Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Impactful weekend ahead at Ruidoso Downs.

Impactful weekend ahead at Ruidoso Downs.

Jockey Francisco Calderon Ready for the Big Stage
By Martha Claussen

The excitement is building for the first of the Grade 1 futurities this summer at Ruidoso Downs.

Jockey Francisco Calderon will pilot This Is A Deal Too for owner/breeder Pete Scarmardo in Sunday’s $1 million Ruidoso Futurity. The gelded son of Dealagame out of the First Down Dash mare Lady Lilia was the third-fastest qualifier on the second day of trials.

The Texas-bred broke his maiden at first asking in trials for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2). Calderon rode him to victory, but opted to ride Leon Bard’s other trainee, and fastest qualifier, This Is An Eagle in the final. Scarmardo also bred This Is An Eagle, the $100,000 TQHA Yearling Sale colt purchased by Mary Lynne Thompson. He was in the winner’s circle at Sam Houston Race Park on April 29 offering congratulations to Thompson, Bard and Calderon. When asked about the eight-place finish of This Is A Deal Too, Scarmardo simply replied “he’ll have another chance.”

And he did on May 27 at Ruidoso Downs, winning the first trial as the post-time favorite.

“He didn’t get the best break,” said Calderon. “But, I could just feel him from under me and he was rolling pretty good.”

Calderon is not worried about his gelding’s chances if he gives a slight edge to the leaders out of the gate in the final.

“In the Sam Houston Futurity trial, he broke about a half-length behind the 3 (Capital Ice),” recalled Calderon. “He just dug in and started passing horses; it seemed that he liked the pressure of seeing other horses and wanting to get to them.”

Calderon will ride Friday at Retama Park, which is opening night of the 2017 Quarter Horse meet at the San Antonio-area racetrack, before heading to Ruidoso on Saturday. The 23-year-old was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and began riding in 2012.

He is off to a great start this year, with the Mardi Gras Futurity score at Louisiana Downs and a solid meet at Sam Houston Race Park, winning multiple stakes, including the richest event of the season, guiding This Is An Eagle to a decisive score in the $483,600 Sam Houston Futurity.

While he is still young and does not yet have the credentials of champion jockeys Ricky Ramirez and Cody Jensen, who also have mounts in Sunday’s final, Calderon is ready, eager and waiting to respond to the call to ride in the major stakes. 

Trainer Jose Sanchez qualified three fillies for the $271,738 Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) at Louisiana Downs. He phoned Calderon to see if he would ride the seventh- fastest qualifier, Blue Eyed Fance in the March 18th final.

“I think I answered yes before the phone rang,” Calderon said with a smile.

Blue Eyed Fance was dismissed by the betting public at odds of 15-1. She won and paid $33.

"If I get the call, I’ll be there," he said. "I dream about riding the big races!”

He has worked This Is An Eagle twice in preparation for the Rainbow Futurity trials next month. The undefeated colt is also paid into the All American Futurity, and that weekend in August will certainly be one to remember for Calderon. His wife, Valerie, is expecting their first child, a daughter, in mid-August.

“I hope either she has the baby early or a few days late,” admitted Calderon.  “But my wife understands that my job will help us pay for all the things our baby will need!”

Talented Field Assembled in the $1 million Ruidoso Derby (G1)
By Jennifer K. Hancock

The Ruidoso Derby kicks off Ruidoso Downs’ summer Grade 1 stakes schedule. Twelve trials were contested May 28 to determine the 10 fastest qualifiers for the 400-yard stakes with an estimated purse of $1 million. The final is carded as the 11th and final race on Ruidoso’s Saturday card. The race has an estimated post time of 5:35 MDT.

Ricky Ramirez qualified four horses to the Ruidoso Derby for trainer Trey Wood. Ramirez chose #8 High Plains Perry for the final, and that’s good enough for me. The Texas Classic Futurity (G1) winner has never finished worse than second in six starts. The only blemish on the Mr Jess Perry gelding’s record is running second by a neck in an All American Futurity trial last year after being bumped at the break. I have a soft spot in my heart of Chicks Beduino mares, which is the breeding of High Plains Perry’s dam. Did I mention that High Plains Perry won his Ruidoso Derby trial by one length?

Second-fastest qualifier #10 Apolltical Chad is the highest money earner in the field and garners morning-line-favorite status. The Apollitical Jess gelding won the $1-million Ruidoso Futurity (G1) and ran fourth in the $3-million All American Futurity (G1). In six lifetime starts, the Wes Giles trainee has won three races and finished second two times. Ridden by Adrian A. Ramos in all of his starts, Apolltical Chad won his Ruidoso Derby trial by 1 1/4 lengths.

Unraced as a 2-year-old, third-fastest qualifier #5 Corona Carmelita is undefeated in two 2017 starts. Bred by Julianna Hawn Holt, who has a reputation for owning an impeccable herd of blue hen mares, Corona Carmelita won her maiden at Remington Park my three-fourths of a length and is one of only two fillies in the Ruidoso Derby final.

#9 Cartelscandymachine won his trial by two lengths with G.R. Carter Jr. in the irons. The Clint Crawford trainee has only finished off the board once in eight lifetime starts, and he’s run third in half his starts. Carter is a 10-time AQHA Champion Jockey award recipient and knows how to get the best out of his mounts. Breaking between my two top picks, I expect Cartelscandymachine to be pulled to the finish line.

Jennifer K. Hancock’s selections:
#8 High Plains Perry
#10 Apolltical Chad
#5 Corona Carmelita
#9 Cartelscandymachine

Wrangler Racing Aces in June
Wrangler Racing Ace Martha Claussen will be onsite at Delta Downs on Friday, June 9 with fan education services and a free tip sheet for fans. She will also join track announcer Don Stevens to preview the entire card, including the trials for the Firecracker Derby.

Visit the @AQHARacing page on Facebook or follow the Aces 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, Arapahoe Park, SunRay Park, Sun Downs, Delta Downs and Ruidoso Downs.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.