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Richest El Primero Del Ano Derby Since 1988 on tap tonight at Los Al

April 9, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

Rey Tiburon, shown setting the fastest time from three trials on March 19, 2010
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
By Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

Fastest qualifier Rey Tiburon will look to spoil Headturner's bid to become the first sprinter to win the Los Alamitos Winter Derby and El Primero Del Ano Derby in the same year when the two are joined by eight other sophomores in the $214,400 El Primero final on Friday at Los Alamitos. This year's running of the El Primero will offer the stakes' richest purse since Runaway Winner won the 1988 running.

Headturner did not have the fastest time on trial night but he still has to be considered the horse to beat. The gelded son of Check Him Out won his derby trial in the easiest of forms despite having some difficulties before the start. He broke through the gate prior to the start and he came out of the race with a minor cut. Trainer Jose Flores says that he took care of the little injury that same night and is confident that the horse will be ready to shine in the El Primero.

"I'm a little nervous but the horse is ready," Flores said. "We cleaned him up the same night of the trials and he's doing great. It was really nothing. Not a big deal."

Headturner, who won the Grade 1 Winter Derby in stakes record time and ran second in the Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity last year, is the class of this year's El Primero field. He has earned a lofty $172,305 in his career - a figure that is over $90,000 more than the second richest horse in the race, Forrest Fire. G.R. Carter, who piloted him to victory in the Winter Derby, also returns aboard the Blane Schvaneveldt and John Andreini-trained gelding in place of the injured Rodrigo Aceves.

Salvador Pimienta's Rey Tiburon blew away his rivals to set the fastest time of :19.52 in the Derby trials and based on his affinity for the Los Alamitos racing strip, the Mexican-bred sprinter will give Headturner all he can handle.

"He is as honest a horse as you will ever find," said trainer Felix Gonzalez. "He has been unlucky in some of his starts but he ran great in the trials. I hope we can get lucky in the finals again."

Harems Last Dash, the top seller at the 2008 Los Alamitos Equine Sale, and 2009 Kindergarten Futurity runner-up Runaway Time are among the other top contenders in this race. Fighting City Hall, winner of the Golden State Juvenile Stakes, multiple Grade 1 finalist Forrest Fire, How Goes It, Sum Real Fun, Bring The Bling, and Fabulous Fifties will complete the field.

Trials report

The trials to the richest running of the El Primero Del Ano Derby since 1988 provided several interesting storylines on Friday at Los Alamitos. This year's Grade 2 El Primero Del Ano final will feature a healthy purse of $214,400, a stakes high since Runaway Winner's victory in this race in '88.

The opening trial featured the return of Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Headturner, who broke through the gate prior to the start but then went on to an impressive victory and the second fastest qualifying time of the night. The second trial went to Vessels Stallion Farm and Wood et al's Harems Last Dash, the 2008 high seller at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale, who posted the best effort in his career while posting the third fastest time of the night. The final trial went to Salvador Pimienta's Rey Tiburon, who recorded a 1-length victory while posting the night's fastest qualifying clocking. Rey Tiburon's accomplishment gave his owner his best and most high profile result in a stakes trial.

"Rey Tiburon is the best horse that I've ever owned," said Pimienta, who holds a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Guadalajara. "I own his mother (Corona Blurr) and she produced a nice runner by the name of Sonora Cartel. She was a very good runner until she suffered bone chips. She ran (fifth) in the (AQRA) Turf Paradise Futurity."

Pimienta and Rey Tiburon's trainer, Felix Gonzalez, have worked together for the past seven years. Gonzalez helped Pimienta acquired the mare RA Noble, who went on to become the owner's first broodmare.

"She produced for me a filly named A Regal Star, who won her trial and had the fastest time to the Desert Classic Futurity, and also Noble Coyote, who ran third in the West/Southwest Juvenile Challenge. With Corona Blurr, I have a yearling by Feature Mr Jess and she is carrying a Tres Seis baby right now."

