The Alberta Bred Quarter Horse Derby Trials saw 17 three-year-olds go to the gate, to be narrowed down to eight after three, 350 yard sprints.
Donalda Carter trains ER Café, the fastest horse in the Derby Trials held at the Rocky Mountain Turf Club, and also has Zerelda James in the Futurity. A nice double-header to be sure.
William Leech is the only trainer with two horses in the Derby, one of them being Go Jessin Beaver, owned by Jim Plume and Charlie Weaselhead, Chief of the Kainai Nation. The pair are past winners of the big Quarter Horse Futurity and Derby held each Fall at the RMTC.
As for Sunday’s Derby Trials, Jim was a little nervous.
“We had the one hole but that scares me,” he said. “There’s a bit of a dip and then a slight turn to pick up the rail. I hope he can do it from there.
“But William know what he‘s doing, I have faith in him.”
The horse, by Apolitical Jess out of Corona Del Valle by Corona Cartel was bred by W B D Ranch Inc. in Alberta, of course.
William Leech finished nine and 10 in the trials, as well as 16th.
Leech, Plume and Weaselhead were together again for another win in the Oltimers Classic, where $*,004 went to the winners. Scott Sterr was in the saddle on the gelding Mals First Down, by Shazoom out of First a Princess by First Down Dash and bred in Oklahoma, where Plume and Weaselhed picked him up.
Those qualifying for the Derby Finals, the weekend of June 25-26 with the Futurity, were, with the horse, time and trainer: 1. ER Café, 17.946, Donalda Cochrane; 2. Northfork Jess, 18.009, Ron Scott; 3. Sheaintaehiskylulaby, 18.147, William Leech; 4. Experimental Rocket, 18.169, Allan Goodsell; 5. Fly Bye Cruise, 18.174, Tom Kenway; 6. Better Knickers, 19.199, Riley Rycroft; 7. Go Jessin Beaver, 18.271, William Leech; 8. Fiscal Fast, 18.288, Angelle Carter.
The Alberta Bred Quarter Horse Futurity Trials saw 23 entries pared down to the fastest eight.
One of the two-year-olds you’d expect to find in the Finals was Poutn On The Wagon, and the well-bred William Leech-trained gelding was number four, despite a rough start.
“He was born to run, you bet he was,’ said William, concerning the Pete Schoeler-owned speedster. Poutn On The Wagon is by Paint Your Wagon out of the great Poutnlori by Okey Dokey Dale and was bred in Alberta by the owner.
“Like I say he has the breeding to be a winner. He got turned sideways twice out of the gate and still ran away on the field.”
Only two trainers qualified a pair of horses in the top eight, Leech with Poutn and Streakinbabe, the second fastest horse on the day; and Randy Cunningham with the fastest horse, Caraves Waves, as well as Eagle Quay.
It was a popular achievement for Cunningham, a former RMTC jockey and most importantly, his biggest achievement, a cancer survivor.
“We won that by quite a ways,” a happy Cunningham said of the third trial as he headed off to the test barn.
Following are the eight Futurity Trial horses in order of finish, with the horse, time and trainer: 1. Caraves Waves, 15.739, Randy Cunningham; 2. Streakinbabe, 16.019, William Leech; 3. Honor The Fast Man, 16.056, Tom Kenway; 4. Poutn On The Wagon, William Leech; 5. Eye On Desirio, 16.145, Allan Goodsell; 6. Zerelda James, 16.152, Donalda Cochrane; 7. Eagle Quay, 16.159, Randy Cunningham; 8. Taylor Meyer, 16.414, Wade Eno.
Joe Bird Rattler of Browning was as happy as the winning trainer, Harlan Bird Rattler, when L Bar D Countess won the sixth race Saturday.
“As a family we have more than 300 wins everywhere and last year Harlan was the leading trainer at Great Falls,” said Joe. “I started riding when I was 12, and her we have Harlan with his first win at the RMTC and Dallas has three.”
Friday night Allan Goodsell saw his Know No Jinx pay 19.70. 6.90 and 2.90 in the first race. An even higher payout came in the third when a Randy Cunningham-trained horse, Separate Jess, paid 20.30, 18.80 and 2.30.
One of the strangest races I’ve ever seen was Sunday’s fourth, Where Sneakin Cat, with Jose Rocha aboard, burst from the first gate and took the lead by about three lengths past the grandstand the first time in the five and a half furlong race. He maintained the lead out of the first turn but on the backstretch went up to the outside fence, like he was pulling up. But he continued to run along the fence, even on the turn for home – and strangest of all, he won!
Rocha leads the riders with 21 wins and Freddy Fuentes has 17. The top trainer slot is a tie between William Leech and Laurie Ferguson with 10 wins apiece,
BEHIND THE STARTINGS GATE... Horseman Debbie Cunnington of Kalispell, agreed it was a strange race, saying “that horse must have run a mile”… It was a double popular win in Saturday’s eighth when veteran trainer Pat Goruk and veteran rider Scott Sterr combined to take the winner’s share of the $4,200 purse with Rain Dancing Lady... Rider experienced typical strong, gusting Lethbridge winds Saturday... among the fairly large crowd was a strong contingent from the Red Crow family... The Spring meet’ leading rider. Jose Rocha suffered a suspected hairline fracture of the ankle in the fifth race when his horse, Hold Em Miss Timber suddenley stopped put her head down at the end of the race, shooting Rocha over her head... However, Jose was back riding Sunday... A solid winning combination of Rolligson Racing Stables, Freddy Fuentes and Laurie Ferguson won Saturday’s fourth race with well-named Gold Kiss... Next races at the RMTC will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday with post time 6 and 1:15 p.m. respectively.