AJS Anna Smoke, Flay, Quirky Shine on California Breeders' Champions Night

Nine stakes worth $885,000 in purses were run Saturday at Los Alamitos.

Press release

Jockey Cesar DeAlba and Rod Macpherson's AJS Anna Smoke return to the Los Alamitos winner's circle after winning Saturday's Governor's Cup Futurity. PHOTO: Scott Martinez

It was an emotional winner’s circle for longtime owner Rod MacPherson after his AJS Anna Smoke, a horse bred and previously owned by his late wife Anna, won the $387,500 Governor’s Cup Futurity on California Breeders Champions Night on Saturday at Los Alamitos.

“Anna would have enjoyed this so much,” said MacPherson. “I know she’s watching from above and loving this victory. If she was still with us she would have been here or watching the race at home on TV and would have been so happy with this win. I miss that she’s not here, but I know she’s watching us.”

Anna MacPherson passed away on June 20 after a courageous battle against an illness and just one day after AJS Anna Smoke ran in the $1,100,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity. AJS Anna Smoke has not lost since that day, as the Separatist gelding won his Governor’s Cup Futurity trial with the fastest qualifying time before returning with this half-length victory over Ed Burke Million runner-up Worth Doing.

Ridden by Cesar De Alba, AJS Anna Smoke covered the 350 yards in :17.544 while improving his record to five wins in six starts. He earned $160,650 to take his lifetime earnings to $192,775.

“This horse knows how to win,” said MacPherson, who also won the Governor’s Cup Futurity with the great Separatist in 1999. “He reminds me a lot of Separatist in the way he behaves in the gate. Separatist was perhaps the best horse in the gate that’s ever been at this racetrack. He would go in the gate and his head would not move. You could not get him to move his head to one side or the other if you tried. He just wouldn’t move. This horse is like that.”

John Cooper saddled AJS Anna Smoke to give the trainer his third Governor's Cup Futurity victory; he also saddled Aladuino to win the 1982 running as well as the aforementioned Separatist. Having already made six starts since April 2, AJS Anna Smoke will now be taking a break according to his owner. He’ll be back for the two major futurities held at Los Alamitos later in the year, the Golden State Million Futurity and the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

“I’m excited because I have a full (sibling) to AJS Anna Smoke and also a half-sister to him by Foose,” MacPherson added. “When we bought his mother, (the 7-year-old mare) Annas Babe, it was because of her potential as a broodmare. I think she’s going to be a great producer.”

Sired by A Regal Choice, Annas Babe is out of the talented mare Babe On The Fly. Annas Babe is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Rock You and Little Talks. Her family traces back to the legendary Miss Princess. 

Fawna Knight’s Worth Doing was solid from start to finish to earn $65,025 for his runner-up effort. Ridden by Tony Guymon, the Walk Thru Fire has now earned $255,450 in his career. Trained by Mark Skeen, he’s finished in the top two in all five of his lifetime outings.

Dutch Masters III and Jaime Gomez’s Smell Perfume, a full sister to multiple stakes winner Bac In Front, earned $45,900 for running third. Stelfast, A Bit Quirky, Up For Dashing, Myfavoritestreaker, Seared, American Force and Kiddy Up Cowgirl completed the field.

Governor's Cup Derby
The going was rough during the running of the $200,000 Governor’s Cup Derby, but after the dust had settled EG High Desert Farms’ Unclaimed Dividend posted the upset of the night after winning at odds of 36-1. The race also featured the disqualification of Snitching from sixth place to 10th after a lot of bumping took place midway through the 400-yard dash.

 
EG High Desert Farms' Unclaimed Dividend outran his
36-1 odds to win Saturday's Governor's Cup Derby
(RG3). PHOTO: Scott Martinez

Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Yanet Rodriguez, Unclaimed Dividend lugged out during the race after breaking from post one, but he did enough to hold off 4-5 favorite Thermonuclear Energy by a half-length while covering the distance in :19.972. The gelding by A Mere Chocolate was enjoying his first victory since his second lifetime start back on May 3, 2015.

“He ran several nice races as a freshman, but he had some bad luck and some rough trips,” said Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms. “He got bumped around a lot (during his freshman year) and he became a little hesitant and nervous. We took him home to the ranch and gave him some rest.

"He had a few little issues we had to take care ofand we did that," Gonzalez added. "We brought him back and he’s been rejuvenated. He ran a nice race tonight and scored a nice surprising win. We needed the win. It feels good.”

Unclaimed Dividend’s odds in this race were the result of an eighth place finish in his 2016 debut against allowance competition and then a solid third to fastest qualifier Fervents Dynasty in a derby trial. The homebred flew out of the gate in the final, opened up a half-length lead, and despite lugging out never relinquished his advantage. Unclaimed Dividend earned $81,900 for the win to take his career earnings to $95,428. This was his second win in 10 starts.

