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Adequan Derby Challenge: Zoomin Daphne, Mister Big, Zip Kode

October 18, 2014     E-mail this page to a friend!

Stories by Andrea Caudill, courtesy of AQHA

Adequan Derby contender Zoomin Daphne and her owner are making a difference

It is a fact that horses can help heal people, as most horsepeople can attest. Bruce Ironshirt of Standoff, Alberta, has been blessed with horses, and is in the business of helping heal people.

For 28 years, Ironshirt has served in the administration of his Native American tribe, the Blood Tribe, and currently serves as the administration director of community support. The Blood Tribe is the largest reservation in Canada, with approximately 12,000 members, and a member of the greater Blackfoot Confederacy.

“They are all my family,” Ironshirt says of his tribe. “The best part of my job is working with the elders, working with the families. Those that need our services.”

He oversees programs such as a food bank and assisted living program to help those in need have a better life.

“That’s the best part of my job, every day working with my people in the program,” he says. “And that goes right back to being blessed with the horses. One elder told me horses are very holistic. They’re there to help you, and if you take care of them they will take care of you.”

Ironshirt was raised with horses around. He bought his first racehorse in 1992, a yearling bred by E.J. Keller named Flynfirstclassangel. The Flying Effort mare did extremely well for herself, winning the 1993 QHRBSA of Alberta Breeders’ Futurity (RG3) and finishing second in the Canadian Bred Futurity (R) in her racing career.

Ironshirt has come to Prairie Meadows with his Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) contender Zoomin Daphne, whom he bought at the 2012 Heritage Place Yearling Sale, paying $7,500 for her.

Bred in Oklahoma by Henry Brown, she is by Azoom, a 12-year-old son of Shazoom. Azoom won 11 of 14 of his career starts, including the Texas Classic Futurity (G1), Sam Houston Futurity (G1) and TQHA Sale Futurity (RG1). He earned $738,136. The stallion has sired 219 winners from 353 starters, with earnings exceeding $6.5 million.

Dam La Reina De La Noche is an unraced daughter of First Down Dash, and a full sister to Grade 1 winner Valors Gold ($319,071), stakes-placed runner Remarkably Ritzy ($200,138), Grade 1-placed runner and champion sire Brookstone Bay ($184,769) and Grade 1-producer Le Mishka. La Reina De La Noche also produced stakes-placed runner GBH Big Henry ($19,456).

“I liked her bloodlines and conformation,” Ironshirt says of why he chose Zoomin Daphne. “I liked Azoom, and of course her mother, she is from a black type family. With the yearlings you never know. I took a gamble on that one.”

His gamble has paid off.

Zoomin Daphne won once in seven starts as a 2-year-old, but she bloomed as a 3-year-old, crossing the wire first in all but one of her seven starts this year (she was disqualified from one of those wins). She has appeared to be getting stronger as time goes on. Three starts ago, she prevailed in the $28,574 Adequan Evergreen Derby Challenge, qualifying for the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3). She returned in September to dominate her Canadian Cup Derby (R) trial by nearly two lengths. Two weeks later she came back in the $21,403 Canadian Cup Derby to dominate again by 1 ½ lengths.

“I was thrilled,” Ironshirt says. “She just started to run very well. She earned her berth here. That’s why we came here to Prairie Meadows.”

Zoomin Daphne has earned $32,983 in her racing career, and a career-high speed index of 106.

But Ironshirt and Zoomin Daphne have made an impact off the track as well as on it. For about five years, he has worked with small groups of disadvantaged children, bringing them out to work with the horses, including Zoomin Daphne.

“These kids like working with horses, they connect very well with them,” he says. “They start working with them, start riding and just connect so well they got better and better.”

The kids are assigned a horse to take care of, and Ironshirt shows them how to work with the horses. There are rules: the kids must attend school if they want to work with the horses, and also must do chores such as clean stalls and groom before they’re allowed to ride. They ride three days a week, and love to barrel race and do pole bending.

Ironshirt has the support of his family, including three grown children and five grandchildren. He made the 24 hour trip to bring Zoomin Daphne to one of the biggest stages in American Quarter Horse racing, and says he has the full support of his family, who are cheering him on.

“It’s a big event for us,” he says. “But (Zoomin Daphne) has earned her right to be here.”

Zoomin Daphne and her people are taking care of each other.

Mister Big looms large

Jerry Windham’s homebred Mister Big tries for his fifth-straight win and his third stakes victory of his current hot streak when he starts in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) during the Bank of America Challenge Championships on Saturday night at Prairie Meadows.

