Freedom Choice Fastest in Los Al Two Million Trials

Field set for California’s richest race.

November 26, 2012

With superstar One Dashing Eagle sitting out the trials to the Grade 1, $2,108,275 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, owners Gustavo and Jose De La Torre turned to the promising yet lightly raced colt Freedom Choice to be the barn’s top color bearer going into the qualifying races to richest annual race in California.

The son of a A Regal Choice exceeded expectations, as he turned in the most dominant performance of the night while posting the fastest qualifying time at 400 yards of :19.628 in the third trial of 13 trials. Bred by Esmeralda Flores, who won the 2003 Los Alamitos Million Futurity with A Regal Choice, Freedom Choice flew out of the gate from post eight and easily blew away his rivals by 2 ¼ lengths despite lugging in badly in the second half of the race.

Ridden by Cruz Mendez, who had a big night with five trial victories, Freedom Choice was making only his third career start and first since breaking his maiden in a trial to the Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1) on June 10. Freedom Choice had a starting spot in the Grade Ed Burke Million final but was scratched out. Instead it was his stablemate One Famous Eagle who came away victorious for his owners, the De La Torres and San Gregorio Racing Stables.

“We did the right thing for this horse when we scratched him out of the Ed Burke,” said Gustavo De La Torre. “He had a tibia problem and we gave him time off to get him back to top shape. We could have run him in the trials to the Golden State Million Futurity, but we felt that no one was going to beat One Dashing Eagle. We decided that it would be best to give Freedom Choice the extra time off and get him ready for the Los Alamitos Two Million trials. I think it was a good strategy and it paid off.

“Freedom Choice was amazing in the trials,” Gustavo continued. “I have no other words for it. We knew we had a good horse in Freedom Choice and I thought he was going to run a big race, but the time that he put up on the board was certainly a surprise. He had a couple of good workouts before this race and we knew was that he was coming back in great shape for these trials.”

Freedom Choice will headline a razor sharp group of runners for the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity final to be held on Sunday, December 16. A total of 106 runners competed in 13 the trials with the following 10 horses moving on to the $2,108,275 final: Freedom Choice (:19.638), The August Heat (:19.705), Matabari (:19.763), Far Niente (:19.778), Seperate Interest (:19.821), Aha Moment (:19.829), Fires Blazin (:19.864), Lavish Susan (:19.871), Commando Tres Seis (:19.885) and Somethin Like This (:19.890).

Freedom Choice’s mother is Five Bar Molly, a stakes-winning mare campaigned by the Flores family. Five Bar Molly ran in the 2007 Champion of Champions (G1) and won that year’s Vessels Maturity (G1) against males and also the Miss Princess Handicap (G3). She won 12 of 25 career starts and earned $187,109.

Bobby Cox’s homebred The August Heat lived up to his brilliant workout on November 10 when the gelding by Corona Cartel drilled 220 yards from the gate in a time of :11.90. Ridden by Rodrigo Aceves, The August Heat scored a 1 ¼-length victory in the fifth of 13 trials while posting the second-fastest time of :19.705. The August Heat, who was making his first start at Los Alamitos, arrived after running second to eventual Texas Classic Futurity (G1) winner Valiant Lil Lady in a trial to that race. In his previous start, The August Heat finished third in the $425,625 Dash For Cash Futurity (G1).

“Trainer John Buchanan sent me this horse and he told me that he was one Mr. Bob’s top horses,” said trainer Jaime Gomez. “We gave him a workout and he showed that he was a top horse. Rodrigo Aceves loved the way he worked and I was excited to see how he would do tonight. He is definitely a talented horse, but (Bobby Cox) only sends me good horses so we need to do well with them.”

The August Heat’s mother is Jess Genuine, who won the 2005 Retama Park Futurity (G1) and was second to All American Winner in that year’s Sam Houston Futurity (G1). Her babies have included Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Oceanik and Kindergarten Futurity (G1) finalist Carburator.

The first trial of the night went to Balgo Racing Team and Marlyn Gonzalez’s Matabari, a Mr Jess Perry filly bred by Jose Maria Gonzalez. In only her fourth career start, Matabari enjoyed a wonderful break and cruised from there en route to posting the third-fastest qualifying time of :19.763. Matabari’s is a daughter of Hold Me Now, a hard-knocking sprinter who raced in 11 stakes race in her 32-race career. Hold Me Now won the 2007 California Breeders’ Matron Stakes (RG2).

Matabari came into the trials with one victory from only three career starts.

