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Separate Fire still in line for Bonanza, Last To Fire is first in trial

October 17, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Separate Fire readies for her Golden State Million Futurity trial on October 16.
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
Story by Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

Tremor Enterprises LLC’s Separate Fire kept her dream alive of becoming the first horse to win the $1,000,000 Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza, the track’s version of the Triple Crown, after posting the ninth fastest qualifying time while winning her trial to the Grade 1 $1,218,400 Golden State Million Futurity on Sunday, October 16.

Trained by Paul Jones and ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Separate Fire covered the distance in :19.902 or about 2/10ths of a second behind Jesus Avila and Jesus Cuevas’ fastest qualifier Last To Fire, who won the fifth of 10 trials in a time of :19.707. Separate Fire has been in this situation before, as she also posted the ninth fastest qualifying time to the Ed Burke Million Futurity before returning to win the million dollar final.

The complete list of qualifiers to the Golden State Million final to be held on Sunday, October 30 is as follows: Last Fire (:19.707), Jess Lips (:19.714), Terrific Synergy (:19.805), Long Gone (:19.813), Fly First Down (:19.850), First Outburst (:19.861), Regardless (:19.877), Jess Sass Dash (:19.893) and Separate Fire (:19.902). The 10th spot will be decided via shake between Double Bar S Ranch’s Igotyourtac and Desiree Princess Ranch LLC’s Unobeter, who both clocked in at :19.916.

As for Separate Fire, her Ed Burke Million victory made her eligible for the Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza. The daughter of Walk Thru Fire will earn a $1,000,000 bonus if she goes on to win the Golden State Million Futurity and also the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

“It’s nerve wracking when you have a horse this good,” said nine-time champion AQHA trainer Paul Jones. “She was coming back to race after a long layoff and you never know how a horse will comeback after time off. She ran a fantastic race. It was a monster effort and there was no tailwind to help her out. She just kept on going and I’m pleased that she made the Golden State Million final.”

Separate Fire will be going after her third major futurity win of the year in the Golden State Million finale. In addition to the 350-yard Ed Burke, Separate Fire also won the 300-yard Kindergarten Futurity earlier this year.

“She did her job,” said Jose Trevino of Tremor Enterprises. “She finished well and did every right.”

Trevino acquired Walk Thru Fire from the consignment of Dr. Steve Burns at the Heritage Place Sale. The owner wanted a baby by Walk Thru Fire in his stable and Separate Fire was the chosen one. Jose Trevino and wife Zulema have enjoyed several important victories in recent years. In addition to Separate Fire’s exploits, Tremor Enterprises have also landed in the winner’s circle with Mr Piloto in the 2010 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico and with Champion Tempting Dash in the $1,105,397 Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park in Texas in 2009.

Separate Fire won her trial by ¾ lengths to improve her career record to five wins in six starts. Her only loss is that third place finish in the Ed Burke Million trials, which saw her sneak into the final with the ninth fastest time.

Top Two Qualifiers Exit Same Heat

Jesus Avila and Jesus Cuevas’ Last To Fire edged Samuel Valeriano’s Jess Lips by a nose on the way to posting the fastest qualifying time of :19.707 to the Golden State Million Futurity. Jess Lips finished with second fastest qualifying time of the night after crossing the wire in :19.714.

Avila and Cuevas have enjoyed good success over the years at Los Alamitos and the two cousins are best known for having campaigned former track record holder and 2007 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner A Stoli Mate. Avila and Cueavs have also raced Kool Cowboy, the runner-up in last year’s Kindergarten Futurity, plus 2005 Kindergarten Futurity fourth place finisher Eye Jess Cant Wait and this year’s Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist A Country Boy Can.

“Racing is our hobby,” Jesus Avila said. “It can be expensive at times, but it’s something that we love and enjoy a great deal. We gelded Last To Fire after his second start (in late May). We gave him some rest and then started swimming him. We kept him active because we knew he had some tough races ahead. He came back on (September 23) and ran fifth in a maiden race. We just wanted him to get back into form and that race helped him accomplish what he did tonight. We bought him for $9,700 as a yearling and now we wouldn’t sell him for triple that amount. We’re very pleased.”

Avila of Long Beach, California and Cuevas of Fresno, California, became business partners at the encouragement of Avila, who grew up loving the sport. Cuevas, on the other hand, admits not knowing much about racing growing up in Michoacan, Mexico. The two paid $16,000 for their first horse, but that did not pan out. The horse never even had a workout. Avila described their horse as one that “just wasn't born to run."

Cuevas could have packed it in right then, but that wasn’t’ his style. He was determined to be successful in horse racing. And they did it thanks to A Stoli Mate, who in November of 2007 set a 400-yard track record by breaking the track record shared by champions Blues Girl Too and Ocean Runaway.

Avila and Cuevas both own transportation businesses. Avila’s Sky Distribution Express is a 20-truck operation that serves all of Southern California.

“Business is tough,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition and the price for diesel fuel is high. We are hoping that Last To Fire can earn some good money in the Golden State Million final to help push us ahead in our business.”

The second fastest qualifier and runner-up in this trial is Samuel Valeriano’s Jess Lips, who remains a maiden after four career starts. The Texas-bred colt by Mr Jess Perry has finished second in each of his last three starts.

“We’re going to break his maiden in the million dollar race,” said trainer Jaime Gomez. “Why can’t he do it? He ran a great trial race and he’s doing great here. I have to thank trainer Eddie Willis because he sent me this horse and also Thru The Fire, who qualified last night to the Los Alamitos Super Derby. Eddie has been out here the past couple of years and he liked the way that I ran my stable. I was thrilled to get these nice horses and thrilled that both qualified to some very big races.”

Valeriano made a family vacation out of the trials to the Golden State Million Futurity. The owner visited Los Alamitos Race Course with his father and son, both named Gregorio.

“I’ve loved horses since I was a young boy,” said Valeriano of Odessa, Texas. “We had some riding horses, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I started owning race horses. I bought a mare named Treasured Corona in Lubbock, Texas. We’ve been racing horses ever since. We got our first win at Manor Downs with a filly by Ocean Runaway who broke her maiden in her first out. I’ve raced in Oklahoma and also at Sunland Park, Ruidoso Downs, Lone Star, Retama and now Los Alamitos Race Course. We’ve had horses with Eddie, Heath Reed, Robert Sanchez and Toby Keeton. Los Alamitos is my favorite track now because we’ve qualified to a Grade 1 race for the first time. To get into this race is one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time.”

“Samuel is a good guy,” Gomez said. “I first met him at Heritage Place. He’s thinking about sending some horses here in the future so I’m looking forward to that.”

Valeriano has run Reliable Transport LLC since 2007, an Odessa-based company in the oil field transportation business. His family also owns Valeriano Racing Stables, a five-acre ranch also in Odessa.

“We keep our four broodmares and yearlings there,” he said. “We have about 28 horses in total. We’ve also started breeding and we just recently purchased two Walk Thru Fire babies that we’ll race next year. We purchased Jess Lips for $27,000 at the Ruidoso Sale last year. We liked him because he’s a full brother to Jesse James Jr.”

Jesse James Jr loved Los Alamitos, as he won the 2005 First Down Dash Handicap and was second in the Golden State Derby, third in the Los Alamitos Derby and fourth in the Southern California Derby in 2004.

A Terrific Effort

Making his first start since a strong comeback to finish fourth in the Ed Burke Million Futurity, Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie’s Terrific Synergy flew past his rivals to win the fourth trial to the Golden State Million Futurity. Ridden by G.R. Carter, who picked up the mount in placed of Jacky Martin, Terrific Synergy broke fourth before rolling powerfully in the second half of the race to post a half length victory in a time of :19.805.

“We’ve had this plan all along,” said trainer Cody Joiner. “Our goal was to run him in the big million dollar races here. We were looking at about seven races with him and to get him into this final, that’s exactly what we were playing for. He came out healthy after the Ed Burke and then we sent him to Double Bar S Ranch for some time off. He’s a big colt. He was big when we saw him at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale last year. He was all legs. He’s now starting to fill out and really becoming a good looking horse.”

Terrific Synergy’s mother is Terrific Energy, a multiple Grade 1 winner at the Orange County track in 2009. Terrific Energy won that year’s Charger Bar Handicap and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap.

“A lot of people tell me that Terrific Synergy looks exactly like his mother,” Joiner added. “He looks like her to a T. After this long layoff he has a little bit nervous. He definitely looked fresher than usual when he was warming up. This race will settle him back down.”

Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie have raced horses together for quite some time now. Along with Vessels Stallion Farm, Smith and Guthrie famously campaigned the two-time champion colt FDD Dynasty, who has since been syndicated to stud. FDD Dynasty is the sire of Terrific Synergy.

“I always dreamed of having a good stallion and it looks like FDD Dynasty is that horse,” Smith said. “His babies are showing up when the money is down. Earlier today he had a winner in one of the Challenge races at Turf Paradise. Everyone I’ve talked to tells me that his babies seem to get better and better with training. I always preferred buying horses at the sale instead of breeding horses, but I remember listening to breeders talking about this horse they bred and that horse. Now I’m always looking after the FDD Dynasty babies and whenever I see one do well I get as excited as if I owned the horse.”

Smith is involved in land developing in New Mexico and also owns the state’s largest Taxi company and is also involved in a self storage business. Smith owned his first horse in 1981 by the name of High Handed. He went on to qualify to that year’s Kansas Futurity, losing to the eventual Triple Crown winner Special Effort. Smith has enjoyed a lot of success over the years.

“I’ve had a Grade 1 qualifier each year for the past seven years except for 2010,” he said. “I had a beautiful filly, but she was bitten by a (recluse spider) and that ended her racing career. She was supposed to be my big gun last year.

“I love this game and I have a passion for it,” Smith added. “It’s exciting to run Terrific Synergy because we ran his daddy. Cody has done a good job for us. For a young man he has tremendous patience. He and his dad, Mike, do a great job together.”

Guthrie retired after selling his company, Health Care Financial Advisors, in 1998 when he was 44-year-olds. The company provided financial consulting services for hospitals around the nation. Guthrie got involved in Quarter Horses after spending the summers in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. At Ruidoso, Guthrie and Smith qualified to the Rainbow Futurity with a horse by the name of Jess Delightful and also raced in the All American Futurity with Jess Satin.

Charismatic Long Gone wins again

Armando Leon’s Long Gone delivered another outstanding performance after posting a half-length victory over Double Bar S Ranch’s Igotyourtac in the seventh trial to the Golden State Million Futurity. Long Gone covered the distance in :19.813. The colt by TR Dasher has had a notable freshman campaign. He was disqualified from first and placed ninth in the Governor’s Cup Futurity and then posted a hard-fought second place finish in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. Long Gone’s win in this trial took his record to four victories from seven starts.

“He’s a veteran runner now and he’s becoming more professional with each race,” trainer Adan Farias said. “He was running greenly early in his career, but he’s getting better and better from that standpoint.”

Long Gone’s DQ in the Governor’s Cup is the only time that’s he’s finished out of the money. Ed Allred bred the colt, who is a full brother to the Champion of Champions qualifier Snitcher.

Invader shines in local debut

Tremor Enterprises LLC’s Fly First Down scored an impressive victory in his debut performance at Los Alamitos, as the son of First Down Dash cruised to a 1¼-length victory in Sunday’s opening trial to the Golden State Million Futurity.

Ridden by Francisco Rubio, Fly First Down flew out of the gate from post six and then pulled away en route to his daylight victory in a 400 yard time of :19.850. Fly First Down arrived at Los Alamitos after finishing seventh in the $500,000 Ruidoso Futurity. The Steve Burns-bred runner then had an easy gate workout under the lights at Los Alamitos, covering the 350 yards in :18.50. Fly First Down, who was all the rage at the New Mexico mountain after posting the fastest qualifying time to the Ruidoso Futurity, has now won two of three career starts.

“He was a little sore after the Ruidoso Futurity so we decided to take it easy with him,” said Jose Trevino of Tremor Enterprises. “His issues were not that concerning, but we still wanted him to have some rest before this race.”

“I received a call out of the blue from Mr. Trevino and he asked me to train Fly First Down and Natalie Dash,” said trainer Jose Flores. “I was very excited to do so because those are two good horses. Both horses are doing well and I’m especially happy with Fly First Down. We’ll see how his time holds up, but I don’t care if we’re the fastest qualifier or the 10th fastest qualifier as long as we are a qualifier.”

