RUIDOSO DOWNS – Charles Robinson’s Imperial Eagle did not get to race until the15th and final trial, but he made the most of his final act opportunity by racing to the fastest-qualifying mark to the Grade 1, $3-million All American Futurity during the first of two days of trials on Friday at Ruidoso Downs.
The two-year-olds with the five-fastest times from Friday‘s 15 trials join the horses with the five-fastest times from Saturday‘s 15 trials in the classic All American Futurity on Labor Day. The All American Futurity offers the largest purse of any two-year-old horserace in the world. The winner earns $1.5 million.
The next five-fastest qualifiers on each day have preference for the $500,000 All American Juvenile. The purse was raised from $200,000 last year.
Imperial Eagle covered the 440 yards in :21.499 while winning by an facile one-and-three-quarter lengths under Esgar Ramirez. The jockey also qualified Koolnfamous and Volcoms Lady for trainer Toby Keeton.
The victory pushed Imperial Eagle’s record to three-for-three this summer at Ruidoso Downs. The One Famous Eagle sired gelding won his trials to the Grade 1, $1-million Ruidoso Futurity at 350 yards and the $1-million Rainbow Futurity over 400 yards, but did not qualify for either race.
“This is the first time he ran a good race and he had a distance of ground (440 yards),” said trainer Tony Sedillo. “It seemed that in every other trial (Ruidoso and Rainbow) he had a headwind.”
The quarter-mile distance was advantageous to Imperial Eagle. “Ever since we first started with him, I told the owner that 440 would be his distance,” said Sedillo.
Imperial Eagle, a $40,000 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale purchase, is out of Jenuine Joy and Imperial Eagle bred by Fredda Draper, wife of the late trainer Carl Draper. “This one’s for you,” a tearful Fredda said in the winner’s circle while pointing skyward. “This is the best day I’ve had in a long time.”
Carl was a two-time All American Futurity winner and is a member of the Ruidoso Downs’ Racehorse Hall Of Fame. He died on December 21, 2015.
Jenuine Joy is showing she is a blue-hen producer and is also the dam of Political Mess, winner of the 10th trial on Friday afternoon.
Beth and Michael Harper’s The Marfa Lights made an impressive acceleration in the final 100 yards to win his 440-yard trial with the second-fastest time of :21.510.
A colt by One Famous Eagle, The Marfa Lights certainly impressed in his trial. Starting smartly from the seventh post position under veteran jockey Larry Payne, The Marfa Lights raced with the leaders for the first half of the race and then started to pull away. He showed his huge potential in the final strides when he easily disposed of his trial rivals by two-and-three-quarter lengths.
The Marfa Lights, a $145,000 Ruidoso Select Sale purchase, raced the 440 yards in :21.510.
“He looked great,” said co-owner Beth Harper. “I expected this.”
The Jim Helzer-trained The Marfa Lights was fourth in his Ruidoso Futurity trial while making his debut. He stepped up in his Rainbow Futurity trial to win his maiden by one-half length, however his time was not fast enough to reach the Rainbow Futurity field.
“Jim (Helzer) has done a great job with him,” said Michael Harper. “Jim has him peaking at the right time.”
Helzer was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2015 after serving as the AQHA President in 2009-10. Along with his wife, Marilyn, Jim has been breeding and racing horses since 1962.
Helzer owned 1990 All American Futurity winner Refrigerator, who retired as the sport’s all-time leading money earner at $2,126,309. He was the world champion in 1992 and 1993.
“He showed a lot of maturity,” said Helzer of The Marfa Lights. “He’ll mature even more for the All American. He always been a smart horse and is magnificent to be around.”
The Marfa Lights has a very attractive Vessels Stallion Farm-based pedigree. His dam, champion and superlative producer One First Moon, is also the dam of two-time champion Moonist, who died on June 21 from colic. The gelding earned $878,468 while winning 24 of 34 starts. He won 12 stakes races at Los Alamitos.