RUIDOSO DOWNS — Bill Robbins’ champion and All American Futurity winner Apocalyptical Jess showed his determination with a hard-fought victory over Danjer in the Grade 1, $958,766 Ruidoso Derby on Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.
In the $100,000 Mr Jess Perry, for horses who did not qualify for the Ruidoso Derby, La Feliz Montana Ranch, LLC’s Lethal Lil powered away from her rivals to gain the victory.
Apocalyptical Jess earned $411,950 from his Ruidoso Derby win to push his career earnings to $2,081,772, the fifth-highest career earnings mark for a quarter horse.
Jockey Tanner Thedford guided Apocalyptical Jess to the neck win over Danjer with Cds Wine N Dine third, three-quarters of a length behind Danjer. The winner covered the 400 yards in :19.757.
“He’s all class,” Thedford said. “He left the gate running and I just kept him running.”
The powerful gelding raced to his fourth win from four starts this year. He dominated the $319,975 Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Derby in April as the 7-10 favorite and then came to Ruidoso Downs for the Ruidoso Derby trials.
Apocalyptical Jess won his Ruidoso Derby trial by two dominating lengths and his time of :19.749 for 400 yards topped the 10 trials.
“He’s a great horse,” trainer Trey Wood said. “They made him run, but he’s a winner. He’s game.”
Last summer at Ruidoso Downs, Apocalyptical Jess earned $1.5 million for taking the Grade 1, $3-million All American Futurity and that win secured his 2018 champion two-year-old gelding title. He then went to Lone Star Park for the Grade 1, $1,015,000 Texas Classic Futurity. He had a terrible start and finished sixth behind stablemate and champion two-year-old colt Flying Cowboy 123.
Paragon Farms, LLC’s Flying Cowboy 123 raced to a fourth-place finish in the Ruidoso Derby. Jockey Ricky Ramirez rode Flying Cowboy 123 and Apocalyptical Jess in the Ruidoso Derby trials. He chose to ride Flying Cowboy 123 and that opened up the mount for Thedford, who works closely with the Wood operation at the track and their farm.
Apocalyptical Jess could run in the trials to the $750,000 (est.) Rainbow Derby on July 7 or wait and run in the trials to the Grade 1, $1-million (est.) All American Derby on August 18. “We want to do what is best for the horse,” Robbins said. “That will be a decision that Trey makes.”
Runner-up Danjer — owned by trainer Dean R. Frey, Downtime Enterprises, LLC and Billy G. Smith — has shown promise and gave Apocalyptical Jess a stout challenge in the Ruidoso Derby with Cody Jensen aboard.
Danjer gained attention when he won last year’s $200,000 All American Juvenile by two lengths and then was a close third behind Flying Cowboy 123 in the Texas Classic Futurity.
A gelding by Fdd Dynasty, Danjer made his 2019 debut in the Ruidoso Derby trials. He won his trial by a neck with the second-fastest time of :19.769.
German Amaya’s third-place finisher Cds Wine N Dine, trained by Jimmy Guerra and ridden by Jesse Lee Levario, never threatened the top-two finishers. The son of Fdd Dynasty dominated his Ruidoso Derby trial by one-and-three-quarter lengths with the third-fastest time of :19.771.
In a rarity, the top-three qualifiers from the trials came back to finish one-two-three in the Ruidoso Derby.
Lethal Lil started with the leaders in the Mr Jess Perry and then pulled away from her competition to win by a commanding one length as the 27-10 favorite. Buckie Jones finished second by a neck over A Louisiana Fantasy.
Jose Amador Alvarez rode Lethal Lil to the victory in :19.883.
“We’re proud,” trainer Manny Rodriguez said. “She’s classy and likes to win. She’s beautiful.”
Lethal Lil finished a troubled third in her Ruidoso Derby trial behind Apocalyptical Jess in her 2019 debut.
“She needed the race in her trial.” Rodriguez said. “She was tired at the end.”
Lethal Lil has been a force at Ruidoso Downs and Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California. The well-conformed daughter of Corona Cartel was second in last summer’s Grade 1, $1-million Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso Downs and then closed out her freshman year with a third-place run in the Grade 1, $1,878,000 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in December.