“We’ll run him in handicap races next,” Gonzalez added.

Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Thermonuclear Energy had very troubled trip in the derby trials, but she recovered to post a superb 1 ¼-length victory. The Walk Thru Fire filly lugged out in the final, but still earned second place money of $33,150. Chris O’Dell saddled and Rodrigo Aceves rode the homebred filly.

Martha Wells’ Checkn Fire earned $23,400 for running third. Phoebes Dynast, the winner of last year’s Governor’s Cup Futurity, finished fourth and was followed by Fervents Dynasty, Sale Topper, Makin Moments, Chicks Fayvorite, Zendaya, and Snitching.  

Spencer Childers California Breeders' Championship
Paul Jones and Thompson Racing’s Flay, the only 3-year-old in the $100,000 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap field, proved to be too strong for his older foes, as he posted a tremendous wire-to-wire half-length victory in the 400-yard race.

 
Flay earned his first graded stakes win in
Saturday's Spencer Childers California
Breeders' Championship. PHOTO: Scott
Martinez

Named after Bobby Flay, the celebrity chef and avid horse racing ambassador, the colt by Favorite Cartel is the first 3-year-old to win the Spencer Childers since Be A Bono picked up his first of three consecutive wins in this race during his eventual World Champion campaign in 2004. His victory came against a field that included Forget It, a three-time derby winner in 2015, and All American Derby third place finisher Fire Fortune. Forget It was second in this race, while Fire Fortune ran third.

“We thought we were up against it,” said Terry Thompson about the quality of competition Flay was facing. “Paul and I wanted to test it and and see where we were at with Flay after the last stakes race when he ran such a big race.

"We wanted to take a chance and see the boundaries of where we were and where we could run him," Thompson added. "He's been feeling good. Our only question (was) that he had been (off) for about 85-86 days. He runs well fresh. He just ran big tonight. Once he broke I knew he had a chance because he always finishes.”

Ridden by Oscar Peinado, Flay doubled his career earnings after picking up a first place check of $48,000 for this victory. Now an earner of $95,637, Flay improved to four wins in seven starts. Flay came into this race after winning the Dillingham Handicap over a strong field that included graded stakes qualifiers Mi Viejo and My Favorite Check. He won this race in a time of :19.829.

“He runs with his head down,” Jones described. “Foose also ran with his head down. It’s funny because they’re half-brothers and they run with the same style. Their mother, Summertime Quickie, didn’t run that way, but her babies both do. It’s funny because not too many other horses run with that style. Flay puts his head down and just goes. The one thing about him is that the longer the race goes the stronger he goes. That’s the Favorite Cartel in him.”

“To win this race, the Spencer Childers, who is such an icon in this sport, it’s such a big thing,” Thompson said.

Flay will now be pointed to the Los Alamitos Super Derby with the hope of earning another date with older horses in the $600,000 Champion of Champions in December.

“We might even take a chance in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials,” Thompson said.

Hector Villalobos’ Forget It earned $20,500 for running second, while Jaime Gomez’s Fire Fortune banked $10,000 for finishing third. Fiery Kimbo, Front And Center, Walk The Catwalk, Trust Me and Look Of A Dasher completed the field. Grade 1 winner He Looks Hot was scratched due to a fever.  

California Breeders' Matron Handicap
Ed Allred’s Quirky successfully defended her Matron Stakes title while also becoming the first mare to win three stakes races on California Breeders Champions Night. With back-to-back wins in the Matron, Quirky also won the Debutante Stakes during her sophomore year in 2014. The now 5-year-old mare joins World Champions A Ransom and Be A Bono as the only horses with three victories on California’s premier racing night of racing for state-bred Quarter Horses.

Quirky also improved her record to nine wins in 17 career starts with eight of those victories coming in stakes races. A winner of the Charger Bar Handicap, Ivan Ashment Handicap, Matron, and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap in 2015, Quirky has already won two stakes races this year thanks to successful title defenses in the Charger Bar and now the $40,000 Matron at 400 yards.

Quirky will now be pointed to the September 25 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1), a race she won last year. This was the mare's first start since the Charger Bar on January 6. Quirky went to the breeding shed during her time away from the racetrack.

“She’s run in a lot of huge races, but it’s the first race back after a layoff where I’ve felt the most pressure,” said trainer James Glenn Jr. “It’s good to have that pressure off. She ran great. She’s so special. She’s put me on the map.”

Ridden by Eulices Gomez, Quirky earned $22,000 after covering the distance in :19.853. She’s now banked $415,598 in her career. Miss Princess Handicap winner Vivid finished second, while multiple stakes winner Bac In Front ran third. 