Dennie and Kris Hill’s Whata Corona Runner ran second to make it back to back races in which the Utah-bred colt has hit the board in a futurity trial at Los Alamitos. He previously ran second to Long Gone in a trial to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity.

Trainer enjoys her biggest win yet

On January 21, 2011, trainer Kristen Watanabe saddled her first winner ever at Los Alamitos Race Course when the 5-year-old sprinter Gordon Rb won the evening’s 10th race. Watanabe can now boast her first futurity trial winner after Samuel Henderson’s First Outburst upset the field to win his trial to the Golden State Million Futurity. Sent off at odds of 16-1, First Outburst covered the distance in :19.861 while defeating Jennifers Challenge by ¾ lengths.

Watanabe began training in 2010 after a decade of working for 1997 AQHA Champion Trainer Donna McArthur. For 11 years, Watanabe also dated the highly respected jockey Sam Thompson, who passed away in December 2008 following a riding accident at Los Alamitos Race Course.

For many years, Watanabe was sided by side with McArthur in the winner’s circle for many important stakes wins recorded by champions like Corona Kool and Deelish.

Regardless continues perfect season

Owned, bred and trained by Angela Aquino, Regardless continues to do everything perfectly at Los Alamitos. The gelded son of Chicks Regard qualified to the Golden State Million following a terrific 1 ¼ length victory in the 10th and final trial of the evening. Regardless began preparing for his racing career by posting back-to-back bullet workouts at Los Alamitos. He had the fastest of 17 drills at 220 yards on August 16 and then the fastest of 11 drills at 220 yards on September 6. His September workout has been described by several Los Alamitos racing observers as one of the best drills posted by a 2-year-old this season. Regardless continued his great workout in his maiden outing, as he posted a crushing 1 ¼ length victory in a time of :15.29. He was all business in his trial, as he scored another 1 ¼ length victory while drawing away from his rivals to the tune of a :19.877 clocking.

Regardless was ridden by Eddie Garcia, the track’s all-time leading rider in wins and stakes wins. Garcia has won the Golden State Million twice, first with champion Artesias Specialchic in 1997 and then with millionaire Tres Passes in 2008.

Aquino, meanwhile, comes from a racing family. Her dad, Carlos Aquino, rode all over Southern California for many years and her mom, Betsy, was solid trainer in the Northern California fair circuit and also at Los Alamitos. Aquino’s sister, Elena Andrade, is also a trainer, who in 2006 saddled Poly Give One Corona to the fastest qualifying time to the Kindergarten Futurity. Angela Aquino owned and eventually trained One Fast Cartel, who ran in the 2001 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and in the 2002 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Southern California Derby.

Solid trial winners

It doesn’t matter where his futurity trials are held, Danny Thomas and John Anderson’s Flying T Bay Cub is always coming out on top. The colt by Brookstone Bay won his third trial race in a row, this one by a half length in the Golden State Million trials. Ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Bret Vickery, Flying T Bay Cub covered the distance in :19.926. He previously won his trial to the All American Futurity by neck and prior to that he scored in a trial to the Rocky Mountain Spring Classic Futurity. Unfortunately for Flying T Bay Cub, he has not been able to qualify to a final yet. His next attempt to qualify to an important futurity will come in the trials to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

Armando Leon’s Finisterra, a filly sired by FDD Dynasty, finished powerfully to defeat Ed Allred’s Once Over by a head in the sixth trial to the Golden State Million Futurity. Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm and Cody Joiner, Finisterra was picking up her first win in six career starts while covering the distance in :20.186. She’ll now be pointed to run in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity trials. Adan Farias saddled Finisterra, who was ridden by Rodrigo Aceves.

Ed Allred’s Study Hall Pierce, a filly by TR Dasher, posted a wire to wire victory in a time of :20.016 to win her trial to the Golden State Million Futurity. Bred by her owner, Study Hall Pierce has now won three of four career starts with her only non-victory being a third place finish in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes. Eduardo Nicasio piloted her for trainer Cody Joiner.