California Breeders' Champions Night Recap

J fire Up wins the $390,000 Governor's Cup Futurity, the richest of 10 stakes contested at Los Alamitos on Saturday.

Q-Racing Journal

J Fire Up won Saturday's $390,000 Governor's Cup Futurity on California Breeders' Champions Night at Los Alamitos. PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

A sharp break from her rail post helped J Fire Up score a three-quarter length victory in Saturday's 350-yard, $390,000 Governor's Cup Futurity (RG2), the richest of 10 official stakes contested on California Breeders' Champions Night Saturday at Los Alamitos.

Racing for Darling Farms, Ernesto Solis, and trainer Jaime Gomez, J Fire Up stopped the timer in :17.558 while scoring her first career stakes win. Jose Nicasio rode the sorrel daughter of the Corona Cartel stallion Kiddy Up.

Solis, a horseman for more than 35 years, saw J Fire Up when she was foaled and watched her grow up. He always knew that she would be something special.

“Ernesto told me that she would be number one,” said Gomez, who bred J Fire Up and has prepped four Governor's Cup Futurity winners, one shy of the record held by Blane Schvanveldt. “That’s because she has a marking on her left-hand side, right on her shoulder. It’s a really beautiful number one on the muscle. You can tell. It looks exactly like a perfect number one. You have to see it to believe it, and she also loves the one hole. She really does. 

“The good ones, they don’t need a trainer,” he added. “She’s got all the class and all heart, and I have a super lucky guy right here in Dan Darling, who won the Rainbow Derby and the Heritage Place Derby with Hold Air Hostage. He’s probably coming out here to aim for the Champion of Champions. He's the kind of owner who we need out here. He loves this place because it's nice and fair.”

Darling flew out to California from his home in Oklahoma to watch the Governor's Cup Futuirty in person.

“We’ve been lucky,” Darling said. “We’ve been blessed. We’ve been in racing for four years. My father-in-law was a trainer and my wife was raised on the track. She and my daughter got to showing miniature horses. I thought if I could get some racehorses I could get them out of that, but it didn’t work.”

Fire Up earned the $161,700 winner's share of the Governor's Cup Futurity purse to take her lifetime earnings to $330,525 from five outs. The filly's resume includes a second-place finish, a head behind winner Kvn Corona, in the June 18, 350-yard Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1).

Chance To Fire, The Revenant, Casino Baccarat, Knockout Jess, One Sweet Barbie, Effortless Effort, Yanque, Magnifisant Seven, and Ditto Head completed the order of finish.

Governor's Cup Derby (RG3)
Evil Genius, a homebred son of Favorite Cartel owned by Abigail K. Kawananakoa and trainer Paul Jones, outran his 14-1 odds to win the $198,000 Governor's Cup Derby (RG3).

Evil Genius and jockey Oscar Peinado
return to the Los Alamitos winner's
circle after the gelding's upset victory
in Saturday's Governor's Cup Derby.
PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

Ridden by Oscar Peinado, Evil Genius went 400 yards in :19.871 while defeating Katella Deli by a neck. The $83,160 winner's share of the purse from his first stakes win pushed the brown gelding's earnings to $96,835, of which $90,110 has been banked this season.

Going into his 2-year-old season, Jones thought that Evil Genius might be his top juvenile in California. The gelding made Jones look like a genius early on, after he won his debut by a half of a length on April 8, 2016.

“He won his first out and looked very impressive, then it kind of went downhill from there,” Jones said. “But he’s finally coming back around and looking like the horse we thought he was. I’m glad that (co-owner Abigail Kawananakoa) and myself had the patience to keep going. I raised the horse at my ranch and Abigail partnered with me, and she doesn’t partner with a lot of people. I feel privileged to be a partner with her.”

Raced exclusively in California, Evil Genius has won three of his 13 starts, including a 330-yard non-winners-of-two allowance for 3-year-olds on May 14.      

“The horse has matured and he’s really filled out,” Jones said. “He’s breaking a little bit better. He’s starting to come into himself and becoming the horse that we thought he was. We gelded him along the way and that helped him too.

"This was a tough race, and I didn’t come into this race thinking that he was going to win," he added. "I’d have been happy if I could've been in the top four. This is the best race he’s ever run, and I guess that’s what it takes to win. You have to run your best race.”

Fastest qualifier One Sweet Runner finished third, a half of a length behind Evil Genius, and was followed officially by Kiddy Up Cowgirl, Western Coast, Myfavoritestreaker, American Force, AJS Anna Smoke, Renewed, and A Bit Quirky.

Spencer Childers California Breeders' Championship (RG1)
Ed Allred's He Looks Hot, a homebred 5-year-old Walk Thru Fire gelding trained by Scott Willoughby, outdueled four opponents, including 2015 world champion Heza Dasha Fire, in the 400-yard, $100,000 Spencer L. Childers California Breeders' Championship (RG1).