Mister Big (Shazoom-Jess An Illusion by Mr Jess Perry) started his winning streak back in June when he won his trial to the $48,589 TQHA Sires Cup Derby (R). He then overcame a bump in the TQHA Sires Cup Derby and took command midway through the race before pulling away to the one-length win.

The gelding came back in the trials $58,680 Adequan Retama Park Derby Challenge and battled to a head win in his trial. In the 400-yard finals, Mister Big made a late run from the ninth post position to win by an expanding three quarters of a length. That win earned him a trip to Prairie Meadows for the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship where he will race for trainer Charley Hunt.

Gregorio Garza’s Daytona B (First Down Dash-Dashing Pana by Toast To Dash) is another hot horse in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship after making a couple of starts at Prairie Meadows and winning the $40,680 Adequan Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge in his latest start. The Rolando Almanza-trained gelding outclassed the field with the one-half length win. Sizzlin Mr Perry made a late bid, however never seriously threatened Daytona B.

Daytona B was winless in three starts as a two-year-old before stepping up to the stakes ranks this year. He was second by a head behind Mister Big in the $167,300 Sam Houston Derby (G3) back in April and then third in the $138,000 Firecracker Derby.

The Rodrigo Covarrubias-owned and -trained Spit N Salt (Spit Curl Jess-Salty And Steady (TB) by Salt Lake) has won two of three starts at Prairie Meadows and has won his two latest starts, capped by the $42,000 Adequan Will Rogers Derby Challenge on September 28. The gelding went off as the 13-10 favorite and lived up to expectations with a dominating one-and-one-half length win. Covarrubias made a savvy move when he claimed Spit N Salt for $6,250 in May at Remington Park.

Brad and Ann Tate’s homebred Wicked Valentine (One Famous Eagle-Only The Wicked by First Down Dash) earned his spot in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship with a neck win in the $40,000 Adequan Arapahoe Park Derby Challenge. Trainer Hunt prepared the gelding for the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship with a neck win in a $12,000 allowance win at Prairie Meadows on August 31, his latest start.

Last year at Prairie Meadows, Wicked Valentine was second by a neck in the John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge.

Zip Kode: big runner from a small operation

Ontario-based Zip Kode will take on the world in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) this weekend, and she has an excellent record backing her up.

Zip Kode has lit the board in 13 of 19 starts and earned $82,892. Spending the majority of her racing career at Ajax Downs in Ontario, her stakes wins include the Maple Leaf Futurity, John Deere Ajax Juvenile Challenge, Ontario Jackpot Futurity and Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge. She was also second in the All Canadian Futurity (R).

She is a big runner for a small operation. Owner Steve Hunter and his wife, the filly’s trainer Janet Grice, reside in East Garafraxa, Ontario. They used to barrel race, and got into strictly racing about six years ago. They breed, raise and race horses, including homebred 2012 Canadian champion Zoomin After Six ($227,456).

“Me and my wife, we do everything ourselves,” he says.

In the Challenge Championships, she is being saddled by Clint Crawford and will be ridden from Post 7 by Chelsey Willick.

Hunter bought Zip Kode as a long yearling at the 2012 Heritage Place Fall Mixed Sale for a mere $5,500.

“She was probably the prettiest horse I’ve ever seen go through there,” Hunter remembers. “I said, if she couldn’t run, she’d make a really nice halter horse.”

Still quite a looker, it turns out the filly can run.

“Yes she can,” he agrees. “And she’s drop-dead gorgeous, too!”

Bred by a partnership of this year's Challenge champion breeder, Bobby Cox, and John Buchanan, she is by the Chicks Beduino stallion Bigtime Favorite and out of the Panther Mountain mare Fee Lion.

Bigtime Favorite is a stakes winning, multiple-Grade 1-placed earner of $324,020. From five crops to race, he has sired the earners more than $5 million.

Fee Lion is a daughter of Feefees Celebration, making her a half sister to Restricted Grade 1-winner No Fees ($166,320). Feefees Celebration is herself a half-sister to champion Brimmerton ($519,538), Grade 1 winner Gone Celebrating ($364,068) and stakes winner Mitford ($89,935).

“Oh, she’s a dream,” Hunter says of his filly. “Just a baby doll to work with. Everybody loves her.”

Zip Kode won the $27,335 Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge in July, and in her most recent start prepped for the Derby Championship with a second-place run in a tough 350-yard Ajax allowance that included past Canadian champion One Kool Wave. She has been training well in the weeks leading up to the Prairie Meadows race, with good flesh and a dappled coat.

“She’s jumping and squealing on the exerciser every day,” Hunter says. “She’s feeling pretty good.”

The Ontario filly will face the likes of last year’s John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) winner Raising Kain and three-time stakes winner Mister Big.