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Big Handle Posted on California Breeders Champions Night

June 20, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

From: Orlando Gutirrez

LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA….. A season high total handle of $1,995,758 was posted on the California Breeders Champions Night Saturday at Los Alamitos. The handle was a record number for a Champions Night program and also the ninth highest in the 54-year history of Los Alamitos.

The Champions Night handle is also more than $200,000 higher than last year’s handle. This year’s program featured 13 Quarter Horse stakes races and a simulcast program consisting of eight races from Sam Houston Race Park and Delta Downs.

The Champions Night handle is the highest at the Orange County oval since November 1, 2003, when a national Quarter Horse record handle of more than $2.3 million was handled on the MBNA America Challenge Championship Night program.

There was one winning ticket in the Pick Six worth $28,933. The winning numbers of 6-2-2-7-10-3/9 included surprise winners Not For Long ($16.20), Sum Special Strawfly ($28.60), Legendar Dreamer ($12.20), and Ocean Runaway ($13.20).


Seven for Seven. That’s the score for the brilliant three-year-old gelding, Be A Bono, as he raced to his seventh straight victory, edging out the Paul Jones duo of Dealadash and Deefirst to capture the Grade I $159,250 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship at Los Alamitos Race Course. 

Be A Bono, who beat two year olds in the Grade I Golden State Futurity last year and defeated three year olds earlier this year in the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Derby, took on older horses for the first time in the California Breeders Championship and turned in another stellar performance to remain undefeated. Be A Bono broke well from post two but he then spotted his rival a half-length. Be A Bono worried his connections when he appeared to sputter for a couple of strides, but that is when jockey G.R. Carter went to work.

“Be A Bono broke good but G.R. said that he started to look around,” Francisco added. “G.R. got after him and that made him take the lead but once he took it, he acted like he wanted to stop running again.”

“He broke pretty good for him,” Carter said. “The horses on either side had him by a half-a-horse in the early going, but he took off and put his head in front. But, as he usually does, he relaxed a bit and I had to stay after him. He’s one heck of a horse.”

With his mind back on racing as he approached the wire, Be A Bono took command with 100 yards to go before holding Dealadash by a head for the win. Sent off as the 3-5 choice for trainer Dan Francisco and legendary owner, Spencer L. Childers, Be A Bono raced the 400 yards in a swift 19.73 seconds to earn the winner’s share of $79,625. His career bankroll now stands at $520,852. Be A Bono returned $3.20 to his backers.

Be A Bono’s winning effort was a big relief for Francisco, who had also considered racing the undefeated sprinter against 3-year-olds in the Jens L. List Jr. Memorial Stakes instead of entering him against older horses.

“You don’t know how hard I was cheering for this horse in the last 50 yards of this race,” he said. “I just dumped two tons off my back. I was either going to look like a genius or the dumbest guy at the track. When Buccaneer Beach and The Down Side opted to skip the race, we felt this race was a good fit. If those horses had run, we would have run in the (Jens L List Jr. Memorial).”

Meanwhile, Childers, the 92-year-old Hall of Fame owner/breeder of Be A Bono, has never had a horse win seven races in a row until now.

“Bunny’s Bar Maid won six in a row but Be A Bono is the first to seven,” Childers said. “She was just inducted in the Hall of Fame at the Hubbard Museum of the America West. They put me in there too but I was more interested that that the mare got in.”

Childers admitted that Be A Bono seemed to “loaf” around in the Governor’s Cup. The owner was more interested in seeing his horse run a clean race.

“That’s one thing about him, he is always so relaxed,” Childers said. “But I know that he is not going to do anything to beat himself. I will never forget a filly by the name of Lady Winsmore. She was 3-5 favorite to win the Los Alamitos Derby but she reared straight up in the gate and ran dead last. I hope Be A Bono never does something like that. It can happen of course, but he has been a lot of fun from the standpoint that you know he is going to give you a good effort every time.”

Childers and Francisco agree that Be A Bono’s next move is a trip to the owner’s ranch in Fresno for a little rest and relaxation.

“Spencer and I talked about it this morning,” Francisco said. “If he had gotten beat maybe we would have gone in the Vandy’s Flash Handicap. The horse loves the ranch and we keep him sounder by sending him home each time. He came back a lot sounder this time than the previous time. It has been like that each time that he has gone home. It is working for the horse that’s what counts.”

“We will give him time,” Childers said. “We will look to run him where the money is at. I think the best is yet to come, though. We’re looking to have him even better when the big money races come calling at the end of the year, but, it won’t be easy. You don’t know how many more big races he has left.”

And what of Childers’ finally winning the race named in his honor?        

“It was embarrassing, to be very frank,” he said. “But, it would have been more embarrassing if we lost.”

Dealadash earned $27,868 for his runner-up effort for James Azevedo, Charles Boyles and Paul Jones. Dealadash’s resume includes second place finishes in last year’s Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Vandy’s Flash Handicap.

“If we are to lose the race, I don’t mind losing it to Spencer Childers,” Boyles said.

Deefirst, the winner of the Southern California Derby last year, Pats Charming Guy, Bobcat Bob, and Brian Dasher completed the field.


A derby and a futurity, that is not bad for one evening’s work. Trainer Dennis Ekins followed up his win in the Governor’s Cup Derby in the eighth race on California Breeders Champions Night with a victory in Grade I $334,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity in 12th, as Ocean Runaway sailed away from his nine rivals to win by 1 lengths. Ekins is the first trainer in the 25-year history of the Governor’s Cup series to win both races in a single year. 

