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Governor’s Cup trials on tap this weekend at Los Al

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

Derby trials draw 21 for three races; 55 to run in seven Futurity trials

By Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

Governor’s Cup Derby trials

21 set to clash in the ’09 Governor’s Cup Derby trials

Foose, Sixish, A Tempting Dash, Hard Hitting . . . and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the list of a super names that will be racing in the outstanding trials to the $231,000 Governor’s Cup Derby on Friday at Los Alamitos. Twenty-one runners will be in action in the three trials, each to be contested at 400 yards. The horses with the 10 fastest times will return for the final on California Breeders Champions Night.

Among the three-year-olds that will be vying for a spot in this year's derby final are the winners of seven different stakes races, including the aforementioned AQHA Champion and millionaire Foose, PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity winner Sixish, and Los Alamitos Winter Derby victor A Tempting Dash. Also in action will be Hard Hitting, last year's Governor's Cup Futurity winner, who will be trying to become the sixth horse all-time to capture both the Governor's Cup Futurity and Derby here at Los Alamitos. Those four are all male sprinters, while the top lady in the trials is La Primera Del Ano Derby winner Alice K White.

Headlining the first of three trials is the Grade I-winning gelding Sixish. From the barn of trainer Jaime Gomez, he brings a superb workout pattern into Friday night's trials, including a trio of bullet drills since May 23rd. A runner-up in both the Kindergarten and Ed Burke Million Futurity at two, he scored his biggest win to date in the Grade I PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity in early October. Never worse than third in his seven-start career, he tries hard every single time he's led to post and figures to turn in another stellar effort on Friday for owners Dutch Masters III.

Another dangerous rival could be Hulapai. Unbeaten in his last three starts, he's demolished the competition in each of those races by convincing margins. A winner of the Grade III Dillingham Handicap in his most recent start, he also turned heads with a two-length romp over allowance rivals in March. Aside from defeating solid competition that night including Grade I finalists Bf Regal Rage and Cartels First Card, Hulapai also turned in a blazing fast 300-yard time of :15.08.

Trainer Paul Jones also has a chance here with a filly named Asyouwish. A finalist in four different stakes races, including the Grade II La Primera Del Ano Derby from earlier this season, she brings a healthy dose of class into tonight’s trials. Moreover, she turned in one of her strongest efforts to date in her most recent start, when victorious over allowance rivals by more than a length.

“Asyouwish has always been a bit of a hit and miss horse,” commented her trainer Paul Jones. “She has a tendency to get pretty erratic in the gates and that’s definitely her biggest issue. With her, it’s all about the start of the race. If she gets out fine and runs straight for those first twenty yards, then she’s got a great chance. If she doesn’t break well, then it’s going to be difficult for her. Her behavior is the key to the whole race.”

Other horses that could perform well include last year’s Governor’s Cup Futurity champion Hard Hitting, two-time Grade I-finalist Runner Dreamin, and the improving gelding A Streakinson. A winner of his last two starts, A Streakinson brings excellent form into tonight’s race. Reportedly training very well by his connections, he’s turned in rapid times in each of his last two starts despite less than ideal beginnings at the break.

Trial number two has the look and feel of a match race between two of the better three-year-old fillies on the grounds here at Los Alamitos in Alice K White and First Magical Dash. Victorious by nearly a length in April’s La Primera Del Ano Derby, Alice K White turned in a super effort that night despite stumbling at the start. “She’s doing absolutely fantastic right now,” commented her assistant trainer Cody Joiner. “In her last two races she only competed against fillies, so this will definitely be a step up in class for her. However, I have a whole lot of confidence in this filly and really feel like she’s up to the challenge.”

Idle since April 11th, Alice K White has been away from the races for roughly three months now. “We’ve really taken our time with her and eased her along over these past few months,” commented Joiner. “When you’re trying to prepare a horse for a big race, you always try to strike a balance between getting them properly prepared and fit to run and preserving some of their energy for when the right time rolls around. I think we’ve done that with her. Also, she’s matured a whole lot mentally since last season and has even displayed a sort of quiet confidence about her over these last two starts, which has been very encouraging to us.”