Ed Allred's He Looks Hot (red cap, left)
defeated 2015 world champion Heza
Dasha Fire (blue cap) to win Saturday's
Spencer Childers California Breeders'
Championship. PHOTO: Los Alamitos

Ridden by Jesus Ayala for the first time, He Looks Hot defeated Heza Dasha Fire by a head in :19.509 while earning a 98 speed index and his sixth win in 19 races. The gelding, who won last year's Vessels Maturity (G1), was coming off of a fourth-place finish in a Vessels Maturity trial on June 11.

“We had a big offer on the table for this horse before this race for a quarter of a million dollars,” Allred said. “Had he run a distant second in this race, we probably would have sold him, but now we’ll have to keep him. The Champion of Champions is the goal.

“He’s not the best horse that I’ve ever had, but he’s a very good horse,” Allred added. “We had to geld him, but he’s certainly a nice horse.”

He Looks Hot has won a total of four stakes, including the 2015 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1). The $55,000 winner's share of the purse from this win bumped his earnings to $1,058,614.

Heza Dasha Fire was making his first start since December 10, when the 5-year-old gelding ran second in the 440-yard, $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1).

“They did a great job with He Looks Hot,” Flores said. “We just got beat tonight. It looks like (Heza Dasha Fire) came back okay, but it’s been a while since he ran after he got sick following the Champion of Champions. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board."

Stel Easy, El Remalcable, and Sepertist Dash completed the order of finish.

California Breeders' Matron Stakes (RG3)
Maggie Durant posted the night's biggest upset, as the 44-1 longshot sprinted to a neck victory in the $40,000 California Breeders' Matron Stakes (RG3) for fillies and mares.

Owned by Spackman Racing and trainer Lin Melton, Maggie Durant covered 400 yards in :19.876. Eduardo Nicasio rode the homebred 4-year-old daughter of One Sweet Jess.

“It’s a good thing she can’t read the toteboard,” said Melton. “She doesn’t know her odds. To be honest, I don’t know why she was such a longshot. She’s run and won against some mares before. This was a good field, but I thought she had a chance.”

Maggie Durant was stretching out in distance off of her fourth-place finish in a 350-yard allowance dash on June 16. The mare has won seven of 19 outs and has earned $80,524.

"She'd been training like a million bucks,” Melton said. “I’ve only run her three times this year. She won one race and ran fourth in a pretty good allowance race against Zendaya. Maggie Durant has outrun good mares. She stood great in post one when other horses were acting up.

"She’s just a good mare," he added. "She’s in the Merial California Distaff in two weeks. We’ll see how she comes back.”

Thermonuclear Energy, the 17-10 favorite in the field of nine, ran second and was followed by Stawfinders Jessee, You Can Fly, Bemused, Nymph, I Wont Give Up, Favorite Kiss, and Zendaya.

California Breeders' Freshman Fillies Stakes (R)
EG High Desert Farms' Matilda Czech won this 350-yard stakes for 2-year-ld fillies by a half of a length in :17.744. Cruz Mendez rode the homebred daughter of Fast Prize Cartel for trainer Valentin Zamudio.

Jens L. List Memorial California Breeders' Stakes (R)
Ld Is Back, a sorrel son of Walk Thru Fire trained owned by Darling Farms and trainer Jaime Gomez, won this stakes by 1 1/2 lengths from even-money favorite Stelfast. Ridden by Rodrigo Aceves, the gelding covered 400 yards in :19.722 and earned a 93 speed index.

California Breeders' Debutante Stakes (R)
Kolleen Ledgerwood's Scholarly, the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-old fillies, sprinted to a nose victory in this stakes. Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for trainer Roberto Dominguez, the sorrel daughter of Tr Dasher went 350 yards in :17.785.

California Breeders' Freshman Stakes (R)
Tustin Kid, a homebred Kiddy Up gelding prepped by Scott Willoughby, took the measure of nine opponents to win this 350-yard dash for 2-year-olds. Ridden by Rodrigo Aceves and sent to post as the 3-1 second choice, Tustin Kid defeated 5-2 favorite Remember To Dash by a head in :17.858.

California Breeders' 550 Sophomore Stakes (R)
J. Francisco Diaz's Hoose Koose was a prompt 1-2 favorite in this 550-yard stakes for 3-year-olds. Prepped by Lindolfo Diaz and ridden by Jesus Ayala, the bay son of champion Foose defeated Newport Coaster by three-quarters of a length in a hand-timed :27.300.

California Breeders' Sprint Stakes (R)
Rite Regal, the 11-10 favorite, led at every call en route to a head victory in this 350-yard stakes for 3-year-olds and older. Ridden by Cruz Mendez for owner Urschel 3-D Ranch LLC and trainer Jose Flores, the 4-year-old Favorite Cartel gelding stopped the timer in :17.633.

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