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Someone to Hit Rich in $500,000 Futurity

July 23, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

Hard Hitting will look to swing for the fences when he goes after the $500,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity on Saturday at Los Alamitos. Owned by a partnership, the outstanding sprinter Hard Hitting is one of 10 outstanding horses racing in the richest race of California Breeders Champions Night. Owned by C.W. Davidson, et al and trained by Charles Treece, this colt ran a pair of superb runner-up performances prior to being campaigned in the Governor’s Cup Futurity trials. In his first start, Hard Hitting debuted impressively, running a strong second behind Nosecretwhosefirst, the fourth-place-finisher in last month’s Ed Burke Million Futurity.

Three weeks later, he followed up that effort with another quality second behind the highly talented Rieda Hay Worth, besting Adan Farias’ Show Me A Beduino by a nose. Not only was Hard Hitting bumped in that race, but the horse that beat him, Rieda Hay Worth, would go on to run third in the Grade I Ed Burke Million Futurity later that month.

Most recently, Hard Hitting earned his diploma over a talent-laden field in his trial to the Governor’s Cup Futurity on July 12th, earning the fastest qualifying time of the night. Additionally, he is a half-brother to another talented horse that Chuck Treece trains named Lassen County. A two-time winner in 2008, Lassen County captured the Independence Day Handicap by a nose over three-time Grade-I winner Leading Spirit, setting a new track record at the 300-yard distance.

Another horse to consider is First Magical Dash, a speedy filly from the stables of EG High Desert Farms. Last out, she dueled competitively with Hard Hitting, running a solid second behind that colt and earning a rapid 95-speed index. Prior to that, she encountered considerable traffic trouble in last month’s Ed Burke Million Futurity, but still accounted well for herself, only beaten two and a quarter lengths by Paul Jones’ undefeated runner Foose. She brings a wealth of class into tonight’s affair and comes from an extremely nice female family.

Lastly, Accost could run a strong race. Unbeaten through two starts, this gelding was dominant in his trial to the Governor’s Cup Futurity, pulling away impressively by nearly two lengths. Trained by Cody Joiner, this California-bred broke like a rocket out of the gate and finished with speed to spare. Moreover, he will be ridden for the first time this evening by defending AQHA Champion jockey G.R. Carter Jr. and lands a dangerous postposition.

Headlining the Grade II California Breeders Matron Stakes in race nine is Fly Bar Special. A daughter of Grade I-winner Five Bar Molly, this mare has really grown into herself at age five. Three starts ago she was a close second in the Grade III Miss Princess handicap behind the hottest distaffer on the grounds at Los Alamitos, Clydette Mia. Following that performance, Fly Bar Special impressed once again, running fourth behind Frankie Shoots, the eventual winner of the Grade I Vessels Maturity. She will reunite with jockey Rodrigo Aceves for tonight’s race in hopes of capturing some of the magic of their allowance score together on March 20, 2008.

Standing in her way is Paul Jones’ talented mare Gottobes Cat. A winner of her first two starts on the year, this classy gray defeated quality horses in those contests such as Makinmoves Buzz, Corona Crystal, and Mongoose Hawkette. Idle from the races for roughly two months, Gottobes Cat typically runs well off of a layoff and should relish the 400-yard distance of tonight’s event. Look Her Over should also run a nice race.

Although she has yet to start this meet, this regally-bred four-year-old has been training sensationally for her return to the racetrack, bringing a pair of impressive 350-yard drills into tonight’s contest.

Dicksons Have Made the Right Choices

Hard Hitting, Jimmy Delivers and First Magical Dash have become familiar names for Quarter Horse racing fans. All three will be in action in Saturday’s $500,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity. One less familiar names that will also race in this rich race is the improving Patricia Visscher-trained Making Choices. Owned by Kris and Kevin Dickson, Making Choices demonstrated dramatic improvement in his most recent outing, running a strong second behind the well-regarded Jimmy Delivers and qualifying to the rich $500,000 finals. “I attribute all of the success that we’ve had with this horse to our trainer Pat,” said owner Kevin Dickson. “She’s done a remarkable job with him from the very start and has made all of the necessary adjustments that he’s needed along the way.”

In his first two starts, Making Choices appeared green and inexperienced. After breaking very slowly in his career debut, he was bumped and blocked behind a wall of horses early in the race and even ran in spurts as he approached the wire. Following that performance, Making Choices broke sharply against maiden rivals in his second start, grabbing the lead right out of the gate.

“I think he’s probably still a little bit green, but he’s made a lot of progress thus far,” added Dickson. “Prior to his effort in the trials, Patricia chose to make a small change in the cup size of his blinkers. She wanted to give him a little more visibility, so that he could see what was going on better and have a more complete view of the racetrack and his competition. I think that might have done the trick.”

The slight equipment change seemed to help the gelding, as he turned in a career-best effort that evening, running a close second on trial night.

