LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


The $305,296 Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) will take place on Saturday, March 16 at Harrah's Louisiana Downs. As the first "official" futurity of the calendar year, it is a fascinating early test for accredited Louisiana-bred juveniles at the distance of 300 yards. There was plenty of talent on display in the 15 trials contested on a rainy Saturday, February 23.

Tf Shez Jess Dashin made the most of her career debut, posting the fastest qualifying time of :15.455 seconds under leading Louisiana Downs jockey. Everardo Rodriguez. The filly by Sir Runaway Dash is owned by Down South Racing LLC and trained by Ned Goutierrez III.

The prowess of Tf Shez Jess Dashin, a $38,000 LQHBA Yearling Sale graduate, was no surprise to her connections, who liked how she was coming into her trial.

"We knew this filly was going to be good," said Stephen Tate, her breeder and part of the ownership group. "Former jockey Stevie Gillum broke her and was so impressed that he joked with me that he would try to make weight to ride her in the trials."

But that honor went to Rodriguez, who has emerged as one of the top riders in Louisiana. He had worked the filly twice before her trial win and knew she had talent, but was pleasantly surprised at her professionalism.

"She broke well and I asked her in the beginning, but then she did the rest on her own," said Rodriguez. "She is a very kind filly."

The 28-year-old native of San Luis Potosí, a city in central Mexico, began riding professionally in 2013. He won the 2018 Harrah's Entertainment Futurity aboard Going Noble, and is hopeful that he can add another championship with Tf Shez Jess Dashin.

"It would mean a lot to me," said Rodriguez, who has built an insurmountable lead in the 2019 Louisiana Downs jockey standings. "I'm thankful to God, to my wife and family, and the owners and trainers who have given me this opportunity."

Tf Shez Jess Dashin is a half-sister to three black-type runners including RG2 Zia Derby winner Jess Ought To Flash and West Texas Juvenile winner Poison Sumac. The filly is out of the multiple stakes producing Mr Jess Perry mare Jess Ought To Go Now.

The ownership group for Tf Shez Jess Dashin consists of Tate, Jerry Deville and Jamie Cardenas. Deville, known as "Buddy" to his friends, is no stranger to racing as both his grandfather and father were involved in the industry. The owner of a siding business with 100 employees has been a Quarter Horse owner for three years and works closely with Tate Farms.

"I knew Stephen and his dad and respect what they do at Tate Farms," explained Deville. "Stephen is a young guy with a tremendous knowledge about breeding. Owning a racehorse is really exciting; it's not just about the money; it's an amazing thing to share with your family and friends."

Deville feels strongly about bringing new owners into racing and was introduced to Cardenas, who runs a plumbing business in Texas. Deville and Tate offered him a share of Tf Shez Jess Dashin, who sold for $38,000 at the 2018 LQHBA Yearling Sale.

"Bringing new people into owning horses is tricky; sometimes you hook a big mouth bass with artificial bait, but we are really excited about this filly," added Deville.

Completing the team is trainer Ned E. Goutierrez, III, who has been pleased with the progression of the gray filly.

"I had a pretty good feeling that she could really run," he said. "She blew the others away in her works and just continues to be a "feel good" horse."

Goutierrez reports that she came out of her explosive trial victory in good order.

"We'll just baby her along and stand her a few times in the gate before the final," he added. "Our goal is just to keep her happy."

Tf Shez Jess Dashin will most assuredly be the morning line favorite for the Mardi Gras Futurity. However, she will have to reverse the recent history as upsets have ruled in five of the last six editions of the stakes. 2016 champion Rdd Lajollanfastdash won as the favorite, but last year's winner, Guidry Pride II was the ninth-fastest qualifier and rewarded his supporters with a $15.00 win payout. Blue Eyed Fance ($33.40) sprang the upset in 2017, as the seventh-fastest qualifier. In 2015, Magic Black Jack, also with the seventh-fastest time, won at odds of 8-1. 2014 winner Hemps Jumpn Lajolla ($25.80) was the sixth-fastest qualifier and in 2013, Sandra Sue Blue, at 33-1, was the gate-to-wire spoiler.

Nine Other Finalists Have Plenty of Upside

Willie Simien, Jr. trained the 2016 Mardi Gras Futurity champion Rdd Lajollanfastdash and will saddle second fastest qualifier, JJ Jess An Meteorite. The homebred for J & J Stables LLC won the opening trial under Ricardo Hernandez, Jr. in :15.481 seconds.

Trainer Joe M. Davis has two finalists in the March 16th final. Jrs Sir Pop A Top, also sired by Sir Runaway Dash, was purchased for $12,500 at the LQHBA Yearling Sale by Patrick Richardson. The colt, bred by Oscar Rhone, was the fourth-fastest qualifier. Davis will also run Mr Achievement B, a colt by multiple grade 1 sire Freighttrain B. He was bred by Julien R. Stevens, Jr. and recorded the ninth-fastest qualifying time. Two other offspring of Freighttrain B will be in the final: Hh Gailforce, bred by Harvey Hayes and owned by Egoizzta Partnership. The filly, trained by Joel Cantu, is a $12,000 LQHBA Yearling Sale graduate. Heza Fast Train B, bred by DGC LLC and Damian Trahan, set the tenth-fastest clocking and completes the Freighttrain B trio. The gelding is owned by Juan F. Martinez and trained by Josue Ponce.