Receiving top billing in the third and final trial of the night is last year’s AQHA Champion Two-year-old Colt Foose. First or second in each of his seven outs last season, he’ll be making the first start of his sophomore campaign in tonight’s trials. “He’s been training really well coming into the race,” said his trainer Paul Jones. “First we gave him a nice and easy 220-yard breeze in April and then followed that up with a more strenuous 350-yard drill a month later, where he went a fast :17.80. Then we backed off of him a little bit and let him go 220 yards in :12.50 last month.”

Away from the races for seven months now, his biggest challenge could be performing to his fullest capability after such a lengthy layoff. “Anytime you have to go 400 yards against some of the best horses on the grounds in your first start of the year, it can be tough,” explained Jones. “Those horses that have been racing all year long are really at an advantage there. The nice thing about it though, is that when some of those horses are getting tired later on in the year, we’ll just be hitting our best stride. So sometimes another horse can be a little sharper or fitter at the moment, but that’s just something you’re forced to deal with when you think long-term with one.”

One horse that Foose is likely to receive a very stiff challenge from is Jaime Gomez’s A Tempting Dash. Second in the El Primero Del Ano Derby in his most recent out, he was beaten only a head after veering out and bumping at the start. Two starts before that, he captured the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Derby over a strong group of horses including Fantastic Corona Jr and Jimmy Delivers. Another horse that’s been training superbly of late, A Tempting Dash brings a pair of bullet workouts into Friday’s trials and looms the main challenger.

Hulapai sitting on a big race

Only eight starts ago, Miguel Rodriguez and his current owner Carlos Romero for a modest price of $16,000 claimed the three-year-old gelding Hulapai. Still a maiden prior to that race, he went on to crush the competition in that start, pulling away by nearly a length at the wire. Seven starts later, a much different Hulapai enters this week's Governor's Cup Derby trials at Los Alamitos. Now a five-time winner of over $70,000, he brings outstanding form into Friday night's trials, fresh off a dominant one and a quarter length score in the Grade III Dillingham Handicap. One of the most imposing three-year-old runners on the grounds here at Los Alamitos, he's a perfect three-for-three so far in 2009 and could be a force to be reckoned with on trial night.

"Our horse is just super sharp right now," explained his owner Carlos Romero. "He's been off for about two months and really loves to race off of a vacation like this one. He's going to be facing a really strong group of horses in the trials, but I think my horse could have a bit of a surprise in store for the rest of them. With the competition being this tough though, he certainly doesn't have to win his trial to get in. I just want him to qualify, so as long as we're one of the ten finalists then I'm going to be happy."

Hulapai's new trainer Hector Jaime Hernandez echoed the same sentiments about their runner's affinity for racing off of a layoff. "The key with this horse is that he just really likes to run fresh," Hector added. "We've let him be for a while and have allowed him to just be a horse again. He knows what to do when he goes into the gate, so we've been giving him light works only and trying to not use up too much of his energy. He's been working well in the mornings since his last start too, so I think we're going to be ready."

Despite the strong form that he displayed during his freshman season, his connections believe he's capable of an even better campaign here at three. "His real coming out party was his two-length allowance score in March of this year," said Romero. "I think that and his win in the Dillingham Handicap were his two best efforts to date. In his last race, we told our jockey Rodrigo Aceves not to force the issue with him if he didn't have to. We just told him to get out clean, hang on, and let him do the rest and that's exactly what he did. Ever since then, we've had a lot of interest in buying the horse. I've already turned down an offer for $150,000 for him."

Off for roughly ten weeks since that impressive performance, Hulapai was in a nice rhythm earlier this meet, taking all three of his starts thus far in 2009. "We've never felt the need to race him too many times though," Carlos explained. "We decided it was best to let him have some rest after those first three outs and bring him into the trials the right way. I feel like he could be ready for a pretty big sophomore campaign. Even after the Governor's Cup, we're going to stick to the plan of being easy on him. Following those races, he'll get another break until November when the trials to the Southern California Derby come up. That will be his next start after the Governor's Cup."

Involved in a small game of musical chairs over the last two seasons, Hulapai has had four different trainers and multiple owners in only nine career starts. Originally a part of trainer Scott Willoughby's barn, he was later conditioned by Miguel Rodriguez, Joe Badilla, Jr., and ultimately Hector Jaime Hernandez. "He's moved around a lot, but I don't think it's really impacted his development," Hector added. "I can't speak for some of the other trainers that have had him, but for me, he started showing the kind of talent that he had right from the very start. He's been in my barn since late last year for the trials to the Two Million Futurity and I've been really fortunate to have him in my care."