 “Man, what a night!” Ekins said. “To win a futurity and a derby in one evening at this racetrack is quite a thrill. He (Ocean Runaway) ran a super race. He was a little unlucky in his last two starts, but he put it all together tonight. He broke as if he was shot out of a cannon and forget about it. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Ocean Runaway’s performance completed a bittersweet span of five-weeks for owner Gary Muller. The native of Kansas City, Missouri was forced to euthanized his distance champion Sterling Sport in early May after the 870-yard start suffered complications after surgery.

“What we went through with Sterling Sport was difficult,” Muller admitted. “It was enough to make you want to quit. It hurt a lot to lose a sweet horse like Sterling Sport. This win does not make up for his loss but it does help.” 

Purchased for $70,000 at the All American Sale last year, the First Down Dash colt is Muller’s first major futurity winner.

“Ocean Runaway is the one we wanted at the sale,” Muller explained. “We looked at a lot of babies but he is the one that stood out. I am a pedigree person while Denny is a conformation person. He’s the one that matched what we were both looking for.”

Bred by Daniel Lucas, Ocean Runaway broke on top and never looked back on the way to a 350-yard stakes record of :17.39 and a first place paycheck of $138,180. A maiden prior to this start, the gray colt broke the previous mark set by champion Old Habits of :17.49 in 1998. 

Ocean Runaway turned the tables on futurity runner-up Lindas Dasher, as he had finished second to the filly in the trials two weeks ago. Sent off at odds of 5-1, Ocean Runaway paid $13.20 while beating Lindas Dasher by 1 lengths.

“He broke like a bullet,” said Alex Bautista, who piloted the winner. “This is one great young horse with a great future. I knew if we could break, we had a good chance.”

“He is in the Ed Burke Memorial Futurity, Golden State Million, and All American Futurity,” Muller added. “If he is right after this race we will seriously look at the All American.”  

Ridden by Sam Thompson, Lindas Dasher earned $55,930 for her effort. Trained by Scott Willoughby for owners Christian and Ru Anna Singletary, Lindas Dasher hit the wire a length ahead of third place finisher Flyn GT. Juan Aleman trains the latter for Anjora Corp. Flyn GT, a colt by Chicks Beduino, pocketed $39,480.

Angela Aquino’s Sebtembrist earned $23,030 for running fourth, while 2-1 favorite Separate Secrets earned $19,740 for running fifth. Looking For Chicks, Lethal Bay, A Sisstar, Es Pesial Pami, and Affre completed the field.


 Pete Parrella’s Legacy Ranch won the Governor’s Cup Derby for a record fourth time after the First Down Dash gelding Not For Long upset a field that included runner-up Honor And Cherish, Governor’s Cup Futurity winner Metallic Lion, and 3-5 favorite Well I Never in the $120,000 restricted Grade 1 derby at 400 yards on Saturday at Los Alamitos.

Legacy Ranch had not won the race since Daily Triple captured this race in 1994. Prior to that, it was the champions Apprehend and Griswold scoring back-to-back wins in the Governor’s Cup Derby going back to 1989 and ‘90. Not For Long’s victory was perhaps Legacy Ranch’s most surprising in this series, as the 7-1 longshot dominated to the tune of a half-length win over Honor And Cherish. Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm and Walter Fletcher, Not For Long covered the distance in :19.82. The patience that Legacy Ranch and trainer Denny Ekins showed in bringing Not For Long up to this race was another big factor in the sorrel gelding’s triumph.

“This horse was scheduled to run in the El Primero Del Ano Derby trials (on March 27) but he suffered an injury a week before that race, so we decided to skip that race instead,” Ekins said. “It was only a superficial injury. He got cast in his stall and suffered a slight injury. Mr. Parrella believes in having patience with his horses so we decided to pass on the El Primero trials instead. We wanted to do things right for this horse. Mr. Parrella is the best owner in the world when it comes to that.”

Instead, Parrella and Ekins entered Not For Long in an allowance race on May 13 - nearly six month since his last race in the Los Alamitos Million Futurity trials on November 28. The result was a solid effort for Not For Long, as he flashed outstanding early speed before running third.

“He did his job on that night,” Ekins admitted. “He had to get over his injury and we were looking forward to the Governor’s Cup trials. That race served as a prep for the trials. In the trials he ran a real good race, finishing second to fastest qualifier Well I Never. Those two races helped him after a long layoff.”

In the Governor’s Cup final, jockey Sam Thompson was able to steer Not For Long to the early lead and from there the gelding did the rest. was never seriously challenge at any point - his winning margin not really a true indication of his impressive victory.  

“He left the gates good, and we were in front within the first three jumps,” Thompson said. “He stayed straight and ran on well.”

“We thought this horse would be good at two,” Parrella added. “Denny has done a great job with him. We put a lot of money into this business but we love it. (Not For Long) should get better racing longer distances, going 440.”

Not For Long earned $48,300 for his first stakes win of his career. This was only his second overall victory in 10 starts. A winner in the Golden State Futurity trials last year, Not For Long earnings now stands at $57,649.

Burly Jenkins’ Honor And Cherish, the third place finisher in the La Primera Del Ano Derby, earned $19,550 for this runner-up effort. Also sired by First Down Dash, Honor And Cherish was making her first start for Burly. David and Susan Mackie previously owned her. Paul Jones saddled Honor And Cherish.

Third place finisher Metallic Lion failed in his bid to become the sixth horse to sweep the Governor’s Cup Derby and Futurity. His consolation prize was a third place check for $13,800. Anjora Corporation owns the Apollo colt, who remains winless in three starts as a sophomore. Hawk The Cash, Well I Never, Awise Chick, How Good, Therestischemistry, and Lani Chick completed the field.