Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Thankful for stakes opportunites for older horses.
By Martha Claussen and Jonathan Horowitz | November 22, 2016
Wrangler Racing Aces
Solid Field Assembled for the Grade 1 Zia Park Championship
By Martha Claussen
Zia Park presents a nice Thanksgiving holiday feast of stakes on Wednesday, November 23. The 10-race program features three features for Quarter Horses followed by six Thoroughbred stakes.
The field for the 440-yard stakes includes horses bred in Arizona, California, Texas and Oklahoma, and strong cases can be made for many.
Ted G. Abrams, Sr's homebred Jessies First Down, will seek his ninth career victory in his first trip to Zia Park. The 5-year-old son of Fdd Dynasty, is enjoying one of his best campaigns this year. He was the fastest qualifier to the $106,000 Bank of America Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park, running second in the final to JRC Callas First. Three weeks later, he was much the best in the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2).
The plan for Abrams and trainer Judd Kearl was the $200,000 All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso Downs, and both agreed that he would fare better if he shipped to New Mexico well in advance of the Labor Day weekend stakes.
It proved to be a very smart move as the bay gelding ran an outstanding race in his allowance prep on August 16 before finishing second to Zoomin Effortlessly in the Gold Cup on Labor Day weekend.
Kearl continues to lead all horsemen as the top Quarter Horse trainer of 2016. He has won 126 races this year, topping 14-time AQHA leading trainer Paul Jones, who has 107 victories as of November 22.
"He is doing really well," Kearl said. "If he leaves out of the gate the way he can, we feel very confident that he can win," said Kearl. "As good as he was in Houston and in the Refrigerator, I think his best race was his allowance at Ruidoso (on August 14). He's got a super big finish which sets him up for these 440-yard races."
Rodrigo Vallejo reunites with "Jessie" and Jose Alvarez will pilot Kearl's other entrant Fly Thru the Fire. The 5-year-old ran second in both the Grade 2, Sam Houston Classic and the $250,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship on September 25.
The winner will receive a berth into the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park, which will run on Tuesday, December 27 at the New Mexico racetrack.
One quality horse missing from Wednesday's stakes is two-time defending champion, JRC Callas First. Trainer Brian Stroud decided to turn out his 2014 AQHA World Champion for the winner and reports that he is enjoying time on the Stroud's farm in Sutherland Spring, Texas.
"After the Bank of America Challenge Championship (October 29) we took him to Dr. Tommy Hays in Elgin," said Stroud. "He checked out fine, but we felt he just needed a break and time to be a horse for a few months. He's hanging with his pony horse buddy, watching us break babies and seems very content."
Stroud reported that JRC will begin training in February and be pointed to the 550-yard Harris County Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park.
Thankful for a great race card Wednesday at Zia and for horsemen, like Brian Stroud, taking care of their beloved champions!
Four Grade 1 Winners Face Off in Zia Park Championship
By Jonathan Horowitz
The accomplished field for Wednesday’s $150,000 Zia Park Championship (G1) over 440 yards includes four Grade 1 winners.
Two are trying to return to past glory. Millionaire Houdini captured the 2014 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs, and Tres Friends won the 2015 Texas Classic Derby at Lone Star Park. Both are winless in 2016, but Houdini has been second in both his starts this year in graded stakes at Remington Park. Tres Friends showed strong improvement in his most recent race, closing from last to third in a Texas Classic Derby trial behind eventual finals runner-up Jess Burnin.
The other two Grade 1 winners in the field of 10 plus two also-eligibles are having the best season of their careers. Jessies First Down is coming off a victory in Lone Star’s Refrigerator Handicap. Zoomin Effortlessly has won the Championship at Sunland Park, Leo Stakes at Remington Park, and All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso in 2016. However, Zoomin Effortlessly was disqualified earlier this year for his win in the Remington Park Championship due to a positive test for a prohibited drug. Such a disqualification makes him ineligible for consideration in AQHA polls or awards.
Jrc Callas First, the 2014 AQHA Racing World Champion, shipped from Texas to New Mexico to win the last two Zia Park Championships, and Jessies First Down will now attempt to do the same. Jessies First Down will be reunited with jockey Rodrigo Vallejo for the first time since winning the Sam Houston Classic in May. In that race, they led a one-two for trainer Judd Kearl by defeating stablemate Fly Thru the Fire. Fly Thru the Fire is entered in the Zia Park Championship off three second-place finishes in a row.
In addition to the quartet that has already tasted Grade 1 glory, the Zia Park Championship includes up-and-coming TF Im That Guy, who is two-for-two this season at Zia Park highlighted by his recent victory in the track’s Hobbs America Derby. Although he has yet to win a Grade 1, Sam Crow is just $86,263 shy of $1 million in career earnings. He has been runner-up in three Grade 1 stakes—the 2015 Rainbow and All American derbies at Ruidoso and the 2016 Sooner State at Remington.
Wrangler Racing Ace Jonathan Horowitz’ Top-Four Selections:
#4 Jessies First Down
#1 Tres Friends
#9 Zoomin Effortlessly
#6 TF Im That Guy
Wrangler Racing Aces in November
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