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Outstanding field to square off in El Primero final

April 8, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

Hawk On The Fly and Cody Jensen win their trial race on March 20, 2009
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
By Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

The lightly raced Hawk On The Fly, who has quickly moved up through the ranks, will headline Friday's $192,300 El Primero Del Ano Derby for colts and geldings at Los Alamitos.

A wide-open Grade II event, Friday's El Primero will also feature four horses that already have a stakes victory to their credit, including Los Alamitos Winter Derby champion A Tempting Dash, Governor's Cup Futurity winner Hard Hitting, Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes victor Royal Proclamation, and California Breeders' Freshman Stakes winner Show Me A Beduino. In addition to that powerful foursome, the El Primero Del Ano Derby also features the classy gelding Jimmy Delivers.

Rod and Anna MacPherson's Hawk On The Fly is a horse that many racing observers believe could be a future star in the making. A winner of his last three consecutive starts, he's put together an impressive winning margin of four and a half lengths throughout his present win streak.

Virtually untouchable up to this point, he'll get his first real class test here against a number of stakes-caliber runners in Friday's El Primero Del Ano Derby. Aside from his dominating performance thus far, Hawk On The Fly also has the pedigree to go along with it. A son of Hawkinison out of the Strawfly Special mare Babe On The Fly, he hails from a tremendous female family. An earner of $206,753, his dam Babe On The Fly ran second the Golden State Futurity, the PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity, and the Los Alamitos Million Juvenile Stakes in 2003. Hawk On The Fly qualified to this event by virtue of a scintillating length and three quarter victory in his trial.

Also headlining the contentious group of ten is the VanAmburghs and Giambi Racing Stable's Tempting Dash. Trained by Jaime Gomez, A Tempting Dash won the Los Alamitos Winter Derby only two starts back when holding off a strong late bid from the highly-touted Fantastic Corona Jr in the Grade 1 contest.

In his last out, he was bumped at the break, but still managed to turn in a solid third and qualify fourth fastest to Friday's stakes event. Also a finalist in the prestigious Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity last season, A Tempting Dash has developed into one of the most elite three-year-olds in Southern California along with standouts like Tres Passes, Foose, and Sixish. With a cleaner break away from the gates, A Tempting Dash could be very tough to catch.

Another dangerous contender is J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley's Royal Proclamation, a horse that defeated A Tempting Dash on trial night while turning in the fastest qualifying time of the evening. Riding a two-race win streak, Royal Proclamation has done just about everything right so far this season, racking up three wins from four starts with his only loss coming to Fire Is On in the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes trials in early February. Fortunately for his connections, Royal Proclamation would go on to defeat Fire Is On in the finals three weeks later, giving the three-year-old son of A Regal Choice the first stakes victory of his young career. A super consistent gelding from the Paul Jones barn, he's been in the money five out of his six times and always seems to turn in a strong race.

A third horse to come from that same trial alongside A Tempting Dash and Royal Proclamation is EG High Desert Farms' Jimmy Delivers. One of two four-time winners in the field, he brings a great deal of seasoning into this contest for trainer Mario Loza. A runner-up behind Hard Hitting in the 2008 Governor's Cup Futurity, he enjoyed a successful freshman campaign that also included three wins and a troubled third in the Corona Chick Handicap.

He's been just as dangerous this year too, finishing in the top three in all three of his starts this meet, including a third-placed finish in the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Derby in February.

Other runners worth considering are Hard Hitting, The Stylish Side, and Beastly King. One of the leading two-year-olds in the state of California last season, Hard Hitting turned in a number of bang-up efforts in 2008, including a victory in the Governor's Cup Futurity and a narrow defeat in the Los Alamitos Two Million Juvenile Stakes. Fifth in his trial to the El Primero despite a brutal trip, he'll undoubtedly improve in his second race off the layoff. The Stylish Side is another one to watch out for. Recently purchased by trainer Paul Jones, he also had a rough trip in his trial and should improve in the second race of his sophomore season as well. Finally, Beastly King could be dangerous. A two-time Grade I-finalist last year, he has plenty of past class in order to be a factor in this race.

Los Alamitos Race Course race 8, April 10, 2009
El Primero Del Ano Derby (G2), purse $192,300,
for Quarter Horses 3YO going 400 yards

Post Horse Jockey Odds
1 Show Me a Beduino Rodrigo Aceves 30-to-1
2 Hes Regal Jeff Jerman 20-to-1
3 Hawk On the Fly Cody Jensen 2-to-1
4 The Stylish Side Alex Bautista 20-to-1
5 Hard Hitting Cesar DeAlba 10-to-1
6 Royal Proclamation Ramon Sanchez 5-to-2
7 Beastly King Dennis Means 15-to-1
8 Jimmy Delivers Carlos Bautista 5-to-1
9 A Tempting Dash Alejandro Luna 7-to-2
10 Genuine Oaktree Jessie Chavis 50-to-1

Trials report

Royal Proclamation has fastest qualifying time to El Primero Del Ano Derby

J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley are enjoying a wonderful purple patch over the last eight days, as the owners have won four Quarter Horse races in addition to being the winning breeders in a Thoroughbred race at Santa Anita Race Park. Among their wins, Royal Proclamation's most recent victory has to rank at the top after the improving star posted the fastest qualifying time to the $192,300 El Primero Del Ano Derby on Friday evening, March 20.

