Q-Racing Blog: Lookin' Good

I am looking forward to good times.

I am looking forward to good times.

Anyone who really knows me, understands that I’m not an innate rah-rah Pollyanna.

After 40 years in this game (I can’t believe they still pay me), I’m rather straightforward and dedicated to addressing the constant issues. Any business, including horseracing, has issues that should be exposed and addressed.

Ignoring a crisis only makes for a larger crisis. We are recognizing and working on issues. We are moving forward, more than in previous times.

Lately, I’ve been smiling about American Quarter Horse racing.

I always like the time between the first of every year until the previous year’s champs are announced. This year, that date is January 17. The program starts at 6 p.m. Central time and you can watch online at www.aqha.com/racing.

What I like about this time of year is that about everybody has an opinion on the champions and everybody is correct.

The 2-year-old filly division is interesting with Fly Baby Fly and J Fire Up. I think they are each a champion, regardless of who picks up the hardware. Hey, another filly could win and we would really have something to talk about. If your opinion differs, that’s fine.

Jessies First Down could make history with a second consecutive world championship and I don’t think we’ve seen the best from the brilliant Hold Air Hostage yet.

Then there are the aged stallions. Take your best shot in picking the winner of this bunch. In many years, this is a weaker division – not this year.

I only request that the people attending the ceremony do one thing – dress appropriately. One year, I saw a winner on stage in sagging old jeans and no belt. C’mon man.

Money, money, money.

While it may be a bear market for some futurity/derby purses, it’s a bull market for bonus money.

Ruidoso Downs announced that there will be a $2-million bonus for the connections of any horse that can sweep the Ruidoso Futurity, Rainbow Futurity and the All American Futurity. The only horse to sweep the three Ruidoso Downs futurities was Special Effort. However, that was before any bonus money was offered.

The inaugural derby bonus – $1 million – will be offered this year for any horse that can win the Ruidoso, Rainbow and All American derbies. With more seasoned horses and fewer trials, this is more winnable than the futurity bonus. It makes for a stronger incentive to assure horses are in prime shape as 3-year-olds.

Three horses – My Easy Credit (1977), Dash For Speed (1988) and DM Shicago (2005) – have won the three major derbies at Ruidoso Downs. Heartswideopen nearly pulled it off.

This is going to be a game changer.

Thank you, Doc Allred. He changed the name of the Los Alamitos Winter Championship to the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship. As someone who worked and played with Brad for 10 years and has known him for four decades, I promise you, he wouldn’t believe it. It is well deserved. He started at Los Al by cleaning stalls while in high school and before his too-young death, he had moved California horse racing to another level.

Then there is McKinzie, the horse. The Thoroughbred named after Brad is well placed on the Kentucky Derby trail. He is in second place on the points list, with 20 points. The son of Street Sense is 3-for-3, with a Grade 1 win in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (through a DQ) and came back to win the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

McKinzie is trained by Bob Baffert. He was Brad’s closest friend since they were roommates at the University of Arizona. It was Brad who convinced Bob to come to Los Alamitos with his Quarter Horses and then urged him to train Thoroughbreds. They were truly brothers for decades.

Baffert is doing a superlative training job with McKinzie. He took the blinkers off for the Sham and the colt still got a sharp start. He willingly relaxed for rider Mike Smith in fourth place, easily circled the leaders on the final turn and went on to the 3 1/2 -ength win under a hand ride. He easily ran the final eighth in :12.36, with a final time of 1:36.58 for the mile.

It’s all good.

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.