Q-Racing Blog: Early Intrigue

The year kicks off with a most interesting derby.

Quarter Racing Journal

The year kicks off with a most interesting derby.

The 2017 Grade 1 derby season starts with a most interesting race — the $244,900 Los Alamitos Winter Derby over 400 yards on February 11.

It is one of those races that the more you handicap, the more options you discover. There were six trials and five trial winners reached the derby finals. However, three of those trial winners were by only a neck and those three qualified for the Winter Derby.

In the third of six trials, EG High Desert Farms’ homebred Jess Hawk won by a neck over Dutch Masters III Imaqtpie and it was another head back to Ron Hartley’s homebred One Proud Eagle. Jess Hawk topped the qualifiers at :19.733, Imaqtpie was timed in :19.769 while One Proud Eagle stopped the timer in :19.785.

There’s an argument for each horse.

Obviously, the fastest qualifier always deserves attention, especially on a night with no weather bias. Jess Hawk got a tremendous start and became the horse to beat within two strides. The Yanet Rodriguez-trained filly held on to get the trial win.

A daughter of One Sweet Jess, Jess Hawk will be making her Grade 1 debut in the Winter Derby. She has fared well in lesser stakes with a win in the $25,000 Pat Hyland Handicap and thirds in the $25,000 Autumn Handicap and the $20,000 Holiday Handicap. She has won five of eight starts.

Imaqtpie also makes her Grade 1 debut. Her sole win came in her career debut in a maiden race and concluded her juvenile campaign with a sixth-place run in the $30,000 Los Alamitos Juvenile.

Bred by trainer Jaime Gomez, Imaqtpie closed well to grab second in her trial The One Famous Eagle-sired filly could be a force in the derby, especially if she gets a solid start.

One Proud Eagle, another One Famous Eagle offspring, is dangerous. The gelding from the John Cooper stable has the graded stakes success and was quickly closing in the trial, beaten by a neck and a head. Imaqtpie was moving fastest at the wire, however One Proud Eagle was also extending his stride and virtually finished on even terms with Imaqtpie.

Add in One Proud Eagle’s stakes resume. He easily pulled away from the field in the $428,400 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity (G3) by one length with his long stride. He also impressed in the $151,250 John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G2). The gelding showed he was best with a late run to win by an expanding one-half length.

That one trial could prove to be the pivotal trial. But, Paul Blanchard and Dutch Masters III’s Katelli Del also led the top two finishers in his trial into the derby.

Katelli Deli may be in the best form of his eight-race career for trainer Gomez. Two starts ago, he was a close third in the $1,908,050 Los Alamitos Two Million (G1) at 30-1 odds. The Foose-sired gelding backed up that effort with a strong finish in his derby trial while winning by a neck with the fifth-fastest time.

Second to Katelli Deli was Balgo Racing Team’s King Candy. The Guillermo Morales-trained gelded son of One Sweet Jess qualified for the $1,070,000 Ed Burke Memorial Futurity (G1) and the $982,250 Golden State Million Futurity (G1).

Denny and Sandy Weigt’s Bannister has done just about everything asked of him with his seven wins from 10 starts and easily taking his Winter Derby trial. The Monty Arrossa-trained gelding by Maknmoves started his career in Utah with a dominating win in the $69,000 Beehive Futurity. He then traveled to Los Alamitos to win the $118,000 Wild West Futurity and run third in the $46,000 John Deere Los Alamitos Juvenile Challenge.

Bannister showed he could be relevant at the Grade 1 level in his Winter Derby trial. The gelding had plenty of racing room and a clear shot at the finish line. He found his stride and then showed he was in another class than his rivals with a 1 1/4-length win with the second-fastest qualifying time of :19.745.

The Winter Derby should be entertaining and don’t be surprised if a horse with double-digit odds is in the winner’s circle.

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