LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen December  16, 2017

MEMORIES FROM MILLION DOLLAR FUTURITY WINNING TRAINERS AND JOCKEYS

The LQHBA Louisiana Million will be contested on Saturday, December 16 at Evangeline Downs. This will mark its sixth year as a seven-figure championship, and the first with its new name. In last monthís LQHBA Insider, the breeders of the past winners reflected on the impact of winning the race. This month, trainers and jockeys share their memories of capturing this significant achievement!

Recollections from Trainers

Horseman Bobby Martinez won the 2012 edition of the stakes with Open Me A Corona, the first time it was run as a seven-figure final. The son of Coronas Leaving You was undefeated in two starts when he won the LQHBA Breeders Futurity, at odds of 3-1 under jockey David Alvarez. He did it in gate to wire fashion, earning a speed index of 102 for owners Charles Forbes, Jr and Tommy Hays, DVM.

"It was a great memory and pretty exciting," admitted Martinez. "I am lucky to have trained such an amazing horse. "Doc" is one heck of an owner and a vet."

Open Me A Corona won 16 of his 21 career starts and was honored as 2015 AQHA aged stallion. He entered his first season as stud this year at Delta Equine Center in Vinton, Louisiana.

"I canít wait to train his babies," added Martinez.

The following year trainer Kenneth Roberts, Sr. won the race with TM Ranchís Ol Time Preacher Man. The gelded son of Heza Fast Dash was a maiden heading into trials for the LQHBA Breeders Futurity and entered the starting gate in the final as the third fastest qualifier.

Rider Danny Lavergne guided Ol Time Preacher Man to victory by a nose over the fast-closing First Prize Jet. The finish required a lengthy review by the placing judges, and Roberts still recalls the minutes before the race was declared official.

"At first, I thought we had won it," stated Roberts. "Then I watched the replay and remember thinking ĎOh Lordí, Iím not sure. I walked out to the track and looked at Danny as he came back, hoping for a signal. He told me he thought he had won it, but we had to wait another five minutes before they put his number up!"

It was a wonderful moment for Roberts and owner, Steve Holland, who continue to have an enduring friendship as well as success with a number of stakes winners.

"When I first got the horse, he was still a maiden," said Roberts. "I believed in the horse and told Steve that I thought we had a futurity winner, so it felt good to make that happen!"

Ol Time Preacher Man added two more victories and was retired at the end of 2014 with earnings of $565,933. Holland brought him back to TM Ranch in Florida. One of the farm workers, Gene Coxís daughter asked Holland if "Preacher Man" could become her barrel horse.

"He made me a bunch of money and is a real good horse," said Holland. "Maybe he will do well for her!"

Jls Dashn And Zoomn, a $7,500 purchase at the 2013 LQHBA Yearling Sale, provided a very nice return on that investment when he scored a half-length victory in the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity (RG1) at Evangeline Downs. Owned by Jose Guzman and trained by Brenda Foster, the gelded son of Sir Runaway Dash covered 400 yards in :19.726 under jockey Raul Ramirez Jr. to earn a first-place check for $445,000.

"Since he was gelded, he had been training like a dream," stated Foster. "He had always shown promise, but was late to mature. On trial night, he showed us he was ready!"

Foster explained that between the trials, Jls Dashn and Zoomn returned to her base in Vinton and "didnít change a thing" in his routine.

"I knew we had a shot to win the final," she said. "He was doing well and ĎChicoí (jockey Raul Ramirez, Jr.) fit him like a glove."

One very special part of the race preparation was saluting Guzman's wife, Yoli, who had courageously battled breast cancer.

"Our pink silks were designed to show our support for Yoli," said Foster. "We had silks made just for her with pink diamonds to raise awareness for breast cancer. We could not imagine a better way of honoring her than winning the race."

It was the biggest win of Fosterís career, and with her share of the purse, she was able to pay off her home in Vinton, Louisiana.

Jls Dashn and Zoomn won seven of his 12 starts with career earnings of $534,505. He is enjoying retirement at the Guzmanís farm.

Tate Farms' TF Racee Runaway, a son of Sir Runaway Dash and the sixth-fastest qualifier, scored a neck victory in last yearís edition of the race.

Ridden by John Hamilton for trainer Lanny Keith, TF Racee Runaway covered 400 yards in :19.654. The $456,410 winner's share of the purse bumped his bankroll to $511,263.

