LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen September  21, 2017

REFLECTIONS FROM THE WINNING CONNECTIONS OF THE LQHBA BREEDERS' FUTURITY (RG1)

Saturday, November 19 was an extremely memorable evening for the entire team associated with TF Racee Runaway. To win a million-dollar race is a life-changing experience and the emotions of each of the connections were evident that night! The great racing, fantastic weather and tremendous support by legislators and fans all contributed to an unforgettable event!

Win by Their Homebred Was A Thrill for Tate Farms

TF Racee Runaway is a son of the First Down Dash stallion Sir Runaway Dash, by the Streakin La Jolla mare Racee Rainbows.

"The mare was in foal and we purchased her from our good friend, Teddy Berry," explained Stephen Tate, who owns Tate Farm in Ville Platte, with his dad, Steve. "He was a good looking foal, and we thought from a young age that he would be one of our best 2-year-olds."

However, a horse in an adjacent pasture broke through a fence and TF Racee Runaway got too close to the damaged enclosure and sustained some swelling in his leg. He healed, but had scars from the incident. Trainer Lanny Keith came to Tate Farm to look over the 2-year-old crop and made an interesting assessment.

"Looks like you have a $40,000 colt with $30,000 worth of scars," Keith told Tate.

Fully healed, he was sent to Joe Garza, who broke him and paid more attention to his speed and soundness than his scars. He told Keith and Tate that the colt was really good. Interestingly, both Keith and Garza bid on TF Racee Runaway at the LQHBA Yearling Sale, but it was Tate who bought him back for $8,000.

"I just really liked the colt," said Keith. "He is a big, good looking runner and we knew he could get the distance."

He won his debut, a trial for the Mardi Gras Futurity at Louisiana Downs, and was gelded. Keith and Tate were in complete agreement on the decision.

"There was no hesitation," said Tate. "He looked like a racehorse and we preferred a fast gelding to a slow stud horse!"

TF Racee Runaway had won three races prior to trials for the LQHBA Breeders Futurity on October 28. He was a finalist in the September 3, 350-yard Louisiana QHBA Sale Futurity (RG1) at Fair Grounds and the July 9, 350-yard Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity (RG1) at Delta Downs.

On October 28. he won his trial, in the sixth-fastest clocking, and drew the outside post for the November 19th final. With John Hamilton in the irons, TF Racee Runaway scored a neck victory in the richest Quarter Horse race in the state, covering 400 yards in :19.654. The $456,410 winner's share of the purse bumped his bankroll to $511,263. The jubilation in the winner's circle encompassed much more than the money.

"My dad and I have worked our whole lives for a win like this," said Stephen. "John has ridden him well all year long, and we appreciate the great job by Lanny."

Keith has just been training since 2012. The Texas native is a third-generation horseman who has accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time. Last year, he won two futurities with Not Pretty Perry, but TF Racee Runaway's victory was by far, his biggest career milestone.

Keith admits that the reality of winning his first seven-figure stakes still has not totally sunk in.

"In your mind, you always believe you can win, but then you second-guess yourself and wonder if a "little guy" can really do it," admitted Keith. "But it is certainly something that will stick with you for a long time!"

Ditto for the father-son team of Tate Farms.

"It was really emotional for dad," said Stephen. "To have worked for this for years, and done it with a horse we owned and raised means so much more."

For jockey John Hamilton, it was a gratifying accomplishment for a very challenging year. He underwent shoulder surgery last December and was sidelined until the Delta Downs meet. While his rehabilitation went fairly well, he admitted that getting his timing back was more difficult than he expected. However, the veteran rider never lost faith and won the title at Fair Grounds before heading to Evangeline Downs. Heading into the final three weeks of the meet, the 52-year-old rider tops the jockey standings with 30 wins.

Hamilton has ridden TF Racee Runaway in each of his seven most recent starts and was in total control in the brilliant futurity effort aboard the bay gelding on November 19.

"John just fits him to a tee," said Tate. "We can't thank him enough."

While Sharon Hamilton wiped away tears, her husband was his usual jovial self in the post-race interview. He was reminded that his last victory in the LQHBA Breeders Futurity came in 2002 aboard JJ Diamond Jess,

"It better not take me that long to win the next one," he said with a grin.

Hamilton gave his goggles to Tate's youngest son Rhett, and the 3-year-old has barely taken them off since the big night.

"We have to make him leave them at home when he goes to school," said Tate.

TF Racee Runaway will return to Tate Farms for 30-45 days where he will be turned out. The goal is to resume training in 2017 with the Mardi Gras Derby as his first start of his 3-year-old campaign.

Big Night for LQHBA

In addition to running three stakes on November 19, the LQHBA hosted several special events. A beautiful cake, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the association, was cut and shared with fans and horsemen.

LQHBA also continued to support Louisiana students with live scholarship drawings in between races. A solid group of Louisiana students and their families enjoyed the million-dollar futurity and four drawings for scholarship awards of $1,500. One very fortunate student, Cassie Bellard was the recipient of a $5,000 drawing. Cassie, a student at nearby Opelousas Catholic, has family ties to racing. Her dad was a trainer and is now the farm manager at Hart Farms.

"Receiving this scholarship was definitely a huge blessing for me and my future!" said Bellard. "It gives me a great start to my college career and I am so grateful for that."

Since 2001, the LQHBA scholarship program has provided financial aid for students to attend a higher education institution. Over $430,000, has been earmarked for this program since its inception.

"We were very pleased with the turnout for the scholarship drawings," said Tony Patterson, LQHBA executive director."There was tremendous energy that night and everyone with our association did a great job in making the evening run so smoothly."

Patterson also reported that for the first time, purse money will be carried forward to the 2017 LQHBA Breeders Derby. The 2016 LQHBA Breeders Futurity is $1,000,000-guaranteed. The $25,000 which carries over to the 2017 LQHBA Breeders Derby, will elevate that stakes to $300,000 estimated for 2017.

LQHBA Board Member Lyle Guillory was pleased with the turnout of Louisiana legislators who accepted invitations to attend the November 19 event and present trophies for the featured stakes. The officials included Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, Senator Gerald Boudreaux, representatives John Schroeder, Philip Devillier, Vincent Pierre, Dustin Miller, Blake Miguez,Chris Hazel. racing commissioners Donald Cravins, Sr, Louis Reine, Kenneth Romero and Mike Shelton. Also, Earl Taylor and Bill Rodier of St. Landry Parish commended LQHBA and Evangeline Downs for the economic impact in South Louisiana.

"We are very grateful for all the local and statewide elected officials that came out for our biggest event of the racing season," said Guillory. "LQHBA thanks them for their continued support for our youth scholarship program and our racing industry."

December will be filled with more racing excitement as three Quarter Horse stakes will kick off the Louisiana Champions Day card at Fair Grounds on December 10. The following weekend will be the finale of the Evangeline Downs live racing season with the $162,600 Evangeline Derby and $317,500 Evangeline Downs Futurity set for Saturday, December 17.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and happy, healthy and successful New Year!

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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.