Field Set for Los Alamitos Winter Derby

Jess Hawk is the fastest qualifier to the February 10, $224,900 final.

Q-Racing Journal

EG High Desert Farms' Jess Hawk, a homebred daughter of One Sweet Jess, won the third of six Los Alamitos Winter Derby trials on Saturday. PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

EG High Desert Farms' Jess Hawk is the fastest qualifier to the February 10, $224,900 Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1).

Racing from post 2 in the third of six 400-yard trials on Saturday, Jess Hawk defeated third-fastest qualifier Imaqtpie by a neck in :19.733. Jesus Rios Ayala rode the stakes-winning homebred daughter of One Sweet Jess for trainer Yanet Rodriguez.

Jess Hawk has won five of her eight outs and has banked $41,460. The filly was coming off of a third-place finish in the December 30, 350-yard Holiday Handicap.

"Last time we ran in the Holiday Handicap, (and) we needed the extra 50 yards,” Rodriguez said. “Jess Hawk ran on the outside (in the Holiday) and ran great, but the last two times she’s run on the outside she (hasn’t) grabbed a hold of the track. She likes to play around on the track. She doesn’t pay attention. When we got the number 2 post I really liked it. I felt this was her time.

"It’s all a matter of teamwork and I owe (Ayala) a lot,"she added. "He’s come through for us. Mr. Enrique Gonzalez (of EG High Desert Farms) is a fabulous owner to work for and I’m very thankful for the great opportunity to train his horses. I’m very blessed to have his support.”

Bannister, the second-fastest qualifier, won the first heat by 1 1/4 lengths from non-qualifier Racy High Roller. Cesar DeAlba rode the gelded son of Maknmoves for owners Denny and Sandy Weigt and trainer Monty Arrossa.

Campaigned in Idaho, Utah, and California, Bannister has earned $96,541 from 10 starts, and his seven wins include last year's Wild West Futurity at Los Alamitos and Beehive Futurity at Weber Downs in Ogden, Utah. The Oklahoma-bred gelding was coming off of a sixth-place finish in the Holiday Handicap.

“He’s ultra-consistent and his last out, you have to throw it out,” Arrossa said. “He didn’t get away from the gate. Tonight he stood in there and broke like he can. This is his first time going 400 yards and he seemed to like it. We’ve been working a lot with the gate crew and they’ve helped us a lot.

“In the Holiday, he was pretty fresh,” the trainer added. “He got in there and started looking around, I don’t know at what, maybe at the lights? He was just moving his head around. He was not paying attention. He turned his head right when the gate opened. It was just one of those bad luck nights that you try to forget."

Click here for a complete list of qualifiers.

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