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Last To Fire has fastest time to Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity

November 21, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Last To Fire sets the fastest time from 14 trials on November 20 to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
Jesus Avila and Jesus Cuevas’ Last To Fire was an absolute standout in the 400-yard trials to the $2,236,300 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Sunday, November 20, as the Walk Thru Fire gelding easily delivered the fastest qualifying time to the richest race in the track’s 61-year history. The Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity is the richest horserace of any breed contested in California in 2011 and the second richest Quarter Horse race of all-time. It will be held on Sunday, December 11. The post position draw for the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity – and also the $750,000 Champion of Champions – will be shown live on TVG on Wednesday, December 7.

Ridden by Francisco Rubio for trainer Juan Aleman, Last To Fire dominated with a three length victory and a winning time of :19.724 in the 13th of 14 trials. His final clocking was 14/100ths of a second faster than that of second fastest qualifier I Like The Odds, who scored in the final heat with a time of :19.868. This is the second time that Last To Fire has posted the fastest time to a million dollar race. He also posted the top time to the $1,218,500 Golden State Million Futurity back on October 16.

In the Golden State Million, Last To Fire followed his fastest qualifying time with a third place finish to Double Bar S Ranch’s Igotyourtac. The two will meet again and this time it will be for nearly twice the money in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finale. Igotyourtac qualified after winning the seventh trial with the 9th fastest qualifying time of :19.985. Other top qualifiers include Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie’s Terrific Synergy, the only horse to make the Ed Burke Million, Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Two Million futurities this year, and Johnny Trotter’s Hez Our Secret, the invader who earlier this year qualified to the Rainbow Futurity, but had to be scratched out because of colic.

The complete list of qualifiers is as follows: Last To Fire (:19.724), I Like The Odds (:19.868), Eye On Corona (:19.916), Hit It Big (:19.926), Terrific Synergy (:19.938), Bps Jumpin Frisco (:19.941), Last To Check Him (:19.964), Madoff (:19.969), Igotyourtac (:19.985), and Hez Our Secret (:19.985).

Of the 10 qualifiers to this year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, five are out of broodmares that won stakes races at the historic Orange County track. Last Shall Be First, the mother of fastest qualifier Last To Fire and also of seventh fastest qualifier Last To Check Him, won the 2002 Governor’s Cup Derby. Last Shall Be First was campaigned by the great Hall of Fame owner and breeder Spencer L. Childers, who bred both Last To Fire and Last To Check Him before passing away in July of 2009. The mothers of I Like The Odds (Fancys First Affair) and third fastest qualifier Eye On Corona (Louisiana Eye Opener) both won the La Primera Del Ano Derby here, while fifth fastest qualifier Terrific Synergy is out of 2009 Charger Bar Handicap and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap winner Terrific Energy.

Last To Fire was the top standout of the night, as he broke like a rocket from post number four and kept pulling away from a solid field to win his trial. The brown gelding was 1 ½ lengths ahead of his closest pursuer at the halfway point of the race and two lengths ahead after the first 300 yards. He poured it on from there, as he kept striding away from the competition before crossing the wire three lengths in front.

“We felt that we had a good enough horse to win the Golden State Million final, but we came up short on that night,” Avila said. “It was amazing to see him run tonight and it’s a great thrill to have the fastest time once again. I hope he runs that way again in the final.”

“He showed us what he’s made of tonight,” said Avila’s son, Jose. “He really surprised us with his effort. We knew that he was a good horse, but he just showed us something special. What he did tonight is something to be proud of. Juan Aleman has done a great job with Last To Fire. He’s taken great care of the horse and he’s made great decisions managing him. His effort was worth the wait. We’ve been here since 4 p.m. and we’ve been waiting six hours to watch him run. The wait was worth it.”

The trip was worth it for co-owner Jesus Cuevas.

“I drove here from Fresno to watch him run,” he said. “Halfway through the race all I could say was ‘There he goes! There’s no stopping him now!’ The horse has a good trainer and a great jockey. (Trainer) Juan Aleman has made a lot of right choices with this horse. We work well as a team. We work well together.”

Aleman trained the fastest qualifier to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in 2009 with Apollitical Jess, but on the night of the final “Jessie” would finish a close second to the millionaire Good Reason SA.

“I believed going into that race that Apollitical Jess was the best horse, but he hopped at the start, got behind and lost by a head,” Aleman said. “It was not his night, but I still feel that he was the best horse and he came back last year and proved it by becoming the world champion.”

“I’ve been here before with the fastest qualifier and the main thing is that the horse comes back healthy and sound after the trials,” he added. “I think the best thing we did was give him time off. After his second outing we gelded him and turned him out. I knew after his second start that he had a lot of talent. I told the guys that there was no need to race him all year long. I believe that fresh horses win these races at the end of the year. I thought that with time off that this horse would be tough, especially for this distance. After we rested him, he came back and had a great work. He had a little bit of trouble in his first start back, but he’s looked good ever since. We went with a flipping halter because he was doing a few things that I didn’t like in the starting gate. He got used to it and he’s been lights out ever since. He’s been leaving fast and finishing strong each time.”

Sent off at 10-1 odds, Tom Bradbury, Kim Kessinger and Howard Nichols’ I Like The Odds held off Bill Price’s BPS Jumpin Frisco by a half length to win the final trial of the night. I Like The Odds, an Oklahoma-bred gelding, now has two wins and a second in his three starts at Los Alamitos. Prior to his local arrival, he was fourth to Texas Classic Futurity winner Sure Shot B and Remington Park Futurity winner Mighty B Valiant in a trial to the All American Futurity in mid-August.