In addition to Royal Proclamation, who covered the 400 yards in an evening's best time of :19.555, the longtime business partners recently enjoyed Quarter Horse victories with the up and coming filly Lift Wings at Los Alamitos and with Bannow Bay and Three Green Leaves at Remington Park Kelly also visited the winner's circle at the Orange County track with Izzies Irish Eyes on March 12, plus he and Yearsley bred Squire Trelawny, a claiming winner at Santa Anita on March 18.

"All these wins in about a week, it feels good right now," said Kelly. "We had a tough stretch during the months of December, January and February, but that's part of the ups and downs of this sport. We're enjoying this nice streak."

It's been Kelly who has been getting his photo snapped in the local winner's circle, while Yearsley has been the one smiling in the winner's circle at Remington Park in Oklahoma. Both of them figure to be here on Friday, April 10 when Royal Proclamation goes after his second big money win of the season in the Grade 2 El Primero finale. Earlier this season, the son of A Regal Choice was a daylight victor in the $141,750 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes on February 28.

"We've been thrilled at getting this horse back on the racetrack," Kelly said. "He's slowly getting there in terms of reaching his running ability. We've been very confident in this horse because we've always known that he had the ability to perform at a high level."

Lightly raced with only six career starts, Royal Proclamation has now won three starts. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez for seven-time champion trainer Paul Jones, Royal Proclamation won the first of two El Primero trials by a neck over the talented duo of Jimmy Delivers and A Tempting Dash, who came into this race after respectively finishing third and first in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby earlier this year.

"This horse has another gear and we couldn't wait to see him run 400 yards," Kelly continued. ""You always want to win but we also understand that the derby final is when the big money will be on the line. Ramon said he was running easy in this trial. It will be a great final. A Tempting Dash breaks so quick and that's what he has over a lot of horses.

"(Royal Proclamation) had his problems as a 2-year-old but we didn't push him and we decided to save him for 3-year-old campaign," Kelly added. "Paul did a great job managing him and the horse is doing terrific right now. You won't find a pimple on this horse. He'll go to Ruidoso Downs for the Rainbow Derby and All American Derby and then he'll return here for the Los Alamitos Super Derby as long as we are lucky and he stays sound following the El Primero."

EG High Desert Farms' Jimmy Delivers was a solid runner-up in this trial on the way to earning the third fastest qualifying time of :19.595.

Trained by Mario Loza, Jimmy Delivers has now finished in the top three in eight of 10 career starts. Third in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby last month, the son of Corona Czech was second in last year's Governor's Cup Futurity last year.

Ron and Denise VanAmburgh and Giambi Racing Stables' A Tempting Dash had the lead early in the race but after he was bumped at the start that affected his ability to finish strongly.

"They bumped him hard away from the gate," trainer Jaime Gomez said. "He got a little cut around his ankle and that cost him this race. He wasn't limping when he came back and I don't know if he will need a stitch or two, but I'm confident that he will be ready for the final. It's a small little cut but we'll make sure to keep it clean. I'm excited and so thankful that Los Alamitos has three weeks in between the trials to the final. It makes a huge difference. It allows the horses to relax and it gives the trainers a chance to get their horses in top shape for the final. These horses come back and will run their race."

Anna and Rod MacPherson's Hawk On The Fly was superb in the other derby trial, crushing his rivals by 1 lengths while posting the second fastest qualifying time of :19.575. Also trained by Jones and ridden by Cody Jensen, the Hawkinson colt did not race as a 2-year-old but has since won three straight races from four career starts.

"He's a beautiful horses," Jones said. "He looks a lot like his daddy. He is a big sized horse. Hawk On The Fly got hurt last year. It was a minor injury but we had to turn him out for about three months. When you have an injured hurt you have to give him a rest. There's no question that he's a talented horse and when you have it you always have it. It just became a matter of when it was going to come out."

Rod MacPherson, who over the years has campaigned great stars like champions Separatist and Sign Of Lanty, could not be on track to watch Hawk On The Fly's outstanding performance.

"He's at a Christian retreat in the mountains," said his wife, Anna. "For a minute I was a little scared watching Hawk On The Fly run,"she added. "It looked like he came out and was behind (Beastly King). I was thinking that Cody was really going to have to get after him. Fortunately the horse responded and finished great."

The complete list of qualifiers to the El Primero Del Ano Derby is as follows: Royal Proclamation (:19.555), Hawk On The Fly (:19.575), Jimmy Delivers (:19.595), A Tempting Dash (:19.65), Beastly King (:19.82), Hes Regal (:19.825), The Stylish Side (:19.90), Show Me A Beduino (:19.905), Hard Hitting (:19.915) and Genuine Oaktree (:20.32).