LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


The first 2-year-old schooling races of the year took place Friday, January 31 at Harrah's Louisiana Downs. Thirteen 220-yard heats were contested to give juveniles paid into the Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) some valuable experience for their racing careers.

Louisiana horsemen and women were unified in stating the importance of schooling races. For a young racehorse, the experience of entering a steel enclosure and running in close company with other horses can be intimidating.

Trainer Wendy Garcia shared her experience in the Mardi Gras schooling races; three of her trainees, Apollitical Bye, Big Daddys Tee Cos and Denalia Sweet Jess, won their heats.

"I really enjoy the schooling races for these babies," she said. "I was pleased that they handled the sloppy track as well as they did. Apollitcal Bye wired the field, which was a nice surprise, but they all ran good, straight races."

Garcia, who has 15 juveniles in training, has a family team approach to her success with riding duties divided between her husband, Modesta Pina and her younger brother Juan Garcia, Jr. She won the 2018 Mardi Gras Futurity with Guidry Pride II, and acknowledged the role that schooling races played in his futurity score.

Conditioner Joe Sanchez, III, also had a good day with his schoolers, winning five heats.

"We knew we had a couple that were pretty fast," said Sanchez. "Some were a little nervous, which is normal, and a few were green in getting out of the gates, but overall, it was a good day for our barn. (Jockeys) Eddie Sanchez and Victor Urieta, Jr. did a good job."

Sanchez recalled that one year ago Trump My Record got some beneficial experience from his Harrah's Entertainment schooling race. The son of Apollitical Blood went on to win eight of his ten starts in 2019, including the Harrah's Entertainment Futurity (G3), Sam Houston Futurity (G2) and Texas Classic Futurity (G1). He was honored as AQHA Champion 2-year-old gelding in ceremonies held last month in Oklahoma City.

The Road To Developing A Successful Racehorse Is Not Easy!

"It's a lot of work," adds Sanchez. "We hauled in 18 horses the day before, got them settled that evening and then ready Friday morning for their schooling races. Then, we loaded them into the van and back to the farm."

Schooling races are invaluable in preparing horses for the race day experience. Horsemen get key insights from the warm-up to the load to the break, and of course, the way they finish. They can note whether the rider is vigorously encouraging the horse to run or just letting the horse run on his own. Trainers will be observing if a horse maintains a straight line or zig-zags throughout.

"Every bit of the experience matters," acknowledged trainer Trey Ellis. "Maybe on the farm you will work two or three horses together. The walk to the saddling paddock, breaking from the gate and dealing with the noise all play a part. You know right away which of your horses have talent and which ones will need more work."

We salute each of the 2-year-olds and their connections and look forward to the excitement of the Mardi Gras Futurity (March 14) and the Harrah's Entertainment Futurity (March 18). Of course, those are just the first two of the year in Louisiana. With lucrative futurities still to come at Delta Downs, Fair Grounds and Evangeline Downs, there is no doubt that 2020 will be an incredible year!

Bee Silva Photo

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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.