All American: Full Hand

Jimmy Padgett has a full hand for the All American races.

Quarter Racing Journal

Hold Air Hostage is the fastest qualifier to the All American Derby. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Jimmy Padgett is riding high on his latest projects. With two of the richest Grade 1 tests in American Quarter Horse racing coming up this weekend, the trainer has two qualifiers in Sunday’s All American Derby (fastest qualifier Hold Air Hostage and second-fastest Duponte) and two in the All American Futurity (Hawkeye and Fly Baby Fly).

“The dream scenario would be to win run first and second in both races,” said the 39-year-old conditioner with a laugh.

Padgett will also saddle reigning Ted Abrams’ world champion Jessies First Down in Saturday’s All American Gold Cup (G1). “We know that probably won’t happen, but hopefully we can get there, do our best and get a piece of them.”

PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

James B. “Jimmy” Padgett II grew up in South Jordan, Utah, where his family ran horses on the nonpari-mutuel circuit and in 2002-04 he drove the Padgett Racing chariot to three consecutive world titles in the World Championship Cutter & Chariot Racing Association. In 2015, Padgett moved to Texas, where he became the assistant trainer for boyhood friend Judd Kearl, who through July had conditioned each of the four All American qualifiers, as well as Jessies First Down.

The All American Derby offers a purse of $1,365,907, while the sport’s richest race puts $3 million on the line in the All American Futurity. Rodrigo Vallejo rode all four of Padgett’s qualifiers, and will ride Hold Air Hostage in the Derby and Hawkeye in the Futurity. Jose Alvarez has the mounts on the other two.

Hold Air Hostage smoked his rivals in the 11th of 13 trials on August 20, when he defeated the closest to him by 3 1/4 lengths whole, clocking :21.109 over a sloppy track in the rain. With a career record of 10-7(2)-1-1 and earnings of $642,636, the gelding won two of three races as a freshman and five of seven, with a second and a third, this season. Hold Air Hostage comes into the All American Derby on a four-race win streak that began with a 1 3/4-length victory in the June 3 Heritage Place Derby (G2) and includes the July 22 Rainbow Derby (G2).

Hold Air Hostage is a sorrel gelding by Apollitical Jess out of the stakes-winning Fols Gold mare Fols Zookie Cookie, whose three black-type wins include the Windy City Dash in 1994 at Arlington Park in Chicago. Fols Zookie Cookie has produced 11 winners and the earners of more than $1.58 million from 13 starters, including Hold Air Hostage’s stakes-winning siblings Thru Rebas Eyes, a Fishers Dash mare that ran in Dashing Knud’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) and earned $168,346; and Zookie Street, a Grade 1-winning gelding by Corona Cartel that earned $268,774.

Hold Air Hostage and his dam are two of nine stakes winners, 24 other winners and the earners of more than $1.2 million from 41 starters bred by Luis Miguel Albores Gleason of Miami. The gelding was acquired in January 2015 by Dan Darling’s Darling Farms at Lamont, Oklahoma.

“Hold Air Hostage is a great-big horse, long and tall, more of a Thoroughbred-looking horse – not real heavy, but with a big long stride,” Padgett said. “He’s a very happy horse, always playing and with his motor going all the time. He loves to train. We freshened him up and gave him a little breeze before the trials and then ran him, and ever since then we’ve just let him rest.”

Duponte joins his stablemate in the gate. Bred by two-time AQHA Champion Owner and reigning Champion Breeder Bobby D. Cox of Fort Worth, Texas, Duponte races for Cox, and Homero and Kristen Paredes of Maxwell Texas. A member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, Cox bred champions Brimmerton and Wahoo, 72 other stakes winners, 718 other winners and the earners of more than $25 million from 1,319 starters. Cox sold Duponte at the 2015 Texas QHA Yearling Sale but bought back an interest in July 2016.