California Breeders' Freshman Stakes
Owner Kolleen Ledgerwood had a night to remember on California Breeders Champions Night, as her juvenile runners Scholarly and Favorite Aquaholic won their respective divisions of the $25,000 California Breeders Freshman Stakes.

Trained by Roberto Dominguez, Scholarly had been knocking on the door of qualifying to major futurities at Los Alamitos. She was second by a nose in her trial to the Kindergarten Futurity to Ur My Princess, a rival that did qualify to the Kindergarten final.

Scholarly also finished second in her trial to the Ed Burke Million Futurity, just missing winning that race by a head. She won the Freshman Stakes for Fillies at 350 yards in a time of :17.904 for her second victory in four career starts. She’s been first or second in every one of her outings with this victory earning her $13,750.

“Roberto has been working with her so that she would stay straight and finish the race because the last couple of times she’s missed the big races by just a few head bobs,” Ledgerwood said. “That filly did everything right. (Jockey Rodolfo Arvizu) got her out (of the gate) and kept after her and this time she finished the race.”

Sired by TR Dasher, Scholarly is a Los Alamitos Equine Sale graduate and is eligible to compete in all of the major futurities at the Orange County track.

Ledgerwood then enjoyed a victory in the Freshman Stakes for colts and geldings after the Dominguez-trained Favorite Aquaholic won from along the rail with Jonathan Roman up. It was Roman’s first-ever stakes victory.

“I feel very proud of (the win),” Roman said. “Hard work is paying off. It’s a great feeling. It’s like winning the first race all over again.”

“I’m so happy for Jonathan and for the entire team,” Ledgerwood added. “Roberto works hard and is doing a great job. It’s been an amazing weekend of racing for our horses. We got everybody entered in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. We’re just hopeful.”

Favorite Aquaholic earned $13,750 after covering the 350 yards in :17.779.

California Breeders' Debutante Stakes and Jens L. List Memorial Stakes
While Kolleen Ledgerwood and Roberto Dominguez teamed up to win two stakes races with their 2-year-olds, owner Ed Allred and trainer Scott Willoughby joined forces to win a pair of events on Champions Night with Allred’s homebred 3-year-olds.

Ridden by Carlos Huerta, Nymph won the $25,000 Debutante Stakes for fillies. He was back in the winner’s circle with Allred and Tom Seibly’s Stel Easy after winning the $25,000 Jens List Memorial Stakes for colts and geldings. In the Debutante, Nymph was picking her second stakes victory in a row after also collecting first place money in the Emma Bug Handicap on June 17. The Foose filly also won the Corona Chick Handicap as a 2-year-old last year.

“This little filly breaks like a rocket,” Willoughby said. “She’s got a big heart. She runs as fast as she can all the way. She’s a great little filly. I think she’s going to be one of my best 3-year-olds yet.

"We’ve always liked her," the trainer added. "She’s just a little small so we didn’t run her much as a 2-year-old to let her grow up. We waited to bring her back as a 3-year-old and it seems to have worked out.”

A winner of four of seven starts, Nymph covered the 350 yards in :17.476.  She earned $13,750 for the win.

Racing from post 10 as the 3-5 favorite, Stel Easy finished strongly to edge 10-1 longshot Romantic Fire by a neck. Stel Easy also earned $13,750 while scoring his fourth win in six starts. All four of those wins have come his five outings in 2016.

Sired by Stel Corona and out of the mare Fames Easy, Stel Easy is also a half-brother to talented stakes placed runners like Dont Dink With Me and Ynot Bar.

California Breeders' Sprint Stakes
The biggest margin of victory on Champions Night went to Jose Gallardo’s Closing Time, as the Ed Allred-bay gelding by TR Dasher and Singles Scene, posted an easy length victory in the $25,000 Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward.

Ridden by 19-year-old Jairo Rangel, Closing Time led from start to finish on the way to 350-yard winning time of :17.634 for trainer Jose Flores. While Flores is a veteran in winning stakes races at Los Alamitos, the young pilot was enjoying the first stakes victory of his career.

“This my first stakes win, but hopefully there’s more to come,” Rangel said. “At 19, I am one of the youngest jockeys at Los Alamitos. I’m blessed and very thankful. I hope things keep going well for me.”

Closing Time won the Jens List Memorial Handicap last year and now becomes only the 11th horse to win more than one stakes race on California Breeders Champions Night. The Sprint Stakes also proved to a return to good form for the 4-year-old bay. He had previously finished out of the money in a pair of stakes races at Turf Paradise before returning to his home state of California. Closing Time earned $13,750 for the win.

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