Carter underwent knee surgery in January and has made a full recovery. However riding full time does not appear to be on his radar at this juncture.
"Part time seems to be working out okay for me," he noted with a smile.
If he wins on Saturday night, he will savor the moment for sure. But he might be looking over his shoulder in the winner's circle just to make sure that no one has another cake waiting!
Contention Runs Deep in the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity
By Denis Blake
The $1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1) is the richest race for any breed in the Lone Star State, and since its debut in 1993 at Trinity Meadows it has featured horses with some major accomplishments both before and after the race, including Mr Jess Perry, Winalota Cash, Eyesa Special and PYC Paint Your Wagon. In last year’s running, EC Jet One finished sixth as the favorite and since then has won six straight races, including the $2.4 million All American Derby (G1).
Surprisingly, this year’s field does not include a single stakes winner, but it would be no surprise to see several of the finalists blossom into top 3-year-olds next year. In the trials, trainer Trey Wood had a record-breaking night with six wins, including four finalists. Three of those were ridden by Ricky Ramirez.
Without a standout performer and only about 16/100ths of a second (approximately one length) separating the horses in the trials, this is the kind of race where a price play can pay off. At 20-1 on the morning line, #6 So Rapido is a tempting option despite being the least experienced horse with just two starts. He debuted barely a month ago with an easy win against maidens and then stepped up to run a solid third in his trial. His trainer is Mike Robbins, who might be unfamiliar to some but who trained three world champions in the 1980s and early 1990s before taking a break from training. He’s picked up where he left off since returning to the game in 2012, so don’t let his rather modest record at the Lone Star meet dissuade you. This horse is by a top sire in Corona Cartel and out of a graded stakes runner named Sinuous, by Mr Jess Perry, and he could be a factor if he improves off his trial.
#2 High Plains Perry has only lost once in three starts and appears to be the best chance for the powerful combination of Wood and Ramirez. #1 Koolnfamous qualified to the Grade 1 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs and although he finished sixth, he bounced back with a huge effort in the trials to set the fastest qualifying time. #8 Tough To Bee nearly won the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity over the summer and is among the most consistent horses in the field. Cody Jensen, who has a knack for winning big races, picks up the mount.
Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake's Selection:
#6 So Rapido
#2 High Plains Perry
#8 Tough To Bee
Wrangler Racing Aces in November
Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen will journey to Lone Star Park for Saturday's Texas Classic card. She will join odds-maker and track handicapper Rick Lee for a handicapping preview at 5:30 pm and be on hand throughout the evening for fan education..
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.
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