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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.