All American: Right Tool for the Job

Tools In The Sky hopes to make quick work of the All American Futurity.

AQHA Media

All American Futurity qualifier Tools In The Sky. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Breaking a maiden while qualifying to the All American Futurity (G1) is a nice way for a racehorse to make his first entrance into the winner’s circle.

Marking his first win on his fourth career race, Tools In The Sky won his All American trial by a neck over fellow qualifier Im Jess Special V. With Felipe Garcia-Luna in the irons for Mike Joiner, the gelding by deceased all-time leading sire First Down Dash toured the quarter mile in :21.479.

“Every race, he has worked a little bit better – not way better every race, but a little bit better every time,” says Juan Licon (lee kon), who with brothers Mario and Jesus races Tools In The Sky in the name of their Licon Farm and Ranch LLC. “So, we said, OK, hopefully in this one, he’ll go straight and not make any mistakes. That’s what happened. But still, we were surprised. We thought he’d run a little bit better, but that time he really ran good and he wins.”

Tools In The Sky checked in with the third-fastest time overall, while the Jess Lips gelding Im Jess Special V clocked the fourth-fastest :21.521.

Licon Farm and Ranch is a family operation on about 1,500 acres at Odessa, Texas, where they raise beef cattle and roping steers, and offer hunting leases for mule deer. Juan and his wife, Magaly, have four children; Mario and wife Fernanda also have four kids, and Jesus and wife Elsa have three.

“We grew up with riding horses,” Juan says. “We’ve liked horses since we were kids. That’s how we learned. So, we’ve had horses for a long time for riding. Some friends got us into racing. We went to Ruidoso to see the All American Futurity, and it’s always fun at Ruidoso – nice weather, cool, real nice place. So, one day maybe 14 or 15 years ago we’re talking and we said, hey, let’s go buy a horse! So, we started buying and we liked it.”

The brothers won the Ruidoso Juvenile Stakes last year with the Mr Jess Perry gelding Mr Perry Strong, who also ran third in the Hobbs America Futurity (G2) at Zia Park. However, this is their first year to qualify for any Grade 1 futurity – and now they’ve done it twice. Longgone Perry, another of their Mr Jess Perry geldings, ran in MM Fourinthemorning’s Rainbow Futurity (G1).

“My brothers and I, we just like horses,” Juan says. “We got good luck with the ones we bought last year.”

It didn’t start that way. Tools In The Sky first faced the starter in the March 23 trials to the West Texas Futurity (G2).

“They sent this colt to me a couple months before the West Texas trials,” says Joiner, who has conditioned the earners of more than $23.2 million. “He was not gate broke. They’d brushed him a little bit, but not much else. We kinda rushed the gate work in him, and he didn’t run very good in the West Texas trials.

“He was a studdy little booger,” says the trainer. “Everything wrong he could do, (he did). So, we gelded him after the trials and brought him up to Ruidoso.”

Tools In The Sky then started in the May 25 trials to the Ruidoso Futurity (G1).

“He ran a good third in Ruidoso trials and showed some talent,” Joiner says. “The colt had shown some signs of real talent a couple times, but he just hadn’t quite put it together. So, then we ran him in the Rainbow trials and he kinda stepped back just about the time they kicked the gate. He got away bad and just didn’t perform very well. He was in the middle of the racetrack, there wasn’t much place to run – you know that kind of deal.”
Tools In The Sky also finished back in the July 6 trials to the Rainbow Futurity (G1). The connections then pointed him to the All American trials.

“He drew the 1 hole, broke pretty good – not great, but he broke pretty good and finally ran a really good race,” Joiner says. “You can’t ever tell about those First Down Dashs. If they show signs of talent, you just have to keep trying them.”

Tools In The Sky had tried at 300, 350, 400 and then 440 yards.

“I didn’t think distance was going to be a problem,” Joiner says. “It was always just more of a mental thing for him. He just kinda needed to mature mentally, and he’s finally kinda come around, ran a big race and qualified. Now, I think he can still mature a little bit more, mentally. He’s just now really acting like he wants to tend to business and not act like a dumb teenager.”

The Licon brothers purchased the horse at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale for $30,000.

“We looked at the horse, and we really liked him,” Juan says. “But he was kind of short and small when we bought him, but he’s a good eater so he’s been growing pretty good.”

Tools In The Sky is one of more than 2,000 starters by First Down Dash. The world champion stallion died in 2010, but has sired the earners of more than $87.7 million, including a record 36 champions and six All American Futurity winners – Royal Quick Dash, Dash Thru Traffic, A Classic Dash, Corona Cash, Falling In Loveagain and No Secrets Here.

The gelding is out of the 19-year-old stakes-winning Jody O Toole mare No Tools Required, who from nine starters has produced six winners and the earners of more than $550,000. They include stakes winners One Hot Mecanic (by Corona Caliente, $158,472) and Required Fire (by Walk Thru Fire, $71,235), stakes-placed runner Firing Tools (by Walk Thru Fire, $153,018) and Grade 1 runner Tools Of Fire (by Walk Thru Fire, $155,905).

The blood continues to produce. This is the immediate family of AQHA Open Supreme Champion Fly The Red Eye and stakes winner Power Roll ($82,311). Tools In The Sky’s half-sister Required Fire became the dam of Restricted Grade 1-winner Jess Fire Chick ($322,040) and the stakes-placed runner Flash Moonfire ($104,064).

Tools In The Sky was bred by George and Ruben Villalobos of Riverside, California, who in their own name have bred 18 American Quarter Horses, 11 of which have started and five that have returned winners. Altogether, Ruben-breds as of last week had earned of $44,039, a total which will more than double even if Tools In The Sky is the last horse to cross the finish line in the All American Futurity. Tenth place in the $3 million final pays $60,000.

“Any time you get one in this race, it’s a good day,” Joiner says. “We’re really happy to be here and hopefully the horse will improve a little bit more, which I think he’ll have to. This is a pretty tough race, as it always is. He’s going to have to improve a little bit more to have a chance at it, but I sure think there’s a possibility.”

The owners like the possibilities, but they had to sweat for a while to get there. Tools In The Sky earned his berth in the first race on the first day of trials.

“But we had the rest of the trials and you know Ruidoso: It’s always raining and windy,” Juan says. “So we said, OK, we got our trial but we have to wait until the end. We were nervous. At Ruidoso, you never know until the trials end there. We waited for the last trial to make sure.”

They are sure to be in Quarter Horse racing’s richest event.

“It’s good luck – I think we’ve been lucky,” Licon says. “Mike is a good guy and he’s a good trainer. So I would like to say good luck to everybody. Racing Quarter Horses is a real nice hobby, and for a lot of people, a real good business, too. I just want a good, clean race, and for everybody to be safe and happy.”

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