Forrest Fire Captures Katella Handicap

Veteran gelding picks up first career stakes win at Los Alamitos.

March 12, 2012

Mimi Wells’ Forrest Fire has earned over $250,00, participated in 14 stakes races and competed in Grade 1 events like the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, Los Alamitos Super Derby and Southern California Derby, but it wasn’t until Sunday’s $25,000 Katella Handicap that the hard-knocking gelding finally became a stakes winner.

Making his 30th career start, the son of Walk Thru Fire scored a half-length victory over Cypress Handicap winner Significant Cartel to win the 350-yard race in :17.646. Ridden for the first time by Oscar Peinado for trainer Dan Francisco, Forrest Fire earned $13,750, but it was the distinction of becoming a stakes winner that brought owner Mimi Wells the most joy.

“He’s my baby,” said Wells, who also bred the now 5-year-old gelding. “He’s made a lot of money, but this is his first stakes win and I love it. My baby looked good and Oscar did a great job riding him. I’ve had a couple of offers to buy Forrest Fire, but he’s not going anywhere. When he retires from racing he’s coming to my house in Orange. That’s where he went when we gave him some time off. He was in my backyard.”

Wells has a hot-air balloon ride scheduled for Tuesday morning in Temecula, California, but after this victory she could probably reach new heights all on her own.

“I’m on a high right now after this win,” she added with a smile. “He’s been in a lot of big races. He ran in the Two Million, but finished last and he’s qualified to several stakes race. I’m proud of him. I think this win will help him pick his head up and hopefully he’ll be able to compete with the big boys this year.”

Forrest Fire has now earned $278,454 in a solid career that has also included appearances in graded stakes including the Governor’s Cup Futurity (RG1), Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1), El Primero Del Ano Derby (G2), Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G2) and Kaweah Bar Handicap (G3). Among his best finishes, Forrest Fire was third to world champion Apollitical Jess in the 2010 Los Alamitos Super Derby, third to eventual Grade 1 winner Snitcher in the 2010 Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap (G3) and second to Hoist Mission in the 2009 Autumn Handicap. His 3-year-old exploits helped make his mother, Chicks Tell, the winner of the 2010 James V.A. Carter Award given to the top broodmare in California.

Vinewood Farms’ Significant Cartel earned $5,625 for running second in this race. To go along with his Cypress victory, the Corona Cartel gelding also finished second in the A Ransom Handicap and third in the Golden State Derby (G1) last year. Alejandro Ibarra’s Lifes Been Good finished third and was followed across the wire by Flaming Out, Buying Snow, Choose Fast and Parsons Rock.


Jockey Ramon Guce had his broken right thumb inside a brace when he visited the Vessels Club at Los Alamitos with his family on Sunday night. Guce had surgery two weeks ago to repair his thumb, but he is optimistic that he’ll be back riding as early as two weeks.

“I had a pin inserted in my thumb, but it doesn’t hurt very much anymore,” Guce said. “I think I’ll be back riding in two weeks.”

Guce is the all-time leading Thoroughbred jockey at Los Alamitos and winner of seven riding titles aboard the breed. He is also holds the single season win record aboard Thoroughbreds.