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Far Niente Takes Golden State Derby

FDD Dynasty gelding earns first career Grade 1 win.

August 26, 2013

The third time proved to be the charm for Tom Atwood and Vessels Stallion Farm LLC’s Far Niente, as the son of FDD Dynasty enjoyed his first ever stakes win in his third attempt while taking the Grade 1, $232,900 Golden State Derby on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Ramon Sanchez for trainer Jose Hernandez Jr., Far Niente came into the 400-yard race as the fastest qualifier and he lived up to the billing, as he held off Howard Nichols’ Jess Being Valiant by a neck in a time of :19.593. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, Far Niente earned $97,818 for the win to take his career earnings to $252,644. He has won six of 10 career starts. Bred by Bielau Oaks, Far Niente had finished third in the PCQHBRA Breeders’ Futurity (G2) and seventh in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) in his two previous stakes races. The Golden State Derby also marked his second start as a gelding. His first start after being gelded came in the derby trials on August 11. He was an impressive wire-to-wire winner in the trials.

“The first couple of times that he raced he was well behaved,” said Hernandez. “In the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity, he started acting up and it gradually got worst. In the Two Million Futurity he was very hot. He was acting very ‘studdy.’ He had always been a very good horse, but we didn’t want him to waste so much energy before the race. He is now a lot more focused. He was ready to go tonight.”

“He was very excited in the warm ups, but he ran his race,” Sanchez added. “He came away nicely and he really finished well.”

“I think this horse will get better and better,” the trainer continued. “I was pretty confident coming into this race and I figured that as long as he had a good break that we had a shot to win. He eligible for the PCQHRA Breeders’ Derby (the trials are on September 13).”

The Golden State Derby win was Vessels Stallion Farm’s first since Timeto Thinkrich’s victory in the 1974 running and only the farm’s second ever in this event. It was the first Golden State win for Atwood, Sanchez and Hernandez. For the 31-year-old trainer, it was also his first in a Grade 1 race. The first-year trainer has worked for top trainers like Kelly Lewis, Denny Ekins, Paul Jones, Bret Vickery and John Wells over the years. When Wells started thinking about retiring from training last year, he chose Hernandez as the right man to hand over the reins of his stable.

“John and I had a great year together last year,” Hernandez said. “Last year he started talking about retiring and I’m grateful to have this opportunity. We have 14 horses in the barn right now. I ride my own horses every day. I had worked for Vickery for a long time and he had to be at different places so I took care of his stable (at Los Alamitos). My dad, Jose Hernandez Sr., is a big part of what I do here. My dad is a horse trainer and so was my grandfather. I grew up around the horses. I had trouble with my weight so I couldn’t (be a jockey) so I decided that I wanted to be a trainer. My dad still has a small stable here. He’s always been on my side.”

Wells, the leading trainer during the 1972 summer meet at Los Alamitos, conditioned Far Niente last year and now manages Atwood’s racing stable. Wells called Far Niente’s victory his “most exciting race ever.”

“We knew what we had in Far Niente,” he said. “The quality of this horse made it special. Jose Hernandez Jr. is also a big part of the Atwood Team. We were facing many outstanding horses, but our horse was coming into this race in great form. Mr. Atwood wasn’t sure if Far Niente could win this race. I called him after the race and told him ‘Hey, we won it.’”

Trainer Jaime Gomez saddled the second- and third-place finisher in the Golden State Derby in the form of the aforementioned Jess Being Valiant and Bobby Cox’s The August Heat, the runner-up in last year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Ridden by Gregorio Arriaga from post number eight, Jess Being Valiant had the lead during the early part of the race and posted a gritty effort the entire way. Bred by Lance Robinson and Max Anderson, the colt by Valiant Hero earned $39,593 for finishing second.

“He ran a big race,” owner Howard Nichols said. “Second is not bad for this type of race. We have no excuses. He’s in the Los Alamitos Super Derby later this year. We’ll look for an allowance type of a race to keep him sharp until them. We’re happy with his race.”

“We also ran second to Far Niente in the trials and this was a similar race,” Arriaga said. “We were flying late and I was trying to catch him, but that horse ran a strong race. It was a good race.”

Jess Being Valiant, who won the Golden State Juvenile Stakes (R) last year, has earned $115,198 in his nine lifetime outings.

Rodrigo Aceves piloted The August Heat, who earned $27,948 for running third. Bred by owner Bobby Cox, the Corona Cartel gelding has banked $424,136 in 12 career starts. Joy Roses Eagle SA finished fourth and was followed across the wire by Amore La Blue, Jabuti Eagle SA, Revv Me Up and Watch Linda Ballet. Fireworks was scratched earlier in the day.