“We always liked Matabari and always felt that she was very talented,” said trainer Jose Flores. “She’s had races where she’s had trouble in the gate, but she put everything together in this race. I was a little concerned coming into the trials because she had recently suffered a little injury. She suffered a cut in her tongue and that required stitches. Dr. Becky Fitzgerald did a wonderful job fixing her mouth and she deserves a lot of credit for helping us get Matabari to her trial. There’s was a lot of work involved because of the injury to her tongue. My team did a great job preparing her for this race. We ended up using a special rubber bit for this race. The bit had to be the right size because if it was too big or too small it would end up bothering her. It was a team effort and it paid off.”

Tom Atwood and Vessels Stallion Farm’s Far Niente scored a half-length victory with jockey Eduardo Nicasio aboard in the eighth trial while posting the fourth-fastest time of the night. Far Niente had previously recorded the fastest time to the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity (G2). The son of FDD Dynasty finished third in the final.

“I am so happy for the owners because they are terrific people,” said trainer John Wells. “I can’t think of a nicer man than Tom Atwood. Right after the race he called me to see how I was doing. He was more worried about my happiness than his own. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Wells made a comeback to racing a couple of years ago after being away from training at Los Alamitos for about 20 years. Wells has had his best season this year, as he’s won races with 23% of his 44 starters.

“When I came back to training I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make a go of it,” he said. “Then I met Jose Hernandez and he’s been a great assistant trainer. He’s a young man, but when it comes to horses he cares for them old school style. He’s a great horseman and starting next year I am going to let him train the horses in the barn and I am going to be his assistant. That’s how much I think of his abilities as a horseman, plus he needs a break in this sport.”

Jimmy and Marilyn Harrell’s All American Futurity (G1) finalist Aha Moment earned a berth to a second race worth over $2 million this season after winning his trial by three-quarter lengths with the sixth-fastest time of the night. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Aha Moment beat a field that included another All American Futurity finalist in Native Tea Rose.

“He was away a little slow, but he came flying at the end,” Harrell said. “He had not raced since the All American so we were a little concerned that we didn’t give him another workout. Winning this race with only one workout means he should be a top contender in the final.”

“I was worried that maybe he wasn’t fit enough coming into the trials,” said trainer Paul Jones. “On the day that we were going to work him it rained here so we waited until the next day. When the next morning came we decided against giving him a workout. Ramon said that the horse was doing great and he didn’t think that he needed another work. After talking to Ramon I was convinced not to work him. It was a gamble, but it worked and now we have a fresh horse going into the final. He ran a beautiful race in the trials and I very pleased.”

Estate of Kim Kessinger’s Seperate Interest, who ran second in the Golden State Million Futurity, scored a masterful 1 ¼-length win in his trial to qualify with the fifth-fastest time. Under the training care of Mike Casselman, Seperate Interest has won or finished second in all four of his starts at Los Alamitos.

Arnold Gonzalez’s Fires Blazin became the only 2-year-old this season to qualify to all three major futurities contested at Los Alamitos. Trained by Jose Flores, Fires Blazin was the runner-up in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and fifth in the Golden State Million Futurity. Cruz Mendez rode the tenacious New Mexico-bred gelding. Fires Blazin was second to Far Niente in the ninth trial. Fires Blazin is from the family of champion Florentine.

Two other runners qualified out of the Far Niente and Fires Blazin trial. Gustavo De La Torres’ Lavish Susan ran third but still managed a spot in the final, while Ed Melzer and James Sills’ Somethin Like This was fourth. Lavish Susan was claimed for $12,500 earlier this year.

Hector A. Hernandez’s Commando Tres Seis earned his ticket to the Deuce after 1 ¾-length trial victory. The son of Tres Seis is now unbeaten in three career starts. Commando Tres Seis’ previous starts were a maiden victory on September 22 followed by an allowance victory on October 26.

***

One Dashing Eagle, the winner of the Ed Burke Million, All American and Golden State Million futurity, had “clean up surgery on his knee and ankle” on Sunday morning according to owner Gustavo De La Torre.

“Dr. Wayne McIlwraith performed the surgery and he said that the horse came out of it perfectly,” De La Torre said. “We are still racing him next year. We are looking at the Ruidoso Derby and then the All American Derby. We’ll bring him back for the Los Alamitos Super Derby and hopefully we can run him in the Champion of Champions. He could race seven times if everything goes as planned, but we’ll see. If something does not look right then we’ll stop racing him immediately and he can start making babies.”