Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Future Champions: The Road Begins Again

AQHA racing champions can come from all states.

We congratulate the 2016 AQHA Racing Champions, who were honored in a very smoothly run awards ceremony Wednesday night at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City. It is always wonderful to hear the comments, and see the pure joy of each of the connections as they are honored!

Racing in 2017 continues and we look forward to profiling many prospective champions in the months to come.

Big Track vs. Small Track
By Denis Blake

If you are familiar with Thoroughbred handicapping, you know that class is a major factor. So, if you are playing the Breeders’ Cup or Kentucky Derby, you are likely to dismiss horses coming from a “lower-tier” racing circuit.

Indeed, horses from smaller tracks normally don’t make it to those major Thoroughbred races and rarely even run at top-level tracks like Del Mar and Saratoga. But in American Quarter Horse racing, speed trumps class.

While the majority of horses in important Quarter Horse stakes will be from the major tracks as you might expect, like Remington Park, Los Alamitos and Ruidoso Downs along with the tracks in Texas and Louisiana, it’s not uncommon to see horses with experience at smaller tracks in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and other lesser known racing states. Those horses not only compete in major Quarter Horse stakes, they sometimes win.
To find a prime example, we do not need to look any further than the recently crowned champion 3-year-old gelding Zoomin For Spuds. The past performances for the brilliantly named Idaho-bred show a total of five starts at Les Bois Park and Sandy Downs in his home state.  Remarkably, the now champion racehorse did not win a single one of those races. Yet at Los Alamitos, one of the nation’s top Quarter Horse tracks, he has won eight of 10 starts, including a big upset in the Champion of Champions (G1). 

How can this happen? Simply put, Quarter Horse racing is about pure speed, and a fast horse is a fast horse no matter where he runs. Because Quarter Horse breeders can use artificial insemination and embryo transfer, that means even a small breeder in a small racing state can produce a horse with potent bloodlines. Often those horses start out in their home states, and then go on to the “big tracks” and perform quite well.

The list of 2016 champions also provides another example of this and of how Quarter Horse racing is different than Thoroughbred racing. Nearly all top-level Thoroughbred racehorses are bred in Kentucky, and those not from the Blue Grass State are generally from other major breeding states, like California or Florida. The 2016 champion aged Quarter Horse mare, Grade 1 winner Sass Me Blue, was bred in Utah.

According to The Jockey Club, Utah produces about a dozen registered Thoroughbreds each year, and chances are you are not going to see them at Del Mar or Saratoga. Yet states like Utah and others in the region, and even some unlikely states like Missouri and Maryland, have produced tremendous Quarter Horse runners.

So when you are handicapping Quarter Horse racing, be mindful of the class level each horse has competed against, but don’t give it nearly as much importance as you might for Thoroughbreds. Likewise, when examining the pedigree of an unproven Quarter Horse, don’t get too caught up in where the horse was bred, but rather concentrate solely on his actual bloodlines.

Friday Night Stakes Action at Los Alamitos
By Martha Claussen

Los Alamitos will host two stakes on their Friday, January 20, card and a nice field of seven older horses will close out the card in the $25,000 Cypress Handicap.

Rarely the favorite, Unclaimed Dividend never seems to get the respect he deserves, but appears very capable in this 350-yard stakes. Jesus Rios Ayala will reunite with the EG High Desert Farms’homebred, who is trained by Yanet Rodriguez. Sired by A Mere Chocolate, Unclaimed Dividend captured the A Ransom Handicap on December 16, besting several of the same rivals he will face Friday night. The bay gelding has bankrolled $113,718 in 14 career efforts. He won at odds of 8-1 in the A Ransom; will be interesting to see if he gets more respect in the Cypress!

Viento Negro, the lone 5-year-old in the field, will get his fair share of attention in the betting windows. Owned by Celina Molina, the gelded son of multiple-graded stakes winner, First Moonflash, has plenty of back class, running third in the Grade 1, Go Man Go on September 4 before facing 2015 AQHA world champion Heza Dasha Fire in another Grade 1 test, the Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Viento Negro did have a win last month in the First Down Dash Handicap. Hard to dismiss the Arizona-bred, who is trained by Juan Aleman and will break from post position two under Cruz Mendez.

Free Swinger, owned by Abigail Kawananakoa, has been sharp in his last two starts at Los Alamitos. Trained by Paul Jones, the bay son of Walk Thru Fire was a gate-to-wire allowance winner on November 19. He ran second to Unclaimed Dividend in the A Ransom under 2016 leading Los Al rider Cesar De Alba, who will be back aboard, breaking from the far outside post.

Fawna Knight’s Snitching will be seeking his first win since June, but bad breaks have plagued this Walk Thru Fire gelding in his most recent starts. He rallied to a fourth-place finish in the A Ransom under Tony Guymon. A little more luck in the break could make a big difference for Snitching, who has won three of his 13 career starts.

Due to the power outage on Sunday night, Friday’s card will also feature the rescheduled Barbra B Handicap, which will run as the fourth race on the card.  Texas-bred He Is The Risingstar, lived up to his favoritism on December 9 in the 550-yard Paul Ford Handicap. The Paul Jones-trainee looms large under De Alba.

Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen’s Top-Four  Cypress Handicap Selections: 
#4 Unclaimed Dividend
#2 Viento Negro
#7 Free Swinger
#3 Snitching

Wrangler Racing Aces in January
Visit the Q-Racing page on Facebook or follow the Aces @Q-Racing 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, Louisiana Downs, Sunland Park and Turf Paradise.
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqharacing.com.