Trainer Recalls First Down Dash's Kindergarten Win

Mike Robbins looks back on the world champion's 1986 race at Los Alamitos.

Press release

Trainer Mike Robbins recalls the start of the racing career of First Down Dash (pictured).

When Mike Robbins saddles standouts SC Money Maker, SC Coronada, and Pack Light for Reliance Ranches in the Grade 2, $321,800 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity on Sunday night, he’ll go in search of his second training win in this prestigious race.

Robbins' first Kindergarten win came with the great First Down Dash, in 1986, a colt that would go on to graduate with the highest honors in racing, as he was named the AQHA World Champion in 1987, but also go on to become the sport’s all-time leading stallion of stakes winners and money earned. Robbins, who has trained many great horses during his outstanding career - World Champions Sgt Pepper Feature, Dashs Dream, and Special Leader come to mind - will never forget the one year that he trained the great First Down Dash for Vessels Stallion Farm.

“He was just a phenomenal horse,” Robbins recalled. “He was not a big horse when he was a 2-year-old. He was real slight, kind of a small horse, but he didn’t make any mistakes. He was pretty wild running the first time we started him. Danny Cardoza just sat on him and let him run.

"He won his maiden race by a couple of lengths, by daylight or something like that," he added. "He then came back in his trial and won it and then came back in the final, and of course, won that as well. He was just phenomenal. Never made any mistakes.”

Even before Robbins ever started First Down Dash, the trainer knew that he was in the presence of a special horse.

“We felt the first time we worked him that he had the potential to be that kind of a horse,” Robbins said. “He did everything right from the word go. Like I said, he was a little bit wild running and had to keep gathered up, but he had tons of speed from the first time we raced him. I won the Kindergarten with him and then won the Dash For Cash Futurity with him at Hollywood Park – that was the first time we ran at that track back in 1986.

“Frank “Scoop” Vessels took over the racing operation and they wanted a California-based trainer, which I understood completely," he added. "Blane Schvaneveldt got the horse during his 3-year-old year. From August of when he won the Dash For Cash, until I saw him again at the Los Alamitos Winter Meet out here, it was just amazing how much he had grown. He went from one extreme to the other. He just grew into a big, good looking, and stout horse. The only time he got beat is the first time they ran him here. I told Blane, ‘They won’t beat him again,’ and they didn’t.”  

A son of two-time world champion Dash For Cash, First Down Dash won five of six races during his 2-year-old year and then eight of nine and the AQHA World Champion title in 1987. He would then retire to a proflific career at stud. Years later, Robbins still remembers what Cardoza told him about First Down Dash.

“He said, ‘He doesn’t break from the gate, he just stampedes,’” Robbins recalled. “From the first time he hit the ground, he was running wide open. He could run distances. Nothing bothered that horse.”

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit