Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Rich rewards on the line Saturday at Evangeline.
By Martha Claussen and Jennifer Hancock | November 16, 2016
Ramirez Brothers Unite with Dragon N Panther
By Martha Claussen
The field is set for Saturday's $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity (RG1) at Evangeline Downs. Each of the connections of the nine finalists are hopeful that their runner will triumph in the prestigious championship, where the winner earns $456,410.
One of the more compelling story lines in this year's edition of the seven-figure stakes is the hopes and dreams of two brothers, trainer Saul Ramirez Jr. and J.R. Ramirez Jr. who will pilot Dragon N Panther.
Bred in Louisiana by R. L. Richard, Dragon N Panther is a 2-year-old sorrel gelding by Dragon Wings, out of the Panther Mountain mare Mountain Woman. Owned by Ricardo Javier Rodrigue Cantu, he made his debut on April 30 at Delta Downs in trials for the 330-yard, $281,000 LQHBA Laddie Futurity (RG2). Damian Martinez rode him to victory in the trial, with J.R. Ramirez taking over for the final on May 21. Dismissed by the betting public, Dragon N Panther broke beautifully and never relinquished his lead, satisfying his supporters with a win payout of $27.20, but rewarding the brothers with much more.
Saul and J.R. were elated with the win, which was the first for Saul as a trainer and a tremendous confidence booster for J.R., who had returned to the saddle after a three-year hiatus.
"I want to thank God and the owners and breeders," Saul said after the race. "We had the fastest time in schooling races and he came back and beat the fastest is amazing."
J. R. is Saul's younger brother and is 36 years-old. When he was just 23, clinched a rare sweep of riding titles at each Texas racetrack: Lone Star Park, Manor Downs, Retama Park and Sam Houston Race Park. He joined Saul on the West Coast, winning several major stakes at Los Alamitos including the 2005 Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1) and victories in the prestigious Golden State Million Futurity (G1) with Higher Fire in 2005 and Jess You and I in 2006.
He wasn't certain what his comeback would bring, but fueled by the support of his family and the racing community, he was enjoying racing once again. The win in the Laddie meant a great deal.
"That night was great," said J. R. "The win was unbelievable, but sharing it with my brother was very special."
Next up for Dragon N Panther was the De Saix Stakes at Fair Grounds on September 2. He was disqualified for interference and shipped to Evangeline Downs, where his owner made a late payment to the LQHBA Breeders Futurity.
"I wasn't sure he could get the distance," admitted J.R. as Dragon N Panther prepared for the 400-yard trials. "But he has a big heart and really got hold of the track."
He ran second to Narcisco Flores' Gone Swingin in his trial, recording the fifth-fastest time of the evening.
"He's doing really well," stated Saul. "I really like that we drew the seven hole; some of the fastest horses drew inside, so I am happy with our position."
Both brothers have confidence in each other.
"Saul is pretty laid back," explained J. R. "We both feel that if you have put in the work and are prepared. that's all you can do. If it's meant to be yours, it will happen."
Saul, in turn, knows J.R. can get the job done.
"Once he is on the horse, he knows what he's doing," stated Saul.
As fate would have it, both brothers agree that their toughest competition on Saturday will come from RDD Lajollanfastdash, a multiple futurity winner that their cousin, Raul Ramirez, Jr., rides.
"He's the one to beat, for sure," said Saul.
The brothers and their cousin will be well-supported at Evangeline Downs with a huge group of family and friends joining them in Opelousas.
"Very few horses can win early futurities and last all year," acknowledged J. R. "Jet Black Patriot was one of them."
On Saturday night, one other talented juvenile will add his name to a distinguished list of past champions which include Mr Jess Perry. Jet Black Patriot, JLS Mr Bigtime, Vals Fortune and Open Me A Corona.
Wishing the best to the Saul, J. R., Raul and each of the finalists Congratulations on qualifying and safe trips to all!
RDD Lajollanfastdash Rates Top Billing in the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity
By Jennifer Hancock
Wrangler Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock takes a look at the $1 million LQHBA Breeders’ Futurity (RG1), which will be the eighth race on Saturday at Evangeline Downs. The 400-yard race has an estimated local post time of 8:32 p.m. CST.
#2 RDD Lajollanfastdash, who brings a three-race win streak into the LQHBA Breeders’ Futurity (RG1), won his trial by one length while setting the fastest qualifying time and deservedly gets the distinction of being the morning-line favorite at 8-5 odds. The Heza Fast Dash gelding has six wins to his credit including stakes victories in the 300-yard Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) and the 350-yard Louisiana QHBA Sale Futurity (RG1). Jockey Raul Ramirez Jr., who gets the call for Saturday’s stakes, has been in the irons for each of the gray gelding’s seven starts, with the only blemish coming in the Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity (RG1), where the horse got shut off at the start.
#4 Tellem Im Pumped won his trial by a length and a half and notched his third win in eight starts. The Stoli gelding gets the riding services of 10-time AQHA Champion Jockey G.R. Carter, who recently dusted off his riding equipment after a short retirement.
Louisiana Breeders’ Lassie Futurity (RG2) winner #3 Louisiana Jewels began her race career with three wins and has never finished off the board in five starts this year. Joe Badilla Jr. has ridden the Jess Louisiana Blue filly in four of her five starts and will be in the irons on Saturday again. The third-fastest qualifier, Louisiana Jewels ran third behind RDD Lajollanfastdash in her trial, and the two will start side-by-side in the final.
#9 TF Racee Runaway won his trial by a length and had the seventh-fastest qualifying time. The Sir Runaway Dash gelding has hit the board in six of his eight lifetime starts and has a two-race win streak at Evangeline Downs. John Hamilton, who is currently leading the jockey standings at Evangeline, has been the bay’s regular rider. The outside post will give the youngster plenty of running room.
Jennifer Hancock’s LQHBA Breeders’ Futurity (RG1) Picks:
#2 RDD Lajollanfastdash
#4 Tellem Im Pumped
#3 Louisiana Jewels
#9 TF Racee Runaway
Wrangler Racing Aces in November
Martha Claussen will journey to Evangeline Downs for Saturday's $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity. She will join track announcer Michael Chamberlain for a handicapping preview at 5:05 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, Evangeline Downs and Zia Park.