Keith chronicles the challenges of readying TF Racee Runaway for his career-best effort and worked closely with jockey John Hamilton on a number of issues.

"The horse had a habit of learning and then forgetting," said Keith. "He would enjoy his works, but kind of wanted to be friends out there. We had to teach him to be competitive."

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. He won two futurities with Not Pretty Perry, but TF Racee Runaway's victory was by far, his biggest career milestone.

"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. "This race is the ĎAll American Futurityí for Louisiana. Everyone wants to win it and for me, it was a phenomenal feeling!"

Life Changing Celebrations for Jockeys

The win aboard Open Me A Corona in 2012 had a huge career impact for jockey David Alvarez.

The native of Vera Cruz, Mexico previously captured leading rider titles at both Sam Houston Race Park and Manor Downs in Texas before relocating to Louisiana in 2012. He remembered trainer Bobby Martinez asking him how Open Me A Corona was doing as he galloped back following the LQHBA Breeders Futurity trial win.

"I told him that the horse was good," recalled Alvarez. "I felt he had a chance to win, and prayed to the Lord that he would do well in the final."

The victory was the first futurity win for Alvarez; it boosted his reputation as a quality rider as well as his bank account!

"Wendy was pregnant with our little girl and with the purse, we were able to buy a bigger truck and camper," said Alvarez.

Alvarez and Wendy, make their home in Ledbetter, Texas and are proud parents to their three children, David, Emily and Ashley.

Jockey John Hamilton has been riding for over four decades and has enjoyed many special winnerís circle celebrations. But the respected veteran rider admits that the win in last yearís edition of the race was pretty darn special!

"It meant everything and was definitely the highlight of my career," stated Hamilton. "It was a team effort with Lanny, T-Bone (David Bustamante) and I to get everything right with Tf Racee Runaway. It all came together at the right time and he ran a perfect race!"

Hamilton, who is sidelined with a broken leg, cherished the post-race celebration with his wife, Sharon, other family members and friends.

"It doesnít count unless you have people to share it with," he added.

Raul Ramirez. Jr. won the 2014 edition of the richest race in Louisiana with Jose Guzman's Jls Dashn and Zoomn and did it again the following year aboard Julio Rios' Jess A Saint. It was a tale of two different experiences as Jls Dashn and Zoomn was the fastest qualifier and Jess A Saint entered the final with the tenth qualifying time.

"In the trials, Jls broke so well and was gone," said Ramirez. "He was sound and fresh and I knew he would run well in the final."

Another rider was tabbed by trainer Miguel Rodriguez to pilot Jess A Saint, but he was not available, so Rodriguez called Ramirez and asked if he was open.

"The horse had just come back from Ruidoso, where he raced without medication," recalled Ramirez. "Even though he ran the tenth fastest time, he looked fantastic and drew a great (outside) post. Everything was pointing in our direction." The impact of winning two million dollar futurities was profound for Ramirez.

"When you win those kind of races, you prove to other people, and yourself that you have reached another level," he stated. "My father was a jockey and told me never to refuse a mount. So, winning the big races is a huge reward for all the injuries and sacrifices you make as a rider."

Ramirez has no qualms in stating that he is hungry for another win in the big dance.

"My dad is no longer with us, but I know he is watching from above," he admitted. "I want to win it again this year, not just for me, but for my mom, dad, wife, Jessica, son and daughter."

More Memories Will be Made on December 16

Itís not just owners, trainers and jockeys who cherish the excitement of a prestigious stakes. Track announcer Michael Chamberlain, who became the voice of Evangeline Downs in March, 2015, will call his third edition of the race on December 16.

"Not every announcer has the chance to call a million dollar race, so to have the opportunity to do it for the third year running is really something exciting," he said. "The first two years I've called this race, the horse from the far outside post position has won, so I may use that as a handicapping point this time around."

The seven-figure futurity on December 16 at Evangeline Downs will run with a new name this year. It has been renamed the LQHBA Louisiana Million, to reflect not only the purse, but the positive landscape of Louisiana Quarter Horse racing.

"Our board of directors worked hard to create a name for our $1,000,000 futurity," explained Tony Patterson, LQHBA executive director. "This race means a great deal to the breeders and owners who continue to show tremendous loyalty to Louisiana racing. We know that each of the connections on December 16 will enjoy the incredible memories of winning the first LQHBA Louisiana Million for the rest of their lives!"

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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.