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Challenge Championships: All About Distance

All About Larry is taking his owner on a wild ride.

By Andrea Caudill
Q-Racing Journal
October 24, 2012

All About Larry

All About Larry

“I pretty much work full-time, all the time, to support my horse habit,” says Diane Heath.

Heath is a registered nurse who lives in Cochise, Arizona, a tiny town in the southeastern corner of the state. Her horse habit includes one of the likely favorites in the $125,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1), the 5-year-old gelding All About Larry.

Heath has always been horse-crazy and owned horses, but started racing horses about 12 years ago. Among the horses she has raced was her homebred Spanish Boot gelding Azures Royal Te, who won half of his 12 starts, including the 2005 Yavapai Futurity (G3), and was a state champion.

“I thought that was big time, and I was pretty proud of myself,” she says.

At the 2006 Arizona Quarter Racing Association sale, she bought the mare Come Hell Or Hiwater, a 1998 daughter of Shoot Yeah. She bought the mare-in-foal from Larry Stark’s Las Vegas Ranch of Prescott, Arizona. When the little bay Heza Motor Scooter colt dropped the next spring, she named him in his breeder’s honor.

All About Larry did not race his 2-year-old year, as he needed more time to grow up. He debuted as a 3-year-old, and  placed in four of seven starts, including two wins.

“Everybody could see this horse had some talent,” she says. “But he’d get out of the gate and it would take him forever to catch up with everybody. We always felt like if we had just a little bit more ground that he was coming on. At 300 yards, he was finding his stride. He just needs more ground. But I had to wait until I felt he was strong enough, big enough and mature enough to try an 870.”

At the end of his 4-year-old season, his connections decided he was ready to go around the turn. He responded explosively in his first distance race, winning by 2 3/4 lengths and setting a Turf Paradise track record of :44.304. Stretched to 1,000 yards in his next start, he won by 8 1/4 lengths. All About Larry had found his niche.

After contesting the Red Cell Sunland Distance Challenge (G3), Heath switched ‘Larry’ from trainer Tom Bartol, who was taking his string to the Northwest, to John Stinebaugh.

“I wanted (Larry) to stay a little bit closer to me,” she says. “So I could afford to drive over the same day or overnight and come back and go back to work the next day.”

Since that time, Larry won the $50,000 SunRay Park Marathon Handicap, was second in the $20,000 Tricky Dust Stakes, then won the $30,000 Master Salls Handicap by a resounding 9 3/4 lengths and set a track record while winning the $34,830 Red Cell Lone Star Distance Challenge.

All About Larry has won nine of 20 starts and earned $98,780.

Heath’s boyfriend Vincent Sanchez trains working cow horses, and has ridden some of her horses, including Larry.

“He wanted to make him into a working cow horse,” she says, laughing. “Believe it or not, Larry has some talent – he can spin, he’s been roped off of, and he can catch a cow.”

So while Larry has a viable second career waiting for him, he is not even close to finishing his first career. And Heath, and her family, will be there to cheer him on.

“There’s nothing to compare,” she says of racing a horse born and grown on her ranch. “It’s an incredible amount of pride. When that baby hits the ground and you see it for the first time, your dreams start then. You start planning, and see that baby running around the field. I know the big farms have plans, but they have so many horses. When you only have one or two that you’re dreaming about, you’re seeing them day in and day out. When you finally see that horse doing something like All About Larry has, it’s just an unbelievable amount of pride.”

Heath’s daughter, Rachel, wrote a poem about coming home to visit, and Heath shared a little bit of it:

“After dinner, sitting on an open porch
My mother and I, each hand in hand
A glass of wine.
Sunlight gleaming over the barn,
Crickets chirping in the grassy pasture,
Evening colt finding his canter.
She nearly tips her glass as she says,
‘Look at my baby go!’

“I keep it by my computer,” Heath says. “She summed up how excited I get seeing my babies. She understands. It’s a mother’s pride.”

The 20th Bank of America Challenge Championships are October 27 at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa. Watch the festivities live on Q-Racing Video at www.qracingvideo.com and stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at www.aqharacing.com.