LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


The challenges that each member of the Louisiana Quarter Horse community faced in 2020 were almost insurmountable. Beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing major changes to race dates and the onslaught of Hurricanes and Tropical Storms for several months, the hits kept coming. Even on Saturday, December 19, LQHBA Louisiana Million Night, torrential rain pelted Opelousas an hour before post time. But as was the standard throughout the year, the quality horses as well as the men and women of Louisiana dug in and put on a spectacular show!

Let's salute the exceptional accomplishments on closing night at Evangeline Downs as we bid goodbye to 2020 and look forward to the New Year!

Family Ties Strong for Each of the End of the Meet Winners

Jockey David Alvarez found a fitting way to cap the riding title he secured during the 2020 American Quarter Horse season at Evangeline Downs. He won the final three stakes races on LQHBA Million night, taking the $40,000 LQHBA Louisiana Million Invitational aboard Apollitcal Chais, the $273,763 LQHBA Breeders Derby with Lifeinthefastlanes and the $1,000,000 LQHBA Louisiana Million (RG1) on San Lorenzo. Those victories solidified a thoroughly dominating performance throughout the meet as he won 45 races, surpassing last year's leading rider Everardo Rodriguez and Juan Garcia, Jr. by 12 wins.

Born in Vera Cruz, Mexico, Alvarez,41, began riding professionally in 2006. While Texas was his base when he began, he has found his home on the Louisiana circuit. His 111 victories throughout 2020 rank him as one of the premier Quarter Horse riders in the country and he was announced as a finalist for AQHA Champion Jockey honors. He celebrated his Evangeline Downs title with his wife, Wendy and their children, David Jr., Emily and Ashley on the rainy, but joyful evening.

Trey Ellis was a deserving winner of the 2020 training title at Evangeline Downs. His horses won 24 of 102 starts to pull ahead of Lanny Keith and Kenneth Roberts, Sr. who tied for second-place in the standings with 19 wins each.

The title capped the best year of Ellis' ten-year training resumé as he was also honored at Delta Downs where he won 28 races. He finished 2020 with 63 wins, ranking fourth by wins for all North American Quarter Horse trainers. On a personal note, Ellis popped the question to Courtney Dugas, and they will marry this Spring!!!

Family ties were also on display when Rosendo Valdez won his first leading owner title. His horses are trained by his son, Rosendo Valdez, Jr. and they won ten of their 26 starts at Evangeline Downs. The entire Valdez family (six son and three daughters) are involved in the Valdez racing operation and each of them were on hand for the presentation on December 19.

History Making Run by San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo, under David Alvarez, won his second million-dollar futurity of the year by defeating Fast Dashin Diamond by a neck to capture the $1,000,000 LQHBA Louisiana Million Futurity(RG1) at Evangeline Downs on the final night of the meet.

Trainer Hector Alcala saddled the son of champion sire Coronas Leaving You to his fourth win in six starts this season for owner Rogelio Marquez, Jr. San Lorenzo won the $1,025,782 Lee Berwick Futurity(RG1) in August and was a finalist in the Laddie Futurity in July. The bay colt concluded his 2-year-old campaign with earnings of $993,940.

It was a very emotional post-race interview for LQHBA Champion owner Rogelio Marquez, Jr., who paid homage to the brilliance of San Lorenzo as a champion as well as his pedigree. The colt was bred by Jim and Natalie Montgomery of Pineville. Natalie was also the breeder of 2015 AQHA Champion Aged Stallion Open Me a Corona, a LQHBA Yearling Sale graduate who won 16 of his 21 career races, retiring with earnings of $929,150.

"San Lorenzo is our last Louisiana-bred out of In the Open," said Natalie. "He reminds us so much of Open Me a Corona, who also put it all out there in each race he ran."

The longtime supporter of Louisiana breeding and racing, Natalie is a veterinarian and has served on the LQHBA Board of Directors for six years.

"This was a very tough year for our industry and our LQHBA Yearling Sale," acknowledged Montgomery. "Our board met and had some very intense discussions about keeping the LQHBA Louisiana Million as a million-dollar futurity. We were on the same page in retaining the purse as it is a goal that everyone in our state is aiming for."

Pride and perseverance of Louisiana breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys will continue when the 46-day Louisiana Downs Quarter Horse racing season begins on Saturday, January 23. The Shreveport racetrack hosts the first "official" futurity of the year, with trials for the $100,000-Added Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) set for March 6 and the final on March 27.

"If we can survive this year, we can survive anything," added Montgomery.

Hats off to each of the hard-working men and women in the Louisiana racing community. We look forward to 2021 and wish you all a healthy and successful year ahead!

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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.