“We gave Duponte a little breeze before the trials and have been resting him for the final,” Padgett says. “He is a great big, massive, beautiful stallion. He is all stallion – other than his demeanor. He’s as nice a horse as you’d ever want to be around. He’s easy to train and he’s an easy keeper. He’ll put weight on in the blink of an eye, so we’ve kept him steady and tried to keep him as trim as possible. But when you get him out, there is no question: He is all stallion. Right now, he’s as good as he’s been all summer. I look for big things from him.”

Duponte is one of four stakes winners, 24 other winners and the earners of more than $1.6 million in three crops raced by champion American Runaway. The sorrel colt is the second starter out of the Ivory James mare Havanah Goodtime, who in 2012 at Remington Park won her only career race. Duponte is a half-brother to Heritage Place Futurity (G1) winner Nymeria, a Bigtime Favorite mare that earned $494,772.

An earner of $770,415, Duponte has won six of 13 career races, including last year's Heritage Place Futurity (G1) at Remington Park and Harrah's Entertainment Futurity (G3) at Louisiana Downs. The colt this season has won three of five races, and finished fourth in both the June 2 Heritage Place Derby (G2) and the July 22 Rainbow Derby won by Hold Air Hostage. Duponte comes into the All American Derby off his win in the 12th trial by 2 1/2 lengths in :21.441.

The day after the trainer sends out Hold Air Hostage and Duponte in the Derby, he’ll saddle Hawkeye and Fly Baby Fly in the Futurity.

PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain 

“Hawkeye’s a cool horse,” Padgett said. “Jose Flores had him in California, and Bobby (Cox) called and said, ‘I’m sending you what I think is my best horse.’ And when Bobby Cox says that, you know you’ve got something good coming. He got off the trailer and, yeah, he was good. He’s a great-big 2-year-old colt, long and muscled, a big, beautiful animal.”

Undefeated in three starts, Hawkeye is the fifth-fastest overall qualifier and third-fastest on the second day of the Futurity trials, when he won his heat by three parts of a side in :21.807. A homebred racing for Bobby Cox, Hawkeye is one of four stakes winners, 50 other winners and the earners of more than $1.7 million from 125 starters in two crops raced by world champion and All American Futurity winner One Dashing Eagle. The gray colt is one of 14 winners and the earners of more than $456,000 from 26 starters out of the Runaway Winner mare No Fees, an earner of $166,320 that went undefeated in six lifetime races, including the 2003 TQHA Sale Futurity (RG1).

“We ran Hawkeye in the Rainbow trials and he’d get rolling and then hang with them, then he’d go again, kind of ran in spurts,” Padgett recalled. “Rodrigo came back and told us he’s the real deal, and he’d push the horse a little harder next time. The next time was the All American trials, and Hawkeye showed what he can do.”

The 10th-fastest qualifier, Fly Baby Fly on the second day of trials won the fourth heat by a length in :21.902. An earner of $85,200, the sorrel filly has won twice in four races, and finished fourth in the Rainbow Futurity.

Fly Baby Fly is one of 292 winners and the earners of more than $20 million by One Famous Eagle. Bred by Julianna Hawn Holt, the filly is one of five winners from five starters out of the champion Walk Thru Fire mare Higher Fire, who earned $1,314,742 on the track and so far has produced the earners of more than $623,000. Fly Baby Fly races for the Fly Baby Fly Partnership of New Waverly, Texas.

Fly Baby Fly
PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain 

“Fly Baby Fly is kind of special,” the trainer says. “We picked her out of the Ruidoso (Select Yearling) sale last year and we knew it was going to cost a lot to get her. The owners agreed to whatever it cost, told us if that’s the one y’all want, that’s the one y’all will get. We got her for $180,000 and took it slow with her. We never started her until the Ruidoso trials, and she ran green but came back good. We ran her in the Rainbow trials, and she finally ran her race. She came back in the final, had some bad luck – didn’t break real good, lost her path, circled horses and still got back up to run fourth. Then we freshened her up and brought her into the All American trials. She’s the real deal – if she can just figure out that first hundred yards, leave there running and not get in any trouble, she’ll be very tough.”

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