LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen December  11, 2018

TEN DAYS IN THE BIG EASY

The Louisiana Quarter Horse circuit shifts to Fair Grounds this month. The 10-day meet features ten stakes, highlighted by the LQHBA Sale Futurity (RG1) with an estimated purse of $375,000.

Big Opening Week

Live racing gets underway on Thursday, August 16 with the running of the $40,000 Treme (G3). The following day will feature trials for the LQHBA Sale Futurity, with the ten fastest qualifiers advancing to the final. Stakes action continues on Saturday, August 18 with the running of the $40,000 Audubon and $25,000 Gentilly Dash. On Saturday, September 1, two additional stakes will highlight the program: the $25,000 Esplanade and $25,000 Faubourg St. John.

LQHBA Sale Futurity Closes the Meet on September 8

Closing day of the Fair Grounds meet is Saturday, September 8 and four undercard races will be run, followed by the final of the LQHBA Sale Futurity. Each yearling that passes through the LQHBA Yearling Sale is eligible to run in this racing event, and many horses have peaked at the right time, rewarding their connections with a quality win.

Such was the case last year with JRS Taylors Runnaway, a 28-1 longshot and the eighth-fastest qualifier, who was a commanding winner of the $297,220 LQHBA Sale Futurity (RG1). Trained by Martin Trejo for owner Rosalio Espinosa, JRS Taylors Runnaway covered 350 yards in :17.464 with David Alvarez in the saddle.

JRS Taylors Runnaway was bred by Julien R. Stevens III. The gelded son of Sir Runaway Dash is out of No Matches Tonight, an unraced 16-year-old daughter of Royal Shake Em. He picked up a winner's check for $118,889 last September, much to the delight of LQHBA past president and board member, "Butch" Stevens.

"He just needed more time to mature," said Stevens. "His win in the Sale Futurity was very rewarding for us, and then he won his trial to the LQHBA Louisiana Million and ran third in the final."

The sorrel gelding completed 2017 with a record of four wins from seven starts and earnings of $246,589. Furthermore, he was honored as LQHBA Champion 2-Year-Old Gelding, sharing the title with Second Down Leaving, who was the runner-up in the LQHBA Sale Futurity.

The first running the LQHBA Sale Futurity took place in 1984. Some exceptional Louisiana-bred racehorses have won the championship, including Flashy Hemp, Vals Fortune, Mr Mallard, MCM Dashmaster, Louisiana Jambalaya and RDD Lajollanfastdash.

Strong Trainer Base and Jockey Colony

Michael Taylor won the 2018 Delta Downs training title and should have a very live string in New Orleans. Kenneth Roberts, Sr., who was honored as 2017 AQHA Champion Trainer earlier this year will be prominent as well as Kenneth Weeks, Trey Ellis, Martin Trejo, Vann Haywood, Orlando Orozco, Lanny Keith, Eduardo Morales and Miguel Rodriguez.

"New Orleans gives us an opportunity to run our horses for some good money," said Roberts. "Even though it's a short meet, we do have one of the major futurities there."

Roberts points to another advantage for his horses running at Fair Grounds.

"Some horses just need more time to mature," he adds. "I had several that ran in the futurity trials at Delta, but did not qualify. Some of those will run at Fair Grounds and get another chance to improve."

Veteran rider John Hamilton, fresh off of his 2,000th win, was the leading jockey last summer at Fair Grounds. Expect to see tough competition again this meet with Hamilton, Gilbert Ortiz, Donald Watson, David Alvarez, Randy Edison and Luis Vivanco facing a strong group of younger riders including Damian Martinez, Everardo Rodriguez, Ubaldo Luna, Noe Castaneda, Eddie Sanchez, Luciano Duenez and Juan Garcia, Jr.

"While it is the shortest of the four Louisiana Quarter Horse meets, we always see some very good horses begin to peak at Fair Grounds," said Tony Patterson, LQHBA executive director. "We know that the LQHBA Sale Futurity will be an excellent race and several of the finalists will be horses to watch in our LQHBA Louisiana Million in December."

Patterson also acknowledges the iconic status of the third-oldest racetrack in the United States.

"There is no doubt that Fair Grounds will always be a very special place," he said.

Roberts has one more reason he likes spending a few weeks in New Orleans.

"It's a fun city with a lot to offer," said Roberts. "One of my owners has a suite for the Saints game and invited me to the game. Hard to say no to that!"

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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.