LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


Louisiana Quarter Horse racing supporters will be in for an exceptional night Saturday, July 7 when Delta Downs presents its Louisiana Showcase Night. The Vinton, Louisiana racetrack will salute Louisiana-breds with eight stakes races, highlighted by the $700,000 Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity (RG1).

The Lee Berwick Futurity is the second-richest Quarter Horse futurity in the state, surpassed only by the running of the LQHBA Louisiana Million at Evangeline Downs in December. Since its first running in 1981, a distinguished list of champions has emerged, and a joyous winner's circle celebration takes place for the team behind the talented juvenile.

Much Anticipated Futurity for Trainers

Josue Huitron will saddle fastest qualifier Eysa Jess Jumpn. The daughter of Heza Fast Dash was bred by Spring Hill Farm LLC and Sherry Dunn and won her 350-yard trial in :17.288. David Alvarez will ride for owner Jose Estrada Quarter Horses as Guadalupe Lucio, Jr. is recovering from a spill on June 27.

"We knew very early that she could run," said Huitron of his filly, who has won two of her four starts. "If she breaks like she did in her trial, she will have a really good chance to win."

Bobby Martinez won the 2010 Lee Berwick with Mcm Dashmaster for owners Ponderosa Farms and MCM Farms.

"It was a big night for us," said Martinez. "He was not the favorite but ran a perfect race."

This year the Texas conditioner has two finalists, sixth-fastest qualifier Five Bar Perry and Mr Range Rover, who set the tenth-fastest time in trials on June 16.

"I like both their chances," admitted Martinez. "Both of them came out of their trials well, so they break well, they will be tough. You never know with the 2-year-olds, but this has been a good year so far."

Damian Martinez qualified both; he will ride Five Bar Perry in the final and J. R. Ramirez will make a return to the saddle aboard Mr Range Rover.

Memorable Race Calls

Don Stevens has been the voice of Delta Downs since November 2003. This will be his 15th call of the richest race of the Delta Down's Quarter Horse meet and he remembers each of the hard-fought victories.

"I think the most exciting race was when Jls Mr Bigtime was narrowly defeated in 2010," said Stevens. "He went to the gates as the 3-5 favorite, but had a terrible break and was eighth before he launched his bid, finishing a neck behind Mcm Dashmaster. It's no surprise that he ended up earning over $1 million in his career!"

Stevens also lauded the confident ride from Gilbert Ortiz on 42-1 maiden Watergirl B in 2016 and recalled the dominant performance of Jet Black Patriot in 2008.

"That was a coronation for Jet Black Patriot," stated Stevens of the son of Game Patriot who went on to run second in the All American Futurity(G1). "He was an exceptional racehorse and continues to exceed his expectations as a sire."

Honoring Lee Berwick

Lee Berwick was a highly-regarded advocate for Louisiana Quarter Horse racing.

He grew up as a sharecropper's son and began in the cattle business. Fortunately for the state's Quarter Horse industry, Berwick quickly developed an interest and passion in Quarter Horses.

Berwick purchased 23 Quarter Horses in a 24-month span in the early 1950s on his farm in St. Joseph, Louisiana. His mare band included daughters of Rey Del Rancho, Peppy, Macanudo and Wimpy P-1. His stallion was Wimpy O'Nesa, by Wimpy P-1. In the mid-1960s, Berwick started breeding for speed and purchased Little Duce. He also owned half interest in Jet Straw, by Jackstraw (TB) and out of Miss 89'er. Berwick campaigned Eight Edition, who won both the Laddie and LQHBA Breeders Futurity in 1980.

His enthusiasm for racing led to the development of Delta Downs racetrack in Vinton, Louisiana. The track opened in September, 1973, and Berwick was the president and a major stock holder for several years. While it is now under the ownership of Boyd Gaming, each year, he is honored with the running of the Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity (RG1); his wife Betty and several grandchildren will be in the winner's circle to present the trophy.

Berwick was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in 2001 at the age of 79 and was inducted into the LQHBA Hall of Fame in 2017.

Wishing all the best to the field in the 2018 Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1). The winner will have a special place in Louisiana Quarter Horse racing as well as a generous payday for his connections!

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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.