That Rico Leads the Way in El Primero Trials

The Carters Cartel gelding is the fastest qualifier to the April 2, $224,100 final at Los Alamitos.

Q-Racing Journal

That Rico (number 3, blue saddle cloth) won a three-horse blanket finish in the last of three El Primero del Ano Derby trials on Sunday. PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

Despite being bumped out of the gate, That Rico on Sunday recorded the fastest qualifying time to the April 2, $224,100 El Primero del Ano Derby (G3) at Los Alamitos.

Owned by Thompson Racing and trainer Paul Jones, That Rico won the last of three 400-yard trials by a head in :20.066. Roberto Hernandez rode the gelding, who was bred in California by the List family's Double Bar S Ranch.

That Rico has won four of eight starts and has banked $21,375 while racing exclusively in California. He was coming off of a fifth-place finish in a 400-yard Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1) trial on January 21. 

“He is kind of hit and miss,” said Jones of That Rico. “He wins or runs bad, but luckily tonight he won. He’s got the talent, and when he puts it together and everything goes right he can really run.

"He got into a little bit of a tangle out of the gates tonight," he added. The final to the El Primero and La Primera are a pretty tight group. It’s a pretty tight group for the (El Primero) and it’s going to be a pretty nice race for the final. We got a pretty well matched group of horses. We’re pleased to have a couple qualify for this race.”

Jones also qualified eighth-fastest qualifier Whata Corona and 10th-fastest qualifier Thats A Good Reason.

Other prominent El Primero finalists include Katella Deli, a California-bred son of champion Foose owned by Paul Blanchard of Albuquerque and Dutch Masters III and the third-place finisher in last year's Los Alamitos Two-Million Futurity (G1).

The fifth-fastest qualifier, Katella Deli won the first trial by a head as the 1-2 favorite. Carlos Huerta rode the gelding for trainer Jaime Gomez, who also qualified third-fastest qualifier The Natural Nine, who he co-owns with Howard Nichols.  

“This is a horse that Paul Blanchard picked out,” said Dr. James Streelman of Dutch Masters III of Katella Deli. “I confirmed that I would partner up with him after I saw him. We had one a year ago that did decent for us and obviously he’s shown his talent.

{Jaime is the best Foose trainer in the country," Streelman added. "We go back to She Forgives, Forget It and now Katella Deli. They are all sired by Foose and Jaime has done well with all of them."

Katella Deli is named after the popular bakery and restaurant located just a few miles west of Los Alamitos Racecourse. Streelman has already been asked if another local, famous eatery will serve as the next source of inspiration.   

“I called (Los Alamitos Nominations Director) Melodie Knuchell, and she asked me if my next one is going to be The Fish Company,” said Streelman, referring to the seafood restaurant also located a few miles from the track. “I do like eating at The Fish Company.”

Click here for a complete list of El Primero del Ano Derby finalists.

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