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400-yard track record holder heads Sunday’s El Primero Del Ano Derby

April 8, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Story by Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

One Sweet Jess, California’s top 2‑year‑old colt of 2010, will look to establish himself as the top 3‑year‑old on the grounds so far this year when he headlines the Grade 2 $239,500 El Primero Del Ano Derby on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

To be ridden by Cruz Mendez for Jose and Gustavo De La Torre, One Sweet Jess will enter the El Primero after running the fastest 400 yard races ever posted at Los Alamitos. One Sweet Jess’ record clocking of :19.113 in the El Primero trials on March 18 broke the previous all-time track mark of :19.133 set by World Champion Apollitical Jess in last year’s Los Alamitos Super Derby. One Sweet Jess also set a new record of :09.12 for fastest time ever for the final 220-yards of a race at Los Alamitos.

“We never expected such a fast time in his first start of the year,” said Jose De La Torre. “This was his first race since he faced so much trouble in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity so we just wanted him to go out there and run a good race. When I saw him post a track record I was shocked and I’m not easily shocked. I couldn’t believe him. I remember a few mornings before the trials, he wasn’t looking like he was going to run a great race, but I talked to jockey Santiago Mendez and he told me not to worry. Santiago had been working with him in the mornings and he said the horse was feeling good and would be ready to do his job in the trials. Those words made us feel good and look at the race he ran.

“One Sweet Jess is a special horse,” De La Torre added. “We know that there are people that have been in the business for a long, long time still hoping to one day get a horse like One Sweet Jess. We understand that we are extremely lucky to have him. I am not the kind of person that becomes too emotionally attached to my horses, but I have to admit that I feel blessed to have such a colt. I guess last year was our year to have a great 2-year-old colt. It was our turn. We still feel that in 2010 he was as good as any 2-year-old colt in the nation last season. We are very thankful for that. Now we want him to have a great 3-year-old campaign.

There is over $200,000 on the line in this race and more black type to go with it. We feel that this horse has already proven himself as a future stud, but we want him to accomplish great things. We’re going to send him to Ruidoso Downs later this month to compete in the derbies up there. He is going to run in the Ruidoso Derby and depending on how he does in that race we might run him in the Rainbow Derby. We’ll shoot for the All American Derby next. We had to supplement him to run in those races up there. It took a lot of money to do that, but this horse has earned it. We’ll bring him back for the Los Alamitos Super Derby and hopefully he’ll have a chance to run in the Champion of Champions. ”

Trained by the owners’ younger brother, Ugo De La Torre, One Sweet Jess will enter the richest running of the El Primero Del Ano since 1986 having won six of 11 starts. Bred by the Allred Brothers of Arizona, One Sweet Jess won the 2010 Golden State Million Futurity before rallying from a highly troubled break to finish fourth in the Los Alamitos Two Million. That fourth place finish is One Sweet Jess’ only blemish in his last six starts, as he has won five of his last six outings, including that 2 ¼ length victory in the El Primero Derby trials.

“He’s such a good and consistent horse. I can’t wait to see how his 3-year-old season develops,” Jose De La Torre said.

The brothers have another outstanding contender in Eddie Ray Vaughan running in the El Primero final. The son of Corona Cartel won his derby trial by daylight – 1 ¼ lengths to be exact – and improved his record to two wins from only three starts. One Sweet Jess will start from post seven and Eddie Ray Vaughan will break from post eight. Surely, the last thing the De La Torres would want to see are those two colts bumping into each other.

“Eddie Ray Vaughan is a very talented horse,” the owner added. “We took our time with him last year because he had sore shins last year, but we always thought of him highly. He could post a big surprise in the final – I wouldn’t be shocked.”

And remember, not very many things shock Jose De La Torre.

(Note: for the El Primero Del Ano Derby trials report, go to

News and notes

The riding brothers Cruz and Santiago Mendez are currently ranked first and second, respectively, in the Quarter Horse jockey standings at Los Alamitos. Santiago, of course, will look to win the El Primero aboard the talented favorite One Sweet Jess, but his older brother will look to derail his plans to win the Grade 2 derby, as he will ride Benny Rosset, Vaughn Cook and Vince Genco’s Rare Bac for trainer Paul Jones. Cruz Mendez picked up the mount on Rare Bac after Adrian Loza stuck with trial winner Eddie Ray Vaughan for the finale. Cruz Mendez is looking for his first major stakes win at Los Alamitos.

(Note: for more about the Mendez brothers, see “Brothers are rolling at Los Alamitos” in the April issue of TRJ—The Racing Journal, page 23.

The field to the El Primero Del Ano Derby will also feature 2010 Kindergarten Futurity winner West Coast Hawk and graded stakes finalists Duke Kahanamoku, Loose Perry, PK Fire and Current Fire. The field will be completed by Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes runner-up Teller No Lies and Golden State Juvenile Stakes runner-up Macho Mexicano. Racing for Juan Aleman and Muniz Quarter Horses LLC, Duke Kahanamoku could be the x-factor in this race. He has been lights out in three of his four career starts – he won his El Primero trial by over a length – and he comes from a royal family that includes derby winners Dutch Schultz and Spike It And Fly, but he finished seventh in his only stakes appearance ever when chasing One Sweet Jess in last year’s Golden State Million. Eduardo Nicasio, who rode Apollitical Jess in his world champion season last year, will be aboard Duke Kahanamoku from post number two.