Last year, first crop sire Five Bar Cartel produced an excellent array of stakes winners and two sires to watch, Apollitical Blood and Heza Fast Rogue, each have a Mardi Gras Futurity finalist. Escandalo, a homebred for owner-breeder Delfino Lozano, IV, set the fifth-fastest time for trainer Arturo Davilla, III. Streakin Fast Rogue, a gelding by the son of leading sire Heza Fast Dash, posted the sixth fastest time. The $10,500 LQHBA Yearling graduate, owned by Ashton Elder and Miguel Romero, Jr. was bred by Jacob R. Broussard. He is trained by Raul Rodriguez.

LQHBA champion owner Rogelio Marquez, Jr. is hopeful that Patriot on Ice, the seventh-fastest qualifier, will fare well in the final. Bred by Jordan Michael Bertrand, the son of Jet Black Patriot is trained by Alberto Solis.

Stevens is the only breeder with two finalists. Rosalio Espinosa's Jrs Jewel Fantasy, a gelding by Coronas Leaving You clocked in with the eighth-fastest time. He is trained by Jose U. Lopez.

The Rich History of the Mardi Gras Futurity

Since its first running in 1988, the Mardi Gras Futurity launched the career of many of Louisiana's greatest Quarter Horse champions. Vals Fortune won the 2003 edition of the Mardi Gras Futurity and the Heath Taylor trainee went on to win 20 of his 23 starts, becoming the first Louisiana-bred millionaire. Five years later, Jet Black Patriot, bred and owned by Richard and Janelle Simon, stamped his name in the record books, winning the Mardi Gras, Lee Berwick and LQHBA Breeders Futurity, with a runner-up finish in the All American Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs as well.

Trainer Wendy Garcia saddled last year's winner Guidry Pride II, who was ridden by her brother, Juan Garcia. Jr.. Also sired by Sir Runaway Dash, owner Eduardo Juarez purchased the gray colt for $6,500 from his breeders, Johnny and Cynthia Guidry, at the 2017 LQHBA Yearling Sale. She reflected on the importance of the first official futurity of the year.

"It meant so much to our family to win the Mardi Gras Futurity," said Garcia. "We are very fortunate in Louisiana to have futurities throughout the year. Some horses are just not ready early, and our goal is to keep our horses sound all year. But the payments for the Mardi Gras are affordable, so if you have babies that are showing promise, it's a great way to begin the year."

Quality Field to Compete for a Record Purse for the $120,782 Mardi Gras Derby

Seven trials were completed on Sunday, February 24 for the $120,782 Mardi Gras Derby and there were many standout performances by 3-year-old Louisiana-breds at the distance of 400 yards. The top ten qualifiers will compete for the highest purse in the history of the race, with the winner earning $54,351.

Tdz Louisiana Toast, the runner-up in the 2018 Mardi Gras Futurity, won the third trial in a blazing :19.565 seconds for owner Juan F. Martinez and trainer Josue Ponce. Jockey Manuel Gutierrez had the return call aboard the son of Jess Louisiana Blue out of the Toast to Dash mare Shes a Royal Toast. The stakes-tested gelding will attract considerable attention in the final.

Adame Racing LLC's Appolitical Black ran second to Tdz Louisiana Toast, setting the second-fastest time of :19.860 seconds under leading Louisiana Downs jockey Everardo Rodriguez. The colt by Jet Black Patriot had not run since finishing seventh in the $700,000 Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1) on July 7 at Delta Downs.

"He had chips in his knees and we sent him to Dr. Tommy Hays for surgery," explained his conditioner Martin Trejo. "He was off for four months, but began training very well. I asked the owners if they wanted to run him in the Mardi Gras trials or wait until the Delta Downs Derby. He's a pretty good horse and we were very happy with his comeback."

Achievopiloto won the fifth trial to set the third-fastest clocking of :19.927 seconds. Rolando Cabrera rode the son of Mr Piloto, who was bred by AQHA Champion breeder, Grant Farms. Owned by Rancho Herradura, LLC, he was purchased for $11,000 at the LQHBA Yearling Sale. Trained by Barbara Alcantara, he made his first start at Louisiana Downs and competed in trials for both the Laddie and Lee Berwick Futurity before running a respectable fourth in the LQHBA Louisiana Million, the state's richest quarter horse championship.

Two LQHBA Scholarships to be Awarded on Saturday, March 16

In addition to the final of the Mardi Gras Futurity and Mardi Gras Derby as well as the running of the Leverne Perry Memorial Stakes on Saturday March 16 at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (LQHBA) will award two (2) $2,000 scholarships to eligible Louisiana students.

The LQHBA Scholarship Fund was the vision of the late Jim Mitchell and Executive Director Emeritus Leverne Perry, and is supported strongly by the LQHBA and its board members. Over $550,000, has been earmarked for this program since its inception in 2001. For more information on the LQHBA Scholarship Fund, visit LQHBA.com.

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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.