Making Choices appeared much more professional, leaving the gates in good order and coming home in a strong time of 17.66 seconds at the 350-yard distance. “I think more than anything, our horse simply needed some time to mature,” said Dickson. “Kris and I are thrilled just to be in this race.

Being included with such a great group is really an honor. This will actually be the first stakes race we’ve ever run in. I’ve only been in racing for about four or five years at this point.”

The Dicksons got their start in thoroughbred racing like many other horse owners, but soon became attracted to the night racing offered by Los Alamitos Race Course. “My wife and I have a normal work schedule that keeps us occupied throughout the daytime every week, so it’s much more convenient for us to attend the races in the evening,” commented Kevin. “Plus, we live here in Orange County, so it’s very easy for us to get out to Los Alamitos as often as we’d like. We love it. Before we got into Quarter Horse racing, we’d been involved with group partnerships on several thoroughbreds and the biggest race we’d participated in was a high-level claiming race.

We feel so fortunate to be competing in a Grade I stakes race with Making Choices.”

Although they’ve managed to qualify to the prestigious Governor’s Cup Futurity, winning it won’t be quite as easy. “We realize the kind of competition that we’re in against,” Dickson said. “Hard Hitting and Jimmy Delivers should both be very tough in the finals. The way we look at it, we qualified 10th fastest, so any improvement that we can make will give us a reason to celebrate. In that respect, we don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of pressure on us. Even if we only move up a placing or two, we’re just happy to be included with some of the top owners and trainers that have horses in this race.”

The breakthrough effort that Making Choices turned in on trial night was one the Dicksons felt like he was capable of producing all along.

“We’ve always liked this horse,” said Kevin. “We purchased him at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale for $11,000 and were originally attracted to him because of his sire, A Regal Choice. Beyond the Governor’s Cup, all of his plans are up in the air. We did pay him into the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity here at Los Alamitos, so that’s always an option for later in the year. I’m just the kind of person to take things one-step at a time though. Right now we’re just looking forward to running in this race and getting to take a bunch of our friends and family to the Vessels Club on Saturday night.

Hopefully he’ll give us something to cheer about.”

Inside the Numbers of Governor’s Cup Futurity

The 10 finalists to the Governor’s Cup Futurity came out of seven different trials, and most of the finalists have never raced in a futurity final prior to this race. The only horse with experience in a futurity final is First Magical Dash, who ran in the Ed Burke Million Futurity in mid-June.

Most of these horses had never raced at 350 yards prior to the Governor’s Cup trials, the exceptions being Separate Peace, Hard Hitting, First Magical Dash and Hawkish Got Rhythm. To the right is a comparison of how the horses perform in the trials. The first column is the horse’s Start Time covering the opening 130 yards before reaching the eighth pole. The next column is the horse’s Finishing Time for the 220 yards from the eighth pole to the finish line. These two times add up to the Final Time for the 350 yards.

PP Horse 130 yards 220 yards Final time
1. Jimmy Delivers 8.09 9.49 17.58
2. Separate Peace 8.14 9.45 17.59
3. Blue Piranha 8.11 9.52 17.63
4. Hard Hitting 7.93 9.43 17.36
5. Beastly King 8.04 9.60 17.64
6. Alice K White 8.10 9.48 17.58
7. Making Choices 8.10 9.56 17.66
8. Accost 7.99 9.52 17.51
9. First Magical Dash 8.03 9.37 17.40
10. Hawkish Got Rhythm 8.16 9.47 17.63

The Start: Only two horses were able to run the first 130 yards in 8 seconds or faster. Hard Hitting simply sizzled out of the gate in a time that was about nearly a 1/2 length faster than the next quickest finalist Accost. First Magical Dash, racing in the first trial as Hard Hitting, broke a a couple of steps behind the alert fastest qualifier, but his initial 130-yard clocking was the third fastest among the 10 finalists. Beastly King put together a noteworthy beginning to his trial as he was bumped leaving the gate but he still managed a solid time of 8.04. Separate Peace had a lot of room to make up after being bumped early on and will need to avoid making a mistake if he wants to keep up with quick breaking horses like Hard Hitting and Accost. Making Choices had a lot issues in the early going - he was even hard to load - so his 8.10 clocking is not too bad.

The Finish: No one finished better than First Magical Dash, as the filly rallie to an awesome final 220-yard time of :9.37. Hard Hitting, who by then was in front of the pack, cruised home in a solid time, but keep an eye on late flyers Separate Peace, Alice K White and Jimmy Delivers, who showed a ton of late run. Hawkish Got Rhythm also finished nicely but he needs to do better than a 8.16 opening 130 yards.

Putting It All Together: Hard Hitting deserves all the attention he’s received in the days leading up to the Governor’s Cup final. He was quick, he finished strong, and was certainly the horse of trial night. However, First Magical Dash should not be underestimated as she ran an awesome final 220. And what about Separate Peace? He had a lot of trouble early on but flew late, and he comes from the family of Be A Bono.