Merely a $16,000 claim in May of 2008, Hulapai has inspired a great deal of confidence in the minds of his connections ever since that purchase. A winner of his next two starts after having been entered for a claiming price, he began to do right by his new owners from the very start. "He qualified to the Ed Burke Million Futurity only two starts after that and has really been a pleasant surprise for us," explained Romero. "I always have to keep telling myself that we only bought him for $16,000 even though he turned out to be a stakes winner. He's really done a lot of good since we've had him. I'm so happy with my horse and the job my trainer Hector Jaime Hernandez has done up to this point. I feel like we're in a really good place right now."

Governor’s Cup Futurity trials

Governor's Cup Futurity trials draw talented crowd

Each and every year, the Governor's Cup Futurity trials at Los Alamitos lure some of the most talented two-year-olds bred here in the state of California. With a healthy group of seven trials slated for Saturday night, 55 freshman runners are set to do battle for admission into this year's $431,000 affair.

Receiving top billing in the first trial of the evening is Spencer Childers' Peace Fire. A half-sister to 2004 AQHA World Champion Be A Bono, this gray daughter of Walk Thru Fire turned heads with an astonishing three and a quarter length score over maidens in her last out. A victim of troubled trips in her first two starts, she ran a vastly improved race in her third career start and will likely be one of the shortest-priced favorites of the night.

In addition to Peace Fire, Saturday's first trial features four other last-out winners, including Lookingforchemistry and Lovin This Corona. Second behind Ed Burke Million finalist Rocco Rojo in her very first start, Lookingforchemsitry then won back-to-back races for her owner Jose Santos and trainer Paul Jones. Eligible to compete in last month's Ed Burke Juvenile Stakes, her connections decline that invitation in favor of this spot.

Lovin This Corona could also contend. A half-length winner of his last start on May 29th, he broke his maiden in his third career start after a pair of solid thirds in April and May. A full-brother to the stallion Corona Cocktail and $1,180,375 earner Corona Kool, Lovin This Corona comes from one of the best female families in the sport of Quarter Horse racing and could easily surprise this group.

The fourth division of this year's Governor's Cup Futurity trials also features a strong field of runners from outstanding breeding lines. Such is the case with Lucas Racing Inc.'s Surf Dog. A full-brother to a pair of Champion of Champions winners in Ocean Runaway and Wave Carver, Surf Dog will try to follow in the footsteps of his millionaire siblings. Second in his lone career start, he turned in a solid 300-yard time of :15.58 and defeated Zoomin For Gold, who came back to win his next start on Friday, June 27th.

Two other juveniles from regal bloodlines include Brazilian Dasher and First Down King. A three-quarter sister to Ed Burke Million Futurity winner and millionaire FDD Dynasty, Brazilian Dasher debuted a winner on June 13th here at Los Alamitos. Despite a bumped break, this daughter of Fishers Dash ran up to the strength of her speedy works, crossing the finish line a head in front of her seven rivals. First Down King could also perform well. Out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Queen Of Torts, his dam finished second in the All American Juvenile Stakes in 2005 and banked close to $60,000. Second in his last start, he received a strong 86 speed index for the effort.

Race eight features one of the strongest fields of the night, including Ed Burke Million finalist Shining First Dash, Desert Classic Futurity qualifier Royal Heartbreak, and the highly-touted pair of Jumpn Beduino and Env. Although she's only made one start to date, Patricia Visscher's Jumpn Beduino demonstrated a great deal of talent in her maiden bow on May 23rd. An easy length winner that night, she stopped the clock with a strong 300-yard time of :15.53. A full-sister to the stallion Jumpn, she also comes from a very nice tail family.

Shining First Dash should also be competitive. A half-brother to the successful stallion Shazoom, he comes from an outstanding pedigree as well. After pulling off a shocker at 51-to-1 in his first career out, he then ran a gutsy second behind Tools Of Fire in his trial to the Ed Burke Million Futurity while qualifying to the Grade I event. Although he finished last in the finals, he had a nightmare trip that night and inherited valuable class from the experience.

