“Q” Stakes Previews & Recaps

Summer is the peak season of quarter horse racing, and this year is no exception. Let’s recap a few of the recent major races and use them to identify future handicapping opportunities.

June 9th brought us the Minnesota Stallion Breeders and North Central Derby, featuring three-year-olds running 400 yards for $12,500. Fastest qualifier and even-money favorite Painted Lies (pictured above) won as expected, but only by a narrow margin over second-fastest qualifier Feature Dreamgirl. Bred by Bob Moore Farms, LLC, Painted Lies is a son of leading sire Pyc Paint Your Wagon and out of Teller Lies, by leading sire of broodmares First Down Dash. Jockey Cody Smith brought the horse to his third consecutive win for trainer Amber Blair and owner Tom Maher.

The Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity and Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby were also held on June 9th, the day of the Belmont Stakes. As in the thoroughbred world, quarter horse fans will not see a Triple Crown winner this year, as the winner of each race will not start in the Rainbow Futurity or Derby. The connections of each horse have elected to skip the second leg and save their horses for Grade 1 All American Futurity Derby on Labor Day weekend.

Two-year-old filly and supplemented entry PJ Chick in Black defeated post-time favorite and fastest qualifier Krash Cartel by a neck to win the $600,000 Ruidoso Futurity. This race was her fourth win in as many starts and placed her at the top of the national poll for two-year-olds, over BP Cartels Alibi, winner of the Grade 1 $1,115,000 Heritage Place Futurity at Remington Park. Canterbury Connections alert: local trainer Ed Ross Hardy won the Heritage Place Futurity in 2010 with Givinitaroyaleffort. Llano Teller finished third in that race and went on to win the 2011 All American Derby.

Executive Brass defeated 2011 Two-Year-Old Champion Ochoa and 2011 Two-Year-Old Champion Colt Feature Mr Bojangles in the Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby. Ochoa, winner of the All American Futurity and post-time favorite, finished second to last in a disappointing performance. The result also ended a seven-race win streak for Rainbow Futurity winner Feature Mr Bojangles. Bred in Texas, Executive Brass was the fastest qualifier out of six trials for the race and covered the distance of 400 yards in 20.099.

There is a lesson here – handicapping does not end when the race is over. Stakes races, particularly those with trials, offer a good opportunity to review favorites, fastest qualifiers and winning payoffs. Take a look at race replays (always free at www.qracingvideo.com) and review the charts. Did it play out how you thought, and were there missed wagering opportunities?

In quarter horse stakes, the fastest qualifier often wins, but is not always the post-time favorite. In this year’s Ruidoso Derby, the fastest qualifier won and paid $10.60 to win because the public had more faith in the horses that had proven themselves in the previous year than they did the horse that outran them all in the trials. But the real money can be found when you wheel the fastest qualifier in a vertical or horizontal bet. In the Ruidoso Derby example, keying the fastest qualifier over the field in an exacta would have cost $18, but the exacta paid $696. Another option is to play the stakes race in a double, using the fastest qualifier as the single if the other race seems wide open. Last weekend at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, the fastest qualifier to the Maiden Frolic was only the second favorite choice to the betting public despite winning his trial by two lengths. The preceding race was a thoroughbred race with a five-horse field and a overbet favorite. The longshot won in the thoroughbred race, the fastest qualifier won the Frolic, and a $10 double bet returned $150.

What if there is no clear favorite, or if the fastest qualifier isn’t convincing? Reverse it: single in one leg and play the entire field in the stakes race. This is particularly useful in two-year-old races where there does not appear to be a clear winner; for example, if the fastest qualifier only won by a nose, or if there was a lot of traffic or weather in the trials. Remember that two-year-old races are most prone to trouble or gate problems and a longshot can easily win. The 2011 Ruidoso Derby was won by 11-1 Silver for Me in a wide open field. The Futurity was followed by a straightforward thoroughbred race with a seemingly unbeatable favorite. By keying the favorite in the thoroughbred race and throwing in the entire field in the stakes, your daily double investment would have earned you $152.

Trial and Stakes action continues this weekend at Canterbury, including trials for the 400-yard Canterbury Park Derby on Saturday. As there are only two trials, expect these races to be an excellent preview for the final in two weeks. Sunday afternoon is the 25th running of the Minnesota Stallion Breeders Futurity, open to progeny of nominated stallions who qualified in time trials on June 10th, 2012.

Minnesota Stallion Breeders Futurity, 350 yards, $46,000

Fastest qualifier and runaway winner #10 Hada Certain Charm appears to be impossible to beat in this race. At morning line odds of 6-5, the Ed Ross Hardy-trained Hadtobenuts gelding won by over two lengths and covered the 350 yards in a 24 mph headwind in 18.16, a trial so fast that seven entries of the ten-horse field qualified from the same race. Hada Certain Charm was bred by Leo Butell and is owned by Leo Butell and Mike Schau. Nik Goodwin has the mount and is winning 42% of his starts this meet. #4 Shes Zoomin Whiz was second behind Hada Certain Charm in the trial, and this Zoomin for Bux filly may be the one to challenge him in this race. She earned the second fastest trial time despite stumbling at the start, so a clean break will likely improve her performance. With a 6-5 morning line favorite, a good price can be found on every other horse in the race, so do not let high odds distract from talent. At 20-1, #6 Angel Flyin Knud, owned and trained by Randy Weidner, finished fourth in her trial and earned a 53 speed figure. However, her time of 18.88 was actually faster than that of the winner of the other trial, #8 Fly Eyeann, who won wire to wire in 18.99 and sits on the morning line at only 6-1. If the fastest qualifier is truly the horse to beat, then history has shown us there are some interesting investment options this weekend.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

