Q-Racing Blog: Futurity Time

It's time to start looking for future superstars...

It's time to start looking for future superstars...

March 1 is less than a week away, and that means the start of the futurity season. That’s the date that AQHA recognizes 2-year-old races. The lone exception is the trials to the Mardi Gras Futurity on February 24.

The March 1 date for recognizing 2-year-old races has helped allow the prospects to mature a couple of months before their first official start. Another reason for starting 2-year-olds later in the year is the 3-year-old derbies. The derby purses have swelled and numerous trainers and owners follow the solid reasoning that they will stop on a 2-year-old developing physical issues and wait for their 3-year-old campaign. Derby money is the incentive.

How have 2-year-olds that started early in their 2-year-old season fared? Here is some anecdotal evidence, not a definitive study.

Let’s look at Easy Jet and Dash For Cash. It’s not fair to compare them with other horses, but they are an example.

Admit they are both freaks, beyond their Hall of Fame status. Their names will always remain in Quarter Horse racing history.

The Walter Merrick-owned, -bred and -trained Easy Jet made his first start as a yearling in 1968 and then set a record in 1969 that will probably never be beaten. The son of Jet Deck and Lena’s Bar (TB), who beat Quarter Horses in Quarter Horse stakes, started 26 times as a 2-year-old with 22 wins. He started in January with a win in the Blue Ribbons Downs Futurity and concluded the year in December with a win in the Sunland Fall Futurity. Along the way, he won the All American Futurity and even went to Columbus, Ohio, to take the All American Quarter Horse Congress Futurity.

Easy Jet was named world champion after that unbelievable campaign.

Bred and raced by the Phillips Ranch and the King Ranch, Dash For Cash barely reached the March 1 starting point, making his debut on March 5, 1976, in the trials to the Lubbock Spring Futurity. He won his trial by 2 1/4 lengths and then took the 300-yard finals in :15.59, a track record that stood until 1984. He then won the Sun Country Futurity at Sunland Park and at Ruidoso Downs took a couple of allowance races before winning his All American Futurity trial and qualifying for the second consolation. His connections passed on the second consolation.

A son of Rocket Wrangler and the King Ranch mare Find A Buyer (TB), Dash For Cash went on to be named world champion in 1976 and 1977 while winning the Champion of Champions each year. In the 1976 running, he set the 440-yard Los Alamitos track record of :21.17 that stood until 2007.

Let’s look at some recent horses with early futurity success and their continuing success.

Duponte, now owned by Bobby Cox with Homero and Kristen Paredes, quickly excelled as a juvenile. He won the Harrah’s Entertainment Futurity (G3) at Louisiana Downs on March 23, 2016, and went on to win the Heritage Place Futurity (G1) and finish second in the Dash For Cash Futurity (G2). He was named the 2017 champion 3-year-old colt after finishing third in the All American Derby (G1) and qualifying for three other major derbies.

Juan Medina’s homebred Eagle Jazz was sensational last year as a juvenile and was honored as champion 2-year-old gelding. He is a hot prospect for the Grade 1 derbies this summer at Ruidoso Downs.

Eagle Jazz won a maiden race at Remington Park on March 18 and, two starts later, on April 22, lost by a head bob to La Vencedora in the Remington Park Oklahoma-bred Futurity (RG2). That would be his sole defeat from eight starts. The strapping One Dashing Eagle-sired gelding won the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity and the Rainbow Futurity. He won his All American Futurity trial by 4 1/2 lengths. However, his time was not fast enough to reach the finals.

Julianna Hawn Holt’s Coronas First Diva won the venerable Oklahoma Futurity (G3) on March 26, 2016, after qualifying in a March 12 trial, and then gave a solid effort for most of the 440-yard All American Futurity in September before giving way to Imperial Eagle and The Marfa Lights in the final strides. Coronas First Diva, a daughter of Corona Cartel and Spit Curl Diva, took third after a game run.

Last year, as a 3-year-old, Coronas First Diva only started twice and had trouble at the start of each race. She was fourth in an optional-claiming race and sixth in her All American Derby trial.

Keep an eye on the futurities over the next few months. There is precedent for success, but remember, patience is a virtue and those large derbies loom. As always, doing what is best for the horse is a winner.

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