Ochoa Wins Record Rainbow Derby

Champion 2-year-old finds continued success as a 3-year-old.

July 21, 2012

Once again, Ochoa showed that there is not a 3-year-old on the planet who can finish a 440-yard race like this gelding when he won the Grade 1, $903,774 Rainbow Derby on Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.

It was the largest purse in 38 runnings of the Rainbow Derby and the sixth-straight year that a record purse has been established in the 440-yard race.

Ridden by Roy Baldillez, Ochoa needed every stride of the quarter-mile to get the head win. The gelding broke alertly from the fifth post position but has never been a horse with a quick start. However, he did have a clear path. With 100 yards left in the race, the outcome was very much in question and then Ochoa showed he is the fastest closer in the 3-year-old division to get up for the narrow win over Priceless Feature. It was just another head back to third-place finisher Jess Lips.

“It was a good break for him,” said Baldillez, who rode a very confident and patient race. “The horse next to me came over on me a little bit, but this horse has so much heart. He just dug and went on.”

Ochoa, a Texas-bred son of Tres Seis, raced the 440 yards in :21.353 to remain undefeated for four starts at 440 yards. He has earned $1,643,635, with $1,583,785 of that total coming from his wins at 440 yards. He also won the Grade 1, $2.4-million All American Futurity at 440 yards last Labor Day at Ruidoso Downs to secure the 2011 champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old gelding titles.

Trained by Sleepy Gilbreath, Ochoa is back to his peak form after a troubled sixth-place run in the $679,207 Ruidoso Derby (G1) two starts ago. He came back from the Ruidoso Derby to win one of the most memorable trial races in recent history at Ruidoso Downs when he ran down champion Feature Mr Bojangles to win his Rainbow Derby trial by an expanding three-quarters of a length.

“He looked really good coming off the track,” said Gilbreath said after the Rainbow Derby. “I can’t see any reason why we can’t go for the All American Derby.”

The All American Derby (G1) could have a purse of $2.3-million and a victory by Ochoa would make him the all-time leading money earning American Quarter Horse with earnings of about $2.5-million. The All American Derby is held over 440 yards on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.

Ochoa is owned by the partnership of breeder Johnny T.L. Jones Jr., Monte and Katsy Cluck, and Douglas Benson.

The Rainbow Derby was also a celebration of the fact that age is not an obstacle for success. Jockey Roy Brooks, who rode runner-up Priceless Feature, will turn 71-years-old in August.

“I just kept saying, ‘Come on finish line. Come on finish line,” Brooks said after the race.

Ed Melzer’s Priceless Feature, sired by Feature Mr Jess, had a three-race winning streak end in the Rainbow Derby. The highlight of his winning streak was a head win in the $247,800 Heritage Place Derby (G2) in May.

Samuel Valeriano’s Jess Lips was in the middle of the fight for the win as he finished just a head behind Priceless Feature and it was just another head back to fourth-place runner Tres Seis Nueve.

Jess Lips, ridden by Jimmy Dean Brooks, won his maiden in March at Remington Park and then won his Heritage Place Derby trial, qualifying for the final.

Second-place finisher Priceless Feature and third-place finisher Jess Lips are trained by Eddie Willis.

The remaining order of finish was Feature Mr Bojangles, Jesscuzican, Feature Mr Who, Bills Last, YM Quick and CD Riggins.