This blog was written by AQHA Q-Racing Ace Jen Perkins. Jen travels to tracks across the country to educate fans about handicapping and Quarter Horse racing, and will share her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Saturday Stakes Preview

With all the news about I’ll Have Another’s attempt – ruined due to a scratch – to complete the Triple Crown, it may be overlooked that Quarter horses have an unofficial triple crown series, though the structure is a bit different. The quarter horse triple crown consists of three futurities, held at Ruidoso Downs throughout the summer. The first race is the same day as the Belmont Stakes, featuring two-year-olds running 350 yards for $600,000 in the G1 Ruidoso Futurity. July brings the second leg, the $700,000 Rainbow Futurity, and the biggest event in the sport of quarter horse racing, the G1 All American Futurity, will be held on Labor Day. The estimated purse for this race is $2.4 million, guaranteeing at least $1 million to the winner. The three-year-old series mirrors the futurity schedule. In recent years, the Ruidoso, Rainbow and All American Derbies have rivaled the Futurities for purses and prestige, as horses compete for coveted open Grade 1 victories en route to national titles and awards.

Ruidoso Futurity, Grade 1, $600,000, 350 yards

The entries for the 2012 running of the Ruidoso Futurity are the ten fastest qualifiers from 25 trial races held on May 25th. We can expect similar trials for the Rainbow and the All American; to even qualify for these finals is an accomplishment. The fastest qualifier is the John Stinebaugh-trained Krash Cartel, who qualified with a time of 17:759 in his career debut, but more impressive is his four-length margin of victory. He’ll face the nine best horses from the 245 trial runners, such as PJ Chick in Black. Ridden by leading jockey Esgar Ramirez, this filly is undefeated in three starts, including the RG2 New Mexico Spring Futurity at Sunland Park.

Ruidoso Derby, Grade 1, $679,000, 400 yards

The 18th running of the Ruidoso Derby features a field of top three-year-olds that qualified from six trials on May 26th. This race will be a showdown between two horses: Ochoa and Feature Mr Bojangles. Ochoa was the winner of the 2011 G1 All American Futurity, a victory that led the Tres Seis gelding to be named 2011 Champion Two-Year-Old and Champion Two-Year-Old Gelding. Feature Mr Bojangles was the winner of the 2011 G1 Rainbow Futurity. By fourth-leading sire Feature Mr Jess, Feature Mr Bojangles has won his last seven in a row and will challenge Ochoa as well as fastest qualifier, Executive Brass, and longshot Dashing Spartacus, who defeated Ochoa in their trial.

In addition to the major events on the national scene, there is a Stakes race here at Canterbury as well.

Minnesota Stallion Breeders and North Central Derby, $10,000, 400 yards

Quarter horse racing at the 2012 Canterbury meet began with a pair of trials to determine the field for Saturday’s Stakes event. Two trials on May 27th yielded the ten fastest horses for this field, led by fastest qualifier Painted Lies. Painted Lies, the 7-5 morning line favorite, covered the distance in 20.29 and won his trial by a half a length. Painted Lies is by Pyc Paint Your Wagon, the leading sire by number of wins in 2012, out of the First Down Dash mare Teller Lies; First Down Dash is the current leading broodmare sire of money earners. The gelding’s five starts in 2012 include a fifth place finish in a $246,000 statebred derby at Remington Park behind second-place finisher Cruzin the Wagon. This horse has never run out of the money at Canterbury and is expected to pick up his third win in a row on Saturday. Trainer Amber Blair seeks her second win in this race after winning in 2010 with Moonlight Masquerade, who also holds the stakes record time of 20.149.

If you plan to beat the favorite in this race, you’ll have to be creative, but you can expect a good price on some potentially undervalued horses. To the outside of Painted Lies is the Ed Ross Hardy-trained Howdedoit, who ran fourth in his trial but still qualified for the final. At 10-1 on the morning line, the Ivory James gelding may have been able to save something for the final, and will benefit from drawing next to Painted Lies. The challenge of racing next to a particularly fast runner can unlock the competitive nature of a horse and maximize its own speed and talent.

Another horse to consider is one that finished only half a length behind the fastest qualifier, the 5-1 Feature Dreamgirl. This Utah-bred filly by perennial top sire Feature Mr Jess shipped in from Remington Park for the trial and was gaining ground near the end of the race. Her past performances are deceiving at first glance, as she has vastly improved both as a three-year-old and under current trainer Ed Ross Hardy. The 83 speed figure that she earned in the trial is the third highest lifetime speed figure in the entire field. Ed Ross Hardy has won this race four times since it was first hosted at Canterbury in 2003, including last year with Pithia, owned by Rodney Von Ohlen and ridden by Ry Eikleberry.

After the challenge of handicapping and the excitement of watching four Stakes races in one day, it is safe to say that I’ll have another. Let’s hope that means another winning ticket, as well.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

This blog was written by AQHA Q-Racing Ace Jen Perkins. Jen travels to tracks across the country to educate fans about handicapping and Quarter Horse racing, and will share her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.