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Value The Man beats Higher Fire in Los Al Million

December 11, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

Value The Man scores in LA Million
(photo by Los Alamitos photo)
LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA…. Owned and bred by J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearsley, Value The Man defeated the brilliant filly Higher Fire by a half-length in Friday’s $1,500,000 Los Alamitos Million Futurity to spoil her bid for an unprecedented sweep of the track’s three $1 million dollar races.
Trained by John Bassett, who was picking up a record third win in California’s richest race, the 10-1 longshot Value The Man took the lead at the halfway point before finishing powerfully to earn the $577,600 first place share of the purse. Three-time Champion Jockey G.R. Carter piloted the Oklahoma-bred gelding to a winning time of :19.56 - the third fastest clocking in the 11-year history of the Los Alamitos Million. Carter and Bassett first combined to win this race with First Place Queen in 2002.
Owned by Dutch Masters III and trained by Jaime Gomez, runner-up Higher Fire was hoping to become the first ever winner of the Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza, a program that would have paid her a $1 million dollar bonus for adding the Los Alamitos Million Futurity to her earlier victory in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and Golden State Million Futurity.
The filly by Walk Thru Fire, however, was never ahead of Value The Man after breaking eighth from post three. Value The Man, meanwhile, made the most of his decent fifth place start, as he ate up ground and moved past his rivals with ease during the second half of the race.
  “We were pretty calm coming in because we knew that if he got away clean we had a legitimate 400-yard horse,” said Kelly, a native of Ireland, who has been racing and breeding Quarter Horse for more than 20 years. “We felt that no one could run with him in the final 150 yards. I had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago, so I couldn’t come out to see him run in the Million trials, but I jumped off my bed when he finished like he did in the trials.”

      Value The Man crossed the wire second to Love My Corona on that night, but no one covered the final 220 yards as fast as he did. It was that impressive finishing kick that helped him win the second richest race ever contested at Los Alamitos.

       “We knew that if he found the room to run, he would have a real good chance,” Kelly said.
        Yearsley, the owner/president of Yearsley Bloodstock Insurance, an equine insurance business with offices California and Kentucky, declared the victory a win for the little guys.

       “This proves that any breeder can win this race and that’s what’s great about Quarter Horse racing,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s taken us 25 years to get here but we are here.”

      “This is also a tribute to his sire, Heza Fast Man, who died earlier this week.” Kelly added. “We always liked him. He was a quality horse and we felt that he was highly underrated as a sire.”    

         In two seasons of racing Heza Fast Man won 10 of 17 starts and earned $801,356. He won the 1993 Texas Classic Futurity (G1) and was second in the All American Futurity (G1). He was named champion 3-year-old colt that year. Heza Fast Man was euthanized December 6 following a long battle with laminitis. He was 14.

         Bassett, who trained Heza Fast Man to all those big wins, has now won five races worth $1 million or more. In addition to his three Los Alamitos Million futurities, he also two All American Futurity triumphs and Heza Fast Man’s victory in the Texas Classic Futurity was worth $851,670. Only Jack Brook with nine, has won more million dollar races.  Yet, with that said, Basset still inferred that this win represented a comeback of sorts.

     “I went through a 2-3 year drought and to be honest, I was surprised that some of the owners stuck with me during that time,” he said.

     Bassett also had Teller Cartel in his stable at the start of the year before the horse moved barns prior to winning the All American Futurity. 

    “You bet this race helps make up for that,” Bassett said.

       Teller Cartel finished sixth in this race, behind third place finisher Finding Nemo, Wanta Dubloon and He Storms. Ynot Bar ran seventh with Cut The Snow, Shesnowlady and Love My Corona completing the field.

        Back in 1995, Bassett joyfully carried his son, Joe, to the winner’s circle after winning the inaugural running of the Los Alamitos Bonanza with Evening Snow. Eleven years later, the trainer stood in the winner’s circle with a huge smile on his face while crediting his now 22-year-old son for Value The Man’s victory.

    “Joe’s the one that’s been in California the whole year watching over this horse and many others,” he said. “This is his deal. He’s got a feel for the business and I hope that he’ll eventually step in for me in seven or eight years and run the business all on his own. When he does, I’ll be able to go fishing in Montana.”

    “I’m speechless right now,” said the younger Bassett, a third generation trainer, who earlier this year saddled The Blues Girl to victory in the Leo Overnight Handicap. “Hopefully there’ll be more wins like this to come. When I was young I just tried to be like my dad, following him around, playing like I knew what I was doing. To actually have played a role on a win like this, I just can’t believe it right now.

     “I was watching the race way up there on that little TV, on the farthest, highest corner of the track,” Joe said, while pointing to the west end of the second level of the grandstand. “When I saw Value The Man cross the wire first, I’m telling you I almost jumped to the winner’s circle from where I was watching the race.”

      Value The Man’s statistics now look like this – three wins, seven starts and most importantly, $589,410 in his pocket. His connections also earned $20,000 in nominator awards. Value The Man is out of the Grade 1 winner-producing mare Sheeza Lil Val.

      "She was one of the first Quarter Horses that I ever owned," Yearsley  said. "She's the dam of Valiantly, who won the Grade 1 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity a couple of years ago. (Sheeza Lil Val) has a yearling filly by Tres Seis."

        Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Higher Fire would have become Quarter Horse racing’s all-time leading money earner with a victory in the Los Alamitos Million. The win would have resulted in a record $1,577,600 payday -  $1 million for winning Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza bonus and the rest for winning the race. Higher Fire had previously won the Ed Burke Million Futurity and the Golden State Million Futurity, which serve as the first two legs of the Bonanza.

      “I knew she was behind at the start, but what else is new?” said Denny Boer of Dutch Masters III. “Halfway through the race and I thought that she was going to win it but then in a wink of an eye there went Value The Man. He was too strong at the end. What can you do? She gave us five months of great fun and we’ll be back next year – maybe not with a horse of the caliber of Higher Fire – but we’ll be back.” 

      “I have no excuses,” said trainer Jaime Gomez. “She made a slight little moved when they opened the gate and that was it. She may have come away a little wobbly. I’m proud of her – she almost won it. At 350 yards, I thought ‘we have a chance to get this race.’ I could see that she was moving ahead of them all- all of them except one. She ran her heart out. What else can I ask for? If everything goes right, she’ll be back next year. We’ll check her knees and ankles and if everything is okay, she’ll be back.”

        Higher Fire earned a healthy $274,360, making her a millionaire with career earnings of $1,241,933. The homebred sorrel filly will finish the year as the nation’s leading money earner, the second straight year in which a Los Alamitos-based horse has topped the list in that category. She finishes the year as the sixth richest female Quarter Horse (Dashingly, Corona Cash, AB What A Runner, Corona Kool and Strawberry Silk are the only ones ahead of her) and the 19th richest Quarter Horse of all time. J.R. Ramirez piloted Higher Fire in all three of her million dollar races.    
     Finding Nemo, the little horse that could, earned $173,280 for his third place finish. Racing for James Azevedo and Charles Boyles, Finding Nemo took the lead briefly under jockey Alex Bautista and trainer Denny Ekins. The son of Fishers Dash, who won the Governor's Cup and PCQHRA Breeders futurities, finishes the year with earnings of $663,010.

     Spencer Childers' Wanta Dubloon earned $101,080 for completing the superfecta, while Ed Allred's He Storms pocketed $86,640. All American Futurity winner Teller Cartel left the gate on top before dropping back to sixth. The son of Corona Cartel earned $72,200 to take his season tally to $1,212,471. He ranks 21st in the list of all-time leading horses by money earned.