All American: Courage and a Summer to Remember

Wicked Courage makes a run at Ruidoso’s Derby triple.

By Richard Chamberlain
Q-Racing Journal
August 27, 2013

wicked courage

Wicked Courage. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

What’s a $4,000 gelding that stumbled at the break to get beat in the trials doing in the richest race in history?

Well, if it’s Wicked Courage in the $2.8 million All American Derby (G1) on September 1 at Ruidoso Downs, it’s probably being the favorite.

“He stumbled coming out of the gate and run second (to Bon Accord), but we still made the final,” said owner Andrew T. “Andy” Smith, 62, who is in the oil and gas business at Ardmore, Oklahoma. “When he fell out of the gate, I thought ‘Ohmygawd!’ I thought my heart was gonna fall out of my chest! Then he got up and went to running, and he actually had the second-fastest qualifying time.”

Smith bought Wicked Courage for $4,000 at the 2011 Heritage Place Yearling Sale. Bred by Burnett Ranches LLC of Fort Worth, Texas, Wicked Courage is from the first crop by Captain Courage, who finished third in Heartswideopen’s All American Futurity (G1). Wicked Courage is out of Wicked Pamela, a Dash For Cash daughter out of the Vikingson (TB) mare Viking Anne, a distance-racing legend who produced Wicked Pamela’s stakes-winning full sisters Strictly Wicked ($111,713), Wicked Dash ($353,808), Wicked Wind ($117,501) and Wicked Willa ($120,793).

With a career record of 15-9-3-2, Wicked Courage has only once finished off the board and has earned $1,041,350. Trained by Luis Villafranco, Wicked Courage came into the August 17 trials off a nine-race win streak that started in Oklahoma with the September 2012 trials to the $95,000 Black Gold 350 Futurity (R) and extended through the $418,993 Black Gold Futurity Championship (RG3), $51,000 Bob Moore Memorial Stakes (G2), $822,753 Ruidoso Derby (G1) and $1,054,992 Rainbow Derby (G1).

 “I’ve been in racing all my life,” Smith said. “My granddad had racehorses, my father did. After my father died in ’94, we had 80-something horses out there on the farm, and I got so disgusted that I had an auction, was going to get rid of every horse I had. The mistake I made, I couldn’t sell 12 of them. I kept them and I’m still in the business. But I’ve never even qualified anything for one of these races before this year, so I’d tell people if you have a dream, don’t give up.”

Smith and wife Melody keep their horses on 200 acres at Ardmore, where they have seven broodmares, weanlings and yearlings. The couple raised two grown children: son Jason, with wife Leah, daughter Lauren and son Jackson, of Ardmore; and daughter Jill and husband Kasey Davis, and sons Logan and Luke, of Norman. They all will be at Ruidoso for the Derby.

If Wicked Courage wins the All American Derby, he would earn about $2 million this summer and be only the fourth horse to take the three major derbies at Ruidoso Downs. The three horses that have won the series on The Mountain are My Easy Credit (1977), Dash For Speed (1988) and DM Shicago (2005). When My Easy Credit and Dash For Speed scored their wins, the first derby of the summer season was the Kansas Derby, which in 1994 was replaced by the Ruidoso Derby.

Whatever happens, Smith will never forget the summer of 2013.

“I’m blessed,” he said. “It’s been a dream come true for me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but I think there’s a solid chance – not a 100 percent, but a real good chance – we’re going to win that Derby.”

The All American Derby and Futurity are September 1-2 at Ruidoso Downs in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Extended coverage of the All American weekend is provided by the
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