A fellow stopped Ed Ross Hardy as he left the paddock before the feature race on Sunday.
“Which one is going to win?” he asked.
“The fastest horse,” Hardy responded.
“Which one is fastest,” the fellow continued.
Not even Canterbury Park’s leading quarter horse trainer could have told him the correct answer Sunday.
Quattro, a 3-year-old Minnesota-bred gelding sent off at 25-1 odds, stunned a field of 10 rivals while winning the Grade III Bayer Legend Central Derby Challenge for a right to compete in the $200,000 national final on Halloween at Los Alamitos.
Bred and raced by former Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Assn. president Kelvin Childers, Quattro finished a head in front of 10-1 choice The Signature Cartel, who was a neck in front of 13-1 choice Ha Hombra. The winning time was 20.198.
Quattro paid $52.60, $22.40 and $10.20 across the board.
Childers was shaking his head in disbelief and grinning widely at the same time as he entered the winner’s circle.
“I’ve never won one of these that I didn’t enter,” he deadpanned, clearly pleased with the surprising finish.
Equally surprised was winning rider Scott Stevens, who took the mount after being asked by Jason Olmstead, who rode Righteous Tessa.
“I haven’t ridden a quarter horse in a year,” Stevens said after chalking up the 3,997th win of his riding career.
Not that Stevens doesn’t know about riding the Qs. He grew up riding them and won the Derby Challenge final in Phoenix on She’s a Real Flirt in 1996.
Quattro, a son of Dash Thru Traffic from the Duel Fuel mare Expressively, is trained by Amber Blair, who was clearly as surprised as everyone else.
She also saddled Hawk Talk, a 24-1 choice and Righteous Tessa, a 23-1 selection for the race. “I didn’t expect it from this one,” she said upon entering the winner’s circle.
Quattro broke his maiden on June 20 at Canterbury and ran fifth, in an allowance race on July 5.
He had chips removed from a knee following his two-year-old season at Canterbury and ran three times at Will Rogers Downs over the winter.
Childers handed the winning trophy to a bystander while he dug through his billfold to fulfill a request for one of his business cards.
The look on his face as he handed off the trophy said it all. “It’s very heavy, don’t drop it.”
Not cheap either. Designed by artist Lisa Perry, the bronze award goes for $1,500.
A horse with a superb shot of winning that award was the Hardy-trained Mighty Fast Man, the 2-1 favorite on the board minutes before the race.
The son of Heza Fast Man didn’t make it to the gate, however, and was scratched after breaking through the rail and dumping rider Ry Eikleberry during the post parade.
Hardy was unhappy with the Stewards’ decision after the outrider ponied Mighty Fast Man past the winner’s circle to the receiving barn.
“He’s not even sweating,” Harding said, throwing in an expletive for emphasis. Clearly, he thought he had the winner and he wasn’t going to run.
Which proved the point of Childers’ message about not winning if you don’t enter _ in this case if you don’t run.
It also answered the question put to Hardy just before the race.
On this day, the fastest horse was a surprise named Quattro.