“I feel like I can go out there and kick a 50-yard field goal,” said trainer Joe Bassett. “I thought this horse was my best shot to qualify to this race. I also trained his mother (Fancys First Affair) and he reminds me a lot of her. He looks just like her, he acts just like her and he’s got the gate speed that she had. He reminds me of her a ton. The only difference between the two is that this horse took a little bit of time to figure things out, but Fancys First Affair got it right from the start. He is figuring it out and that’s exciting.”

Nichols joined the ownership partnership on I Like The Odds after co-breeders Bradbury and Kessinger repurchased him at the Ruidoso Yearling Sale.

“I bought one third of the horse after they bought him back,” Nichols said. “Now I’m driving back home to Phoenix. It’s only a six-hour drive from here.”

BPS Jumpin Frisco qualified out of this heat with the sixth fastest time.

Desiree Princess Ranch’s Eye On Corona selected a perfect time to break his maiden, as the Louisiana-bred son of Corona Cartel won his trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million to post the third fastest qualifying time. Ridden by Rodrigo Aceves for trainer Jose Flores, Eye On Corona won the fifth trial and the win was his first in five career starts. He came into the race having finished second in three straight races at Ruidoso Downs and prior to that he was fourth in a futurity trial at Remington Park. It all came together for the horse bred by J.E. III, D.C. and C.T. Jumonville in his “Deuce” trial. Leaving the gate from post seven at 6-1 odds, Eye On Corona broke on top and never looked back en route to a hard-fought nose victory over Edward and Theresa DeNike’s Hit It Big. Eye On Corona covered the distance in :19.916, while Hit It Big ran in the fourth fastest qualifying time of :19.926.

“Eye On Corona came to my barn about three weeks ago,” Flores said. “He came in good shape and he’s a good horse. I was happy with the way he ran in his first start under the lights at Los Alamitos. Rodrigo has helped me a lot with this horse. We worked him out of the gate and Rodrigo was happy with his work. He told me that me that the horse had amazing talent. I was first impressed with him in his last race at Ruidoso Downs. He broke terrible and he made a ton of ground to finish in second place. We tried a couple of different things with him for this trial and everything seems to have worked out well. If he comes back well and repeats this effort in the final then we’ll be okay. He’s a very sound horse and thrilled with his race.”

Eye On Corona’s sire and dam both enjoyed success at Los Alamitos Race Course. Corona Cartel, of course, won the second ever running of the Los Alamitos Million Futurity back in 1996 and the Mr Eye Opener mare Louisiana Eye Opener won five races at the Orange County oval including the 2005 La Primera Del Ano Derby. She also ran in the 2004 Golden State Million Futurity.

Likewise, Hit It Big’s breeding is full of brothers and sisters that have enjoyed success at this track. Purchased for $100,000 at the last year’s Los Alamitos Equine Sale, Hit It Big is a colt by Walk Thru Fire out of Chickasis. He is a full brother to Governor’s Cup Derby and Futurity winner Hot Hitter and a half brother to Governor’s Cup Derby and Futurity winner Hard Hitting, former track record holder Lassen County and Chickasecret, who is the mother of 2009 World Champion Freaky. Two of Hit It Big’s full brothers were among the high sellers at this year’s Los Alamitos Equine Sale. The yearling Streak Hitter topped the sale at $190,000, while Hot Hitting was the fourth highest selling yearling at $130,000.

Terrific Synergy, sired by FDD Dynasty, is back in a million dollar race. Bred by Parsons Family Trust, the gelding was fourth in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and sixth in the Golden State Million Futurity. He posted the fifth fastest qualifying time here with a time of :19.938.

“To beat them in the final, he’ll need to fly out of the gate,” co-owner Billy Smith said. “Believe me, I’m tickled with the way he ran, but to win he has to leave from there. The distance helps him because he is capable of finishing strongly.”

“He has a lot of speed,” added Pat Guthrie, who also owns the gelding. “After a couple of jumps he was right there on the lead.”

Cody Joiner saddled Terrific Synergy, who was ridden by G.R. Carter.

Alessio, Brown and Davies’ Madoff scored his second win in a row while qualifying with the eighth fastest time. The Separatist colt led from start to finish in a way similar to his 1 ¼ length victory to break his maiden on July 16. Denny Ekins, who won this race in 2004 with Ocean Runaway, trains Madoff.

Igotyourtac won his trial by a ½ length while tying with Johnny Trotter’s Hez Our Secret with the ninth fastest qualifying time. Igotyourtac will now look to become the fifth horse to win the Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. The others are Dashing Knud (2000), First Place Queen (2002), Ocean Runaway (2004) and Tres Passes (2008). Saul Ramirez Jr., who also piloted second fastest qualifier I Like The Odds, piloted Igotyourtac for trainer Paul Jones.

Ridden by Ricky Ramirez for trainer Trey Wood, Hez Our Secret overcame the most trouble out of the qualifiers to make the final field. Hez Our Secret was bumped twice at the start, lugged in and then had to squeeze past dueling rivals to win the 12th trial. His hard fought victory after a troubled journey makes him one of the favorites to win the rich final.

“He did get into a lot of trouble, but if he breaks better he would have avoided the trouble,” Wood said. “He had a lot of bad luck in the summer and hopefully his perseverance will pay off in the end. This horse had colic three days before the final to the Rainbow Futurity. His gut was not completely twisted, but they still had to cut him open. We got him up at the end of the Ruidoso meet and we just decided to send him here. We only started training him when he got here. I think his next race will be his best race. It’s been six months since the colic and this will be his third out. We think that he’ll be strong. We used a flipping halter on him for the first time. I thought he was standing perfect in the gate tonight. He just didn’t leave as sharp. We have no excuses. He was doing great at the end and that’s always been his strength. I wish the final was at 440 yards because he has a kick at the end.”