Pimienta, who is originally from Jalisco, Mexico, now resides in Marana, Arizona. He also runs a horse transport business, often bringing broodmares from Mexico to the major breeding farms in California.

"Horses are my life. I race them and breed them and I care for them as well. I am very active at the horse sales," he added. "To have a horse in the El Primero is a great thrill."

"We had good luck tonight with Rey Tiburon," added trainer Felix Gonzalez. "This horse has always shown talent. We took him to Arizona where he ran second in last year's Turf Paradise Futurity. I thought he should have run a better race that night but he came back in good form and he came into this race well rested and ready to fire. He's honest, tough, and rarely makes a mistake. He is a very sure horse inside the gates. He doesn't make many mistakes there."

Jose Ramon Sandoval's Headturner won his trial by 1 lengths and looked impressive every step of the night but did have some issues prior to the start. Headturner broke through the gate before the race commenced and both he and jockey Rodrigo Aceves came away from the incident worst for wear. Aceves, in particular, hobbled back to the jockey's room after piloting Headturner to victory.

"I hit the top of my foot in the gate when he broke through," Aceves said. "I can't put any pressure on it right now."

"It looks like the horse to his inside acted up and that made him make the mistake," Sandoval said. "First of all I feel bad for Rodrigo and I hope he was not hurt seriously. Secondly I am concerned a little bit for Headturner because he suffered a slight cut on his front right leg. I don't think it's too serious. Sometimes that happens."

Trainer Jose Flores agreed with Sandoval's assessment of the injury.

"Nothing is serious and it is nothing that we can't take care of," Flores said. "I thought the horse had a tremendous outing tonight because he showed great heart. He has shown that he can overcome adversity and little problems. He is more mature. The injury will not require stitches from what I can see right now. It is very minor. The key will be to make sure that he does not suffer an infection. When he cools off I'll send my crew to bandage him and make sure that no dirt get in the cut. We will start treating it tonight."

Sandoval believes that time is on Headturner's side heading into the El Primero.
"Jose will have 20 days to rest the horse and get him ready for the final," the owner said. "At first I was against running him in these trials. I wanted to rest him until the PCQHRA Breeders Derby but after talking it over and looking at the horse we decided that if the horse was sharp in the Winter Derby then he would probably be sharp here. He ran his best race last month and he's at the top of his game right now. After this race, we'll definitely rest him."

Headturner will be looking to become the first horse to follow victory in the Winter Derby with a win in either the El Primero or La Primera Del Ano Derby.

Trained by Cody Joiner and ridden by Zacharie Kelsey, the First Down Dash colt Harems Last Dash outdueled Ed Allred's How Goes It to earn his third victory in five starts at Los Alamitos. A full brother to All American Futurity winner Royal Quick Dash, Los Alamitos Million Futurity winner A Regal Choice, and champion First Sovereign, Harems Last Dash came into this race after running the Winter Derby.

"He has been slow to mature and we've been waiting for him to get engage per say," said owner/breeder Frank "Scoop" Vessels. "He did that tonight. This race marks the first time that he looked like he had figured it out. He worked hard and he eyeballed another horse and came out on top. (Kelsey) did a great job and of course Joiner and his crew have done a great job with him."

"The way he won tonight will make a huge difference," added trainer Cody Joiner. "Chances are that in a derby final a horse will have to dig down and fight to win it. This experience will help him a great deal. He's won a few races before but I don't know if he's had to earn it like he did tonight. He beat a strong field tonight, particularly Scott Willoughby's trainee (How Goes It), who I believe is an outstanding horse."

The complete list of qualifiers to the El Primero Del Ano Derby is as follows; Rey Tiburon (:19.52), Headturner (:19.595), Harems Last Dash (:19.692), Forrest Fire (:19.699), How Goes It (:19.694), Runaway Time (:19.707), Sum Real Fun (:19.734), Bring The Bling (:19.808), Fabulous Fifties (:19.82), Fighting City Hall (:19.827).