Yanque Tops El Primero del Ano Derby Qualifiers

The homebred gelding is the fastest qualifier to the March 31, $235,200 final at Los Alamitos.

Q-Racing Journal

Coming off of a second place finish in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby, Martha Wells' Yanque on Sunday posted the fastest qualifying time to the March 31 El Primero del Ano Derby final. PHOTO: Los Alamitos Racecourse

Martha Wells' Yanque, a homebred son of Favorite Cartel trained by Matt Fales, is the fastest qualifier to the March 31, $235,200 El Primero del Ano Derby (G3) at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Cruz Mendez, Yanque on Sunday won the first of three 400-yard trials by 1 1/2 lengths in :19.701 on a track labeled "wet-fast." The California-bred gelding was winning for the fifth time in 12 starts and second time in three outs this season.

"I’m just excited that we have a horse with that much kick at the end of it,” Wells said of Yanque. “He’s a happy horse in training. He’s a Favorite Cartel and that’s excellent top side for any mare. His mother (Red Hawk Chick) passed away. I don’t have her anymore. She colicked when she had the baby after Yanque. It’s tough when that happens. I bred her. She was by Hawkinson and her mother is Chicks Tell, who is my foundation mare at this point.

“I’m excited about Yanque,” she added. “He’s pretty sound and I think I’m going to have an older horse that can run for a couple of more years. I’ve been blessed to have a few in the past and it’s nice to have another one.”

Raced in California and Arizona, Yanque has earned $78,456, and he was coming off of a second-place finish in the February 10, 400-yard Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1).

Other prominent finalists include Keith Nellesen's KVN Corona, last year's champion 2-year-old colt. Making his first start since November 26, KVN Corona won the second heat by a nose in :19.707 for the second-fastest qualifying time. Jesus Rios Ayala rode KVN Corona for trainer Paul Jones.

KVN Corona has won all seven of his races, including two graded futurities last season, and he has banked $580,750.

"He’s a gutty horse,” Nellesen said. “We were a little nervous with this being his first time with Jesus Rios Ayala riding him, but as long as he keeps winning we’ll keep coming. This is about the only race we have to run him in (at Los Alamitos) until later in the fall. We’re going to run him here (in the final) and we’re thinking about going to Ruidoso Downs and trying some of those derbies and then coming back for the fall campaign.

"It’s one step at a time," he added. "The Los Alamitos Super Derby is the one race we’re pointing him to. If he can win that, we’d love to get into the big one at the end (the Champion of Champions).”

KVN Corona is named for New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Nellesen said that Van Noy plans to be at Los Alamitos for the El Primero final.

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

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 www.aqha.com/racing.