J Fire Up is PCQHRA Horse of the Year

The multiple Grade 1 winner was honored at Los Alamitos on Thursday.

Edited press release

The PCQHRA Awards Banquet was held on Thursday at Los Alamitos Racecourse

J Fire Up, a multiple stakes winning daughter of Kiddy Up racing for Darling Farms, trainer Jaime Gomez and Ernesto Solis, was named the 2017 Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Horse of the Year at a banquet held on Thursday at Los Alamitos.

Bred by Gomez, J Fire Up earned $1,430,411 at Los Alamitos last season, breaking the track's previous single-season earnings record for a filly or mare previously held by Higher Fire, who banked $1,241,933 in 2015. The filly won three graded stakes in 2017, including the Golden State Million (G1) and Los Alamitos Two-Million (G1) futurities.

J Fire Up was also named PCQHRA champion 2-year-old filly.

“I see J Fire Up as one of my daughters,” Gomez said. “I’m really happy for J Fire Up’s dam, This Boogie Fires, and for her sire, Kiddy Up. J Fire Up is so fast out of the gate and the next day she’s like a million dollars. I took a couple of little chips out of her ankle. I’ll give her about four months off and we’ll be back in about six months. You’ll probably see her around before the Los Alamitos Super Derby. That’s the plan.

“I’m so proud of this filly,” Gomez said on January 17, when J Fire Up was named AQHA champion 2-year-old. "I’ve trained a few champions, but to train, raise and breed one, that’s something very special. This is one of the best moments of my life.”

 
Enrique Gonzalez receives the
Frank Vesssels Sr. Memorial
Award at Thursday's PCQHRA
Awards Banquet. PHOTO: Los
Alamitos Racecourse

Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms received the Frank Vessels Sr. Memorial Award or outstanding contributions to Quarter Horse racing. Gonzalez's first Quarter Horse at Los Alamitos was Quality Counts, who he acquired in the early 1990s and was trained by Jaime Gomez. Since then, EG High Desert Farms has grown into one of the nation’s leading racing operations and a force at Los Alamitos for more than two decades. Since 2000, Gonzalez has won 507 races from 2,922 starters, and his starters have earned $8,136,626. EG High Desert Farms was recognized as the AQHA’s champion owner in 2003, and it has campaigned AQHA champions Hawkinson (2001 aged stallion), Hawkish (2003 2-year-old colt), and Walk Thru Crystal (2015 2-year-old filly).

“It’s great to be in the sport of Quarter Horse racing,” Gonzalez said. “When I heard how many horses I’ve raced over the years, it took me by surprise. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been special to have been a part of nice horses over the years.

The PCQHRA posthumously awarded Brad McKinzie with the Sam Thompson Award, which is presented to an individual who displays leadership within the Los Alamitos racing community. McKinzie passed away last August, but he’ll be forever remembered at Los Alamitos Race Course for his many contributions to the sport. He was co-founder of the Finish Line Self Insurance Group, and he wasone of the driving forces in bringing daytime Southern California Thoroughbred racing back to Los Alamitos Race Course.

McKinzie served as the vice president and general manager of the Los Alamitos Racing Association, overseeing the expansion of the Orange County oval from a 5/8th of a mile track to a one-mile oval, as well as the addition of 700 stalls to accommodate Thoroughbreds following the closure of Hollywood Park. He was also the co-founder of the racing publication QuarterWeek Magazine from 1984-99, and he served as general manager of Los Alamitos Race Course in the 1990s. 

“Brad kept his spirit and positive attitude to the very end,” said Bob Baedeker, who was one of the speakers on behalf of the McKinzie family. “Brad’s mother, Jean, was there by his side the entire time and so was his brother, Mark. They handled everything with such strength and dignity. It was amazing to see the love in the McKinzie family. Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, and Bob Baffert wanted to name a horse after Brad. Bob chose a Street Sense colt and named him McKinzie. Bob has said ‘I think we got the right one,’ and hopefully this horse will be racing on Kentucky Derby day. I know Brad will be looking from above rooting on McKinzie.”

Ed Allred was named PCQHRA owner of the year and breeder of the year. Allred finished as the leading owner in terms of victories during the 2017 Quarter Horse meet at Los Alamitos, and he campaigned homebred stakes winners He Looks Hot, Tustin Kid, and Bound To Bet, who was named the top distance horse of the year.

Paul Jones was named PCQHRA trainer of the year after leading the Los Alamitos meet in Quarter Horse wins while also campaigning graded stakes winners Jess Good Reason, KVN Corona, and That Rico.

“I’m the one that accepts this award, but this award belongs to the whole team,” Jones said.

Gomez received the special achievement trainer award for his great work with the champion J Fire Up. He also trained Dutch Masters III’s Chazaq to victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and Lisa Anderson’s Moonie Blues to victory in the Wild West Futurity. Gomez also received the trophy for breeder special achievement award for J Fire Up and Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1) winner Imaqtpie.

