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“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 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