All American: Awake in Ruidoso

Sleepy Gilbreath returns from retirement to put one in the All American.

Quarter Racing Journal

Hotstepper grazes outside the Gilbreath barn. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

That didn’t last long: “Sleepy” is back. After retiring last year, C. Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath – the trainer who conditioned All American Futurity (G1) winners On A High (1983), Refrigerator (1990) and Ochoa (2011) – returns to action on Labor Day at Ruidoso Downs with Hotstepper.

“Poor boys can’t afford to retire,” Gilbreath said with a laugh. “I’ve had a good run and been real fortunate to get done what I have got done. So now I’m gonna try to do it again. It’s good to be back.”

Gilbreath has a good horse to try with. Handing a 2-length drubbing to his nearest rival in the 10th of 14 trials on the second day of the August 18-19 trials, Hotstepper qualified in :21.827, fourth-fastest for the day and seventh-fastest overall.

Bred by the Joe Kirk Fulton family’s Fulton Quien Sabe Ranches in Texas, the bay gelding is one of two qualifiers to this year’s All American Futurity by champion One Famous Eagle, who also sired Fly Baby Fly. Hotstepper is the first starter out of the graded stakes-winning Tres Seis mare Pandorum, who earned $70,437 on the track. Pandorum is one of three winners from five starters out of the winning Strawfly Special mare Daring Diversion, and her second dam is the Victory Dash mare Daring Difference, who in 1994 in won the Heritage Place Futurity (G1) and ran in Noblesse Six’s All American. Purchased for $63,000 at last year’s Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale, Hotstepper races for the Tularosa, New Mexico-based partnership of Ruidoso Downs owner R.D. Hubbard, Henry “Butch” Southway, John L. Cope and Rafter W Stables.

Gilbreath admited he didn’t really realize at first just how good Hotstepper might be.

“When they sent him to me, it kinda took awhile for me to see just what kind of horse he was,” said the trainer who has conditioned the earners of more than $28.4 million. “Before we left home to come out here, I’d taken Hotstepper to Lone Star (Park at Grand Prairie, Texas) and worked him a couple times, and I thought then I had a really good horse.”

An earner of $35,200, Hotstepper has won twice in two races. The gelding ran third in his first start, a May 27 trial in which winner Shes Political qualified for the Ruidoso Juvenile Stakes. He next scored by a length in his July 8 trial for the Rainbow Futurity (G1) but then blew his own chances in the $1 million final on July 28.

“In the Rainbow final, he whupped his head around just as they kicked the gate,” Gilbreath said. “He got away terrible. He ran OK and Cody (Jensen, the jockey) took care of him, because he was already beat, but they weren’t getting any farther ahead of him.

“Since the Rainbow, we haven’t really done much with him,” Gilbreath said. “I’ve just taken him to the track a couple of times and just jogged him, stood him in the gate (Monday) morning. I’ll probably send him back to the track one more time before next Monday.”

In the meantime, Hotstepper will relax and take it easy, at least most of the time.

“He’s just as quiet and nice as a horse could be,” Gilbreath said. “Well, he does fret sometimes (in his stall). He’s one of those that likes to stand there and pop his head around. And then other times he’ll go in there and stick his head down in the corner and you’d think there is something wrong with him. You can’t tell – sometimes you just cannot tell what he’s gonna be like. But it’s no problem at all.”

“Joanie and I came to the All American party last year with some friends, and I ran across Mr. Hubbard,” Gilbreath said. “Hubbard asked, ‘What’s it gonna take to get you back out here?’ I said, ‘Send me some good horses and I’ll be back.’ And he did.”

So now the Gilbreaths are back in business, with another summer on The Mountain.

“Yeah,” Joanie said. “And I’ve loved it.”

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