Other dangerous contenders include Env and Royal Heartbreak. Another runner who was eligible to run in the Ed Burke Juvenile Stakes, Env declined that invitation in order to prepare for this out as well. Third last time out in her Ed Burke trial, she was only beaten a length and a half by Three Times The Toll, who went on to finish third in the finals, and Twin Spires, the winner of this year's Kindergarten Futurity. Royal Heartbreak is another horse to watch out for. A finalist in Arizona's Desert Classic Futurity from earlier this season, he overcome trouble in his second local start, managing to get up for the win by a half of a length.

In addition to Jumpn Beduino, Patricia Visscher also has another strong chance to qualify to the finals with Fighting City Hall in race nine. Eighth in his debut, he broke slowly and was never a factor. However, he put it all together in a big way in his second career out, drawing off by nearly a length at the wire in a splendid 300-yard time of :15.41. From a quality female family line, his dam One Chick Two Chick was a finalist in three different stakes races here at Los Alamitos, including the Governor's Cup Futurity in 2000.

Dan Francisco hopes to be on fire on Saturday night

Fifty five of the most talented two-year-olds in the state of California will be in action in the trials to the $431,000 Governor's Cup Futurity on Saturday evening. One trainer who will be strongly represented when this weekend's trials roll around is Dan Francisco, who will saddle a formidable group of nine juveniles on Saturday night.

Leading off Francisco's cavalry charge in trial one is the regally-bred filly Peace Fire. A dazzling three and a quarter length winner in her last start, she demolished the field with ease. "In her first two starts, she had a little bit of trouble and got caught in a traffic jam," explained her trainer Dan Francisco. "This time she got a clean run at it and really took off. She's kind of a temperamental filly though. I've often had trouble even doing the little things like getting a saddle on her, but she's certainly very fast. Peace Fire is one of the very best two-year-olds that I have in my barn."

A half-sister to nine-time stakes winner and millionaire Be A Bono, she comes from an extraordinary female family line as well. "I'm hoping that she'll end up being as fast as her older brother Be A Bono, who I also trained," added Francisco. "One thing they have in common is how they finish a race. They both really seem to come flying at the wire."

Francisco also brings a strong chance into the second trial, as he saddles a pair of live runners in Forrest Fire and The Partys On Fire. "They're both sired by Walk Thru Fire and both won their last starts despite trouble," Dan commented. "I like both of them quite a bit. All together, I have five two-year-olds by Walk Thru Fire in the trials and I've been pleased with how all of them have been doing so far. Forrest Fire is the lone colt of the group. I thought it would take him a while to grow into himself because he was so big, but he's actually matured a lot faster than I had expected."

Representing Francisco's barn in the third trial is another juvenile by Walk Thru Fire named Chickafire. An easy winner in her last start, she's shown a great deal of talent so far despite her inexperience. "She's a real precocious type of filly and has needed some time to put it all together," Dan said. "She's not all the way there yet, but she's certainly got the talent. In her last race, she basically caused her own trouble and ran all over the track. If she'll keep developing, she could be tough though."

Royal Heartbreak could be another one of his to watch in race eight. Drawn into one of the toughest trials of the night, he'll need to bring his A-game in order to compete with a group as strong as this one. "I always like to hook a good trial heat," explained Francisco. "If you're in with the good ones, then you know who you have to outrun. He's a big, good looking, and mild mannered kind of horse. One thing that I think is definitely to his benefit is the fact that he's already started four times. Most of these in the trials will have only started once or twice, so his edge in experience is something that could really end up helping him."

Trainer Dan Francisco also brings several interesting out-of-towners into the final two trials of the evening, including Miss Corona Light in race nine and Fly Thru Fire in the nightcap. "Both of those horses are owned by Martha Wells," said Dan. "She likes to raise her horses here in California and then break them out in Arizona. While they're there, some of them even end up starting at tracks like Turf Paradise with trainer Matthew Fales. Both of these fillies won their last races at Turf Paradise in a couple of Futurity consolations, so that's always an encouraging sign. We like to see them bring good form into this track with them."

Although both horses have already started twice, neither runner has had an out over the course here at Los Alamitos yet. "I would have loved to have gotten a start in them here at this track, but that's just not how it worked out," added Francisco. "Getting them through the receiving barn, dealing with all of the noise and fans here, adjusting to night racing, these are all things that they'll be forced to do for the first time now on Saturday. Both horses have schooled here though and I'm hopeful that they'll handle everything well in their first out. I guess we'll find out on Saturday."