LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


Last month, the AQHA hosted its annual Racing Champions Awards at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City. The competition was fierce this year, but we are very proud of the number of Louisiana horses, owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys who were nominated for the year-ending awards. In almost all categories, Louisiana connections were prominent in 2016.

Distance Champion
New Mexico stakes winner, Coronas Boy, was crowned distance champion, but three Louisiana stakes competitors were on the final ballot. Tommy Bullard’s homebred Fire On The Fly made two successful appearances at Louisiana Downs in the beginning of 2016. The noted gray distance specialist won both the Marathon Stakes on January 9 and an 870-yard allowance one month later under jockey Donell Blake. Oscar Rhone’s accredited Louisiana-bred B and G Fast Dash was also a finalist with five starts in Louisiana. Trained by Kenny Roberts, the gelded son of Heza Fast Dash won both the Live Oak Stakes at Delta Downs and the Faubourg St. John at Fair Grounds. Yaima Grillo’s Game Own, also an accredited Louisiana-bred, who competed in four Louisiana stakes in 2016, also made the ballot.

Two-Year-Old Colt
Rainbow Futurity winner A Revenant won this category, but a big player in this division was Bobby Cox’s homebred, Duponte, who began his year with a victory in the $267,700 Harrah’s Entertainment Futurity at Louisiana Downs. The son of American Runaway, trained by Josue Ponce, won the Grade 1, Heritage Place Futurity at Remington Park and competed in trials for the All American Futurity and Texas Classic Futurity as well. Accredited Louisiana-bred Gamey Tee Cos was also a finalist for 2-year-old colt honors.

Two-Year-Old Filly
Coronas First Diva, winner of the Oklahoma Futurity, got the nod in this very competitive division. Vanessa Bartoo’s Watergirl B, bred in Louisiana by C. Edward Taylor and trained by John Stinebaugh, was a deserving nominee based on her commanding victory in the $690,295 Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1) last July at Delta Downs. Lassie Futurity winner Louisiana Jewels, was also on this ballot. Bred by Jerry West, the daughter of Jess Louisiana Blue won three of her six starts in 2016 for Harlow Stables LLC and conditioner, Michael Taylor. Both fillies are accredited Louisiana-breds.

Two-Year-Old Gelding
Imperial Eagle, winner of the $3 million All American Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs, took top honors, but several Louisiana-breds were nominated. Richard Dale Domingue’s homebred, Rdd Lajollanfastdash won the $273,954 Mardi Gras Futurity (G2) at Louisiana Downs as well as the $323,488 LQHBA Sale Futurity on September 3 at Fair Grounds. Trained by Jose Sanchez, the accredited Louisiana-bred son of Heza Fast Dash won six of his eight starts last year, and was ranked sixth in wins nationally. Tate Farms’ Tf Racee Runaway was also nominated and saved his best running for the end of the year, capturing the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity at Evangeline Downs. Lanny Keith trained the Sir Runaway Dash gelding, also an accredited Louisiana-bred, who bankrolled $511,263 in nine starts.

Three-Year-Old Colt
This title went to Moonin The Eagle, winner of the Grade 1, Remington Park Invitational got the votes in this category. Last year’s Champion Aged Stallion, Open Me A Corona was also nominated. Bred by Natalie Montgomery, DVM, the 6-year-old accredited Louisiana-bred won four stakes in 2016, including a repeat title in the $100,000 Louisiana Day Champions Classic at Fair Grounds. Owned by Charles Forbes and Tommy Hays and trained by Bobby Martinez, Open Me a Corona will stand at Delta Equine Center in 2017. Joel Galindo’s Scoopies Leaving You was another accredited Louisiana-bred on this ballot. The intrepid sprinter, bred by Gerald Libersat, competed in each of the four Louisiana racetracks in 2016 with a record of four wins, two seconds and four thirds for trainer Kevin Broussard. Tf Cajun Cartel, bred by Steve Tate, was also nominated. The Corona Cartel colt competed in several graded stakes, with a victory in the Grade 2, Bob Moore Memorial Stakes at Remington Park.

Aged Mare
Sass Me Blue who captured the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels at Los Alamitos was the honoree for Aged Mare. Accredited Louisiana-bred Oak Hill Streak, was also a finalist. Bred by Arnold Trahan for owner Vanessa Bartoo, the Heza Fast Dash mare won three consecutive stakes in 2016, topping the $100,000 mark in earnings. She is trained by John Stinebaugh.

Champion Breeder
Bobby D. Cox was honored as champion breeder. He campaigned several graded stakes winners, but his top earner was Duponte, who began his 2-year-old campaign at Louisiana Downs. The majority of the breeders nominated in 2016 were from New Mexico and California, but Grant Farms, LLC of Pineville, Louisiana, was a finalist. They bred 35 winners, who earned $646,187 throughout 2016.

Champion Trainer
While Judd Kearl did the lion’s share of his winning in Texas, New Mexico, Florida and Oklahoma, the hard-working Utah native did run in Louisiana in 2016, and will likely be more active in 2017. Kearl completed last year leading in both wins and money earned.

Several Louisiana conditioners made the final ballot, including Trey Ellis, Adrian Huitron, Orlando Orozco, Kenneth Roberts, Sr., Carlos Saldivar, Brian Stroud and Michael Taylor.

Champion Jockey
This award went to Esgar Ramirez, who topped all rider in earnings and boasted a rare All American Derby and Futurity victory over Labor Day weekend at Ruidoso Downs.

However, kudos to several of the Louisiana-based jockeys, who made the ballot. They included David Alvarez, John Hamilton, Alfonso Lujan and Damian Martinez.

The 37-year-old Alvarez led all North American Quarter Horse jockeys in wins. He won 122 races, and was one of just four men to eclipse 100 wins in 2016. Damian Martinez, also based in Louisiana, won 103 races and Los Alamitos jockeys Cesar De Alba and Jesus Ayala completed the year with 101 victories.

We send hearty congratulations to each of the Louisiana horses and the dedicated breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys women for their outstanding achievements in 2016. As they say in Hollywood, "it’s an honor just to be nominated." We are proud of each one of the horses and connections for this well-deserved national recognition. Wishing you all the best in 2017!

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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.