LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


On Wednesday, January 20, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) hosted its annual Champions Awards Ceremony at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City. One very special Louisiana-bred racehorse, Open Me A Corona, was honored as AQHA Champion Aged Stallion.

The Beginning of a Champion
Open Me A Corona, a son of Coronas Leaving You out of the Mr Eye Opener mare In the Open was bred by Natalie Montgomery, DVM, of Pineville, Louisiana.

"Open Me a Corona was an embryo transfer," explained Montgomery. "She came out of a Paint mare, who was kind of nutty. She raised him and passed on some of her quirks to him."

The mare, who was named Number 7, wasn't particularly social; she would turn her back to visitors and encouraged her weanling to do the same. Montgomery remembers that Open Me A Corona exhibited some of the mare's tendencies.

"He gave us fits as a yearling," admitted Montgomery. "It seemed like he thought we were the bad guys!"

However, one thing she noticed as they embarked upon sale prepping was how smart her colt was.

"He was quirky, so we had to change up his routine; then he did fine," she recalled.

It was trainer Bobby Martinez who picked him out of the 2011 LQHBA Yearling Sale, signing a ticket for $22,000 for owners Charles Forbes Jr. and Dr. Tommy Hays.

"I just remember that he was such a good looking yearling," said Martinez.

Success on the Racetrack
His training progressed nicely and he won his debut at Delta Downs, posting the fastest time in trials for the Laddie Futurity. However, due to foot issues, he did not compete in the final.

That's when co-owner Hays took on an added role. He was born in Louisiana, but has lived in Texas for over 30 years. One of most respected veterinarians in the region, he practices at the Elgin Veterinary Hospital, and is recognized for his expertise in orthopedic and soft tissue surgery, Hays has tended to many of the top Quarter Horse Champions in the country.

Hays has raced Quarter Horses solely and in partnerships. He acknowledges that owners are faced with many curveballs to keeping a horse healthy.

Ive had everything happen to my horses, he said. My goal is to get things fixed and have a happy, healthy animal. Not just for one race, but for longevity.

Open Me A Corona made a full recovery, qualifying for the first million dollar edition of the LQHBA Breeders Futurity and winning it on November 17, 2012.

"What a huge thrill that was," added Montgomery.

The versatile runner made just two starts at Delta Downs as a 3-year-old; added two stakes as a 4-year-old before embarking upon his most successful year in 2015.

Whirlwind End of the Year
Emotions ran high for each of the connections at Fair Grounds on December 12, 2015 when Open Me A Corona entered the starting gate in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic Stakes (RG2). It was expected to be the final race for the stakes-winning 5-year-old, and he drew off convincingly.

At the time, the consensus was that if you are going out, leave on a high note, and the victory marked the sixth consecutive stakes win of the year for Open Me A Corona. So, that evening, Martinez himself vanned him to Robicheaux Ranch in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana to begin his second career as a stallion.

However, when Tommy Hays accepted the bronze when Open Me A Corona was honored as Champion AQHA Stallion on January 20, he made a very interesting announcement.

"Our horse is sound and we are going to run him in 2016," said the noted equine surgeon.

So, in a much happier state of mind, Martinez returned to Robicheaux Ranch and brought Open Me A Corona back to his farm in McDade, Texas.

Two Men and a Lady
As noted, Open Me A Corona has an exceptional breeder, owners and trainer, but there is one other member of the team, Hay's beautiful, horse-loving girlfriend, Megan Maloney. Both Hays and Martinez cite how much she loves the champion, and how much he loves her.

"She comes to the farm to gallop him," said Martinez. "I'm really glad Megan is around; Tommy's not as grouchy as he used to be!"

Hays begs to differ, citing his trainer's funk when retirement plans were in place.

"Bobby was the one who was grumpy," declared Hays. "He about fell apart, but is doing much better now!" Kidding aside, there is a deep respect between these two men.

We work together real well, said Martinez. He wants his horses to last, and if it means laying them up after a tough race, he's good with that. Hes the best vet in the country, in my opinion. Hes worked on all my horses including my (AQHA) world champion Oak Tree Special.

Louisiana Champions
Open Me A Corona joined an elite group of Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses to be recipient of prestigious year-end AQHA Champions honors. Mr Jess Perry, Jess Louisiana Blue, Streakin Sin Tacha, Jls Mr Bigtime and Vals Fortune have previously been honored as Quarter Horse industry's finest.

Tony Patterson, executive director of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association, was pleased that Open Me A Corona received national recognition.

"This is an amazing horse and the people behind him have been loyal supporters of Louisiana breeding and racing," said Patterson. "He will always have a special place in LQHBA history as he won our very first $1,000,000 Guaranteed LQHBA Breeders Futurity. We look forward to seeing him compete this year and further add to his legacy.

Mr Jess Perry Up Next
Open Me A Corona will begin his 6-year-old campaign in the Mr Jess Perry Stakes on Saturday, February 27 at Louisiana Downs. He has won the race two years in a row. His previous rider, Saul Ramirez, Jr. has retired; Hays reports that David Alvarez will ride.

"David knows the horse," said Hays. "It won't be easy facing some of the younger stakes runners, but he is sound and we are looking forward to running."

He has won 12 of 14 career starts and already bankrolled $747,298. Natalie Montgomery was one of many breeders looking forward to sending her mares to Robicheaux Ranch.

"I had some mares lined up," said Montgomery. "But, I am happy he's still running. This horse has so much heart."

"It takes a special horse to dominate," adds Hays. "Six stakes in a row on four different tracks at different distances. Open Me A Corona is fast, smart and game."

Plus, surrounded by very happy, proud and capable connections!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.