Q-Racing Blog: Mike Robbins

Mike Robbins gets it done.

Mike Robbins gets it done.

Mike Robbins trains racehorses to win American Quarter Horse racing’s most prestigious races.

Example: If he wins this year’s $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1), and he has four horses ready for the Directors’ Trials, he will be the third all-time leading trainer of Champion of Champions winners behind Blane Schvanveveldt and Paul Jones. He is now tied for third with Bubba Cascio with three Champion of Champions’ victories.

Before the Directors’ Trials on November 19, Robbins sends out Reliance Ranches’ LLC’s Billionaire Boy in the $921,500 Los Alamitos Super Derby on November 12.

Billionaire Boy will be an outsider in the Super Derby, but that hasn’t stopped Robbins in the past. Just a year ago, he won the Super Derby with 8-1 outsider Big Lew, who went on to finish third in the Champion of Champions, at 18-1, after a troubled start.

Billionaires Boy qualified for last year’s $1.9-million Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and he was the second-place runner in his Super Derby trial while gaining ground and making his first start in two months.

“He loves Los Alamitos,” said Robbins. “He didn’t do well in his two starts at Ruidoso, but he loves it here (Los Alamitos).

“He’s been training really well and I’m looking for him to run big,” said Robbins. “He’s got some run in him.”

A son of Carters Cartel, Billionaires Boy also has some breeding in him. His female family is one of the great Robert Gentry-bred lines. His dam Fovee is sired by the thoroughbred sprinter Cuvee. Gentry had a 300-acre central Kentucky farm and would breed top quarter horses to thoroughbred sprinters that looked like quarter horses. Cuvee, a son of Carson City, was one of those stallions.

Fovee is out of Gentry’s Fodice by First Down Dash. Fodice was a stakes winner and qualified for the Rainbow Futurity and the Dash For Cash Futurity.

Fodice’s dam is a mare that Bob and brother Bruce purchased, the stakes winner Zipp Zoro. She on the Blue Ribbon and West Texas Texas derbies before qualifying for the Rainbow Derby.

Never overlook Robbins, especially with a horse who has competed at the Grade 1 level and ran a solid race off a two-month freshening. He is also returning to a track he likes.

Each of his three Champion of Champions winners was named world champion with year they won the Champion of Champions. The three horses are Dashs Dream, Sgt Pepper Feature and Special Leader.

Joe Kirk Fulton’s homebred Dashs Dream was a close to the perfect quarter horse, aside from her sire Dash For Cash, that many people — including myself — have ever seen. She was a world champion (1984) with flawless conformation. All-time great halter horse showman Jerry Wells approached Robbins twice about showing Dashs Dream as a halter horse. Robbins twice told Wells to talk to Joe Kirk Fulton, knowing there was no way he would let his prized mare haul down the road to shows. With Wells on the lead shank, Dashs Dream could have been a world champion halter horse, or, at least, be near the winner in the final lineup.

In addition to her Champion of Champions win, Dashs Dream raced to Grade 1 wins in the All American Derby, Los Alamitos Derby, HQHRA Championship, Go Man Go Handicap and the All American Derby.

“She is my favorite mare,” said Robbins. “She was a special horse. Orren Mixer couldn’t paint one prettier than her.”

Tom Neff’s Sgt Pepper Feature gained fans from the day he stepped on the track in 1980 until he died in 2003 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“He was the one that got my career going,” said Robbins about the well-mannered bay gelding. “When I first came out here to Los Alamitos, he was the only horse that I brought. I wasn’t smart enough to not just bring one horse out here.”

Like Dashs Dream, everyone loved “Pepper.” He possessed the conformation and disposition to be a top performance horse, however shoed his prowess on the straightaway.

The Truckle Feature-sired Sgt Pepper Feature won 13 stakes races among his 20 wins from 62 starts. His stakes wins include the Los Alamitos Derby, Los Alamitos Invitational Championship, Golden State Futurity, Golden State Derby, Dash For Cash Derby and, of course, the Champion of Champions.

“He was gentle and like an old horse,” said Robbins. “He was lazy and wouldn’t work in the morning.”

In December, 1986 a trainer (not Robbins) dropped him in for a $12,500 claiming price. Many of us thought that was totally unacceptable. Brad McKinzie put together a group to purchase “Pepper.” That group included R.D. Hubbard, Bob Baffert, Hal Earnhardt, Mike Pegram and William Mitchell.

Kelly Long (now Dixon) was his groom when he was in the Robbins barn and she gave him the absolute best of care.

Upon Pepper’s retirement, a special going-away presentation was arranged in the Los Alamitos’ winner’s circle and Kelly prepared Pepper like she did for races. There were many wet eyes. It was a well-deserved farewell.

Sgt Pepper Feature then went to the Kentucky Horse Park to represent the American Quarter Horse. He was a hit. The staff loved him because of his great disposition and he was always willing to let the guests pet him. The gelding was there from 1988 until his death in 2003. He is buried at the Horse Park.

Sgt Pepper Feature was a truly great representative of the breed. I wonder if he did more on the track or at the Horse Park. I can argue either side.

Another Fulton homebred, Special Leader, earned his world championship with wins in the All American Gold Cup and the Champion of Champions. They were his only career stakes wins.

The Special Effort son had chips removed after his two-year-old and three-year-old seasons, but was sound at four when he took the world title.

“He was a project,” said Robbins. “He was studdy and we had to change something every time to keep him interested. He was fast.”

Another horse, First Down Dash, was trained by Robbins as a 2-year-old and as a 3-year-old he was trained by Schvaneveldt to his win in the Champion of Champions and the world title.

When Robbins trained First Down Dash, he won the Kindergarten and the Dash For Cash Futurity.

“The first time we worked him, (Danny) Cardoza and I thought he was really fast,” said Robbins.

“He looked like a filly and started to blossom about the time of the Dash For Cash (Futurity),” said Robbins. “When I saw him as a 3-year-old for the first time I almost didn’t recognize him (because he had physically developed).”

Robbins has the resume to win big races. The Los Alamitos Super Derby and the Champion of Champions are almost here and he has won each of those races multiple times.

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