Jesus Rios Ayala was named PCQHRA jockey of the year after winning his first Los Alamitos Quarter Horse riding title. Rios Ayala, who finished second in the jockey race in 2016 by just one victory behind Cesar De Alba, had a great season last year, as he rode stakes winners That Rico, Moonie Blues, SC Vapor Trail, Flash N Bling, and Hoose Coose.

Jose Nicasio won the jockey special achievement award after piloting J Fire Up to a record breaking season. Nicasio, 21, was also awarded the Val Tonks Award, which is given to an up and coming Quarter Horse rider.

The PCQHRA owner special achievement award went to Reliance Ranches after campaigning stakes winners Flash N Bling and SC Vapor Trail. Reliance Ranches also raced Los Alamitos Two Million finalists Call Me Cole and Peighnt Your Fate, and Vessels Maturity (G1) runner-up The Charm Of Corona. 

Keith Nellesen's KVN Corona was the top 2-year-old colt after enjoying a perfect juvenile campaign. The Corona Cartel colt won all six of his starts, including the Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1) and PCQHRA Breeders Futurity (G2).

“My backup plan was that he would be a barrel horse,” said Nellesen, if KVN Corona didn't shine on the racetrack. “This is our third crop of horses to go to the track. We are committed to racing at Los Alamitos. My 8-year-old daughter told me that we were partners on KVN Corona. I asked her what that meant and she said ‘it means that I get half.’ Instead I made her a deal that she would get (some money) every time he won. She said ‘that’s even better.’ ” 

Abigail Kawananakoa’s multiple Grade 1 finalist Chance To Fire was named the top 2-year-old gelding. Chazaq and That Rico, a Grade 2-winning son of Carters Cartel owned by Thompson Racing and trainer Paul Jones, were named co-champion 3-year-old gelding. Leah and David Nelson’s Kiddy Up Cowgirl was named the champion 3-year-old filly after winning the PCQHRA Breeders Derby. The champion 3-year-old colt was Stelfast, the winner of the El Primero Del Ano Derby and a multiple stakes winner in 2017.

Mr PYC To You, a now 5-year-old son of PYC Paint Your Wagon owned by Ron and Denise VanAmburgh and trainer Jose Flores, was named top aged stallion. Mr PYC To You scored the biggest upset in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions history, after he won the 2017 edition at 60-1 odds.

“I’ve watched the Champion of Champions 500 times and I still think we are going to lose the race,” Ron VanAmburgh said. “(Jockey) Carlos Huerta was open for the Champion of Champions. He was the final piece of the puzzle.” 

Jess Good Reason, who raced for John and Cina Sperry, was named top aged mare after she won the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap, Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial, and ran second in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap.

“John was a good man and an owner in my barn for about 25 years,” Jones said. “He was big part of my success. He was a great man and will be deeply missed.”

Bill Hoburg’s homebred BH Lisas Boy was named the top aged gelding after winning six of seven starts and scoring victories in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Grade 1 Vessels Maturity.

Other equine awards included J. Francisco Diaz’s stakes winner Hoose Coose (most improved horse) and Thompson Racing and Jones’ multiple stakes winner That Rico (the Moonist Award for his season long success and longevity for a stakes or allowance horse).

Also, the PCQHRA presented Dr. Steve Burns’ Remember Me Rose with the James V.A. Carter Award for outstanding broodmare. Remember Me Rose is the dam of three Grade 1 futurity finalists in 2017: Golden State Million and Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Remember To Dash, Golden State Million Futurity finalist The Revenant, and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finalist Remember The Rose. 

Ed Allred and T.J. Simers’ Kiddy Up, the sire of major stakes winners J Fire Up and Kiddy Up Cowgirl, was presented with the Three Bars Award as the outstanding stallion. 

TVG received the PCQHRA Special Recognition Award.

The leading Quarter Horsemen on the Northern California Fair Circuit were also recognized. They are owner Etelvina and Isaias Olmos, trainer Isauro Guillen, and jockey Jesus Arriaga.

Awards for leading money winning Cal-bred in nine difference divisions were also presented on the night. They are as follows:

LEADING MONEY-EARNING CAL-BRED HORSE OF THE YEAR: J FIRE UP (Breeder: Jaime Gomez)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT: MUCHO BRAVADO (Breeder: John Firth)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING: CHANCE TO FIRE (Breeder: Ed Allred)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY: J FIRE UP (Breeder: Jaime Gomez)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT: STELFAST (Breeders: Paul Jones & Marcelo Jorge)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING: KATELLA DELI (Breeder: Dr. Steve Burns)         

LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY: KIDDY UP COWGIRL (Breeder: David Martin)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING AGED CAL-BRED MARE: SEPERTIST DASH (Breeder: Aldo Quintana) 

LEADING MONEY-EARNING AGED CAL-BRED GELDING: HEZA DASHA FIRE (Breeder: S-Quarter K LLC)

LEADING MONEY-EARNING AGED CAL-BRED MARE: THERMONUCLEAR ENERGY (Breeder: Parsons Family Partnership)

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