Vallejo to Ride Wagon Tales

Jensen gives up his seat on the All American Futurity fastest qualifier.

By Greg Thompson
August 28, 2013

wagon tales

Wagon Tales. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Those Quarter Horse racing fans who were in attendance or that were watching the All American Futurity trials' second day (August 16) saw two-time All American Futurity winning jockey Cody Jensen roar home aboard the Judd Kearl-trained Wagon Tales to post the fastest time.

In the ultimate gesture of paying forward, as it pertains to Quarter Horse race riding that is, Jensen elects to come off of the fastest qualifier to ride Luis Villafranco trained Houdini in the All American Futurity (G1) finals to allow Wagon Tales' regular rider, Rodrigo Vallejo, who is returning from injury to regain the mount.

It is customary that if a jockey is fortunate to qualify a horse as the fastest qualifier in the All American Futurity that he or she almost on every occasion, rides that horse back in the finals.

Over the course of the research of this article, hall of fame jockey Jacky Martin was asked if he could recall if such an oddity had occurred in the sport before. Martin himself had never taken off of any of the multiple fastest qualifiers he had ridden over the years, and could not recall any jockey that had done such a thing during his time in the sport.

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Burgess was also asked the same line of questioning, and also could not recall such an event in the vast racing experience he had lived through.

After the conclusion of the All American Futurity trials earlier this month, Jensen would be aboard two qualifiers that moved onto the final field of ten for the Labor Day event.

The standout after the trials was Wagon Tales, who did his effort to post the time of :21.021 on the second day of trials. The day prior, Jensen had guided the Villafranco trained Houdini to post a time of :21.233 for the 440 yard distance. The slim margin of time difference played little into the decision of which horse to ride.

And unless the fastest qualifier did not come back from the race in good order or has not been training well since the trial, would seemingly be 'the reason' to take off the fastest qualifier to ride another. But Jensen, who took both Houdini and Wagon Tales to the track this week, has reported that Wagon Tales is doing absolutely perfect since the trials. The reason behind the departure from riding Wagon Tales lies deeper in the mind of the Utah-native.

"I have decided to ride Houdini to pay if forward," said Jensen. "I was aboard Wagon Tales for the trials essentially because his regular rider Rodrigo Vallejo was sidelined with an injury. He had ridden the horse for a while, and at Remington they had done well together. I felt extremely fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to ride the horse for Judd (Kearl) in the trials, because he is an absolute standout in the field. I have been taking both Wagon Tales and Houdini since the trials, and both are doing exceptionally well, and both have the ability to win this weekend. I really don't believe there is really not much between them. But when I had heard that Rodrigo was back to working, and galloping horses I began to wonder that if it would not be the right thing to give him back what really is his horse to ride."

During the 2013 Quarter Horse meet at Remington Park, Jensen was involved in a spill late in the meet. A horse that All American Futurity-winning rider Juan Vasquez was aboard took a spill, and fell directly into the path of Jensen's mount in the race. The collision resulted in a broken collarbone for Jensen, putting him on the sidelines for the upcoming trials of the Ruidoso Derby (G1) at Ruidoso Downs.

Jockey G.R. Carter, Jr., who shares the same jockey's agent with Jensen, was asked to step aboard a few mounts that day that Jensen was tabbed to ride. One of those mounts that day was guided to victory by Carter was Wicked Courage. In a gesture of sportsmanship, Carter moved aside to give Jensen back the mount of the Villafranco trainee who is now heading into this weekend in an attempt to make history in the $2.8 All American Derby (G1). Wicked Courage attempts to become the fourth 3-year-old in Quarter Horse racing history to sweep all three of the Ruidoso Downs summer Derbies.

"G.R. really showed his class when he stepped aside so that I could get the mount back on Wicked Courage in the Ruidoso Derby after having qualified him in the trials while I was hurt," said Jensen. "A rider of the magnitude that G.R. is could have easily worked to stay on the horse after going through to qualify the horse.

"Now that Rodrigo (Vallejo) is able to ride, I just feel very strongly that this is the right thing to do," he said. "It is not an easy decision to make, but in the long run I know I am doing the right thing regardless of the outcome. It is my chance to pay it back, and that is exactly why I am making this choice. I am extremely lucky to be in this position that I have the opportunity to ride Houdini. He is also doing exceptionally well, and I will be trying to beat Wagon Tales come Labor Day. I am glad to take what was given to me by G.R. on Wicked Courage, and now pay it forward by giving up the mount to allow Rodrigo to ride him in the All American."