It was a night of memorable first for a couple of up and coming trainers on Friday night at Los Alamitos. In the Quarter Horse feature event of the evening, Tom Atwood’s Consider won the $11,710 allowance in the seventh race to give Jose Hernandez Jr. his first victory as a trainer after many years working as one of the top assistant trainers at Los Alamitos. Earlier on the card, Lindolfo Diaz paid his first visit to the winner’s circle as a trainer with the Thoroughbred Milano Connection in the second race at 4 ½ furlongs.
Hernandez Jr. began galloping horses at Los Alamitos while still a teenager nearly 14 years ago and since then he has had the pleasure to work with some of the top conditioners at Los Alamitos. He started as an exercise rider for AQHA Champion trainer Paul Jones and has since plied his trade with the likes of trainers Kelly Lewis, John Bassett, Denny Ekins, Bret Vickery and most recently John Wells. The new trainer has fond memories of all his stops and especially about working with some of the best Quarter Horses to have raced at Los Alamitos in recent years.
“ I spent a couple of years with Denny Ekins and that was a special because it was the time that his barn featured Ocean Runaway and Finding Nemo, who were two outstanding horses,” Hernandez Jr. said. “I went to work with Bret Vickery and we had a great eight to nine year run together. I had a chance to be around some great horses like AB What A Runner, Gold Medal Jess and LDS Dash For Dylan. It was a great time.”
For John Wells last season, Hernandez Jr. was around the likes of multiple futurity finalist Far Niente, Curly Cue and Consider. His work impressed his boss to the point that on the night of the PCQHRA Awards Banquet, Wells announced that he would be turning his barn over to assistant for the 2013 season. Just over two months from that announcement, Hernandez Jr. with father Jose Hernandez Sr. and John Wells at his side was posing for a winning picture thanks to Consider’s solid half-length victory.
“It’s hard to believe and hard to describe how it feels when you finally win a race as a trainer,” he said. “It’s a completely different when you are the trainer. I couldn’t have done this without John’s support. He trusted me with the job and help me connect with his great owners like Tom Atwood, Vessels Stallion Farm, Emily Lawrence and J.P. Sample. I am so thankful for this opportunity.”
Improving his record to three wins in 13 career starts, Consider is a horse to watch in the months to come. The son of Corona Cartel ran in the Southern California Derby last year and most recently finished fifth following a tough trip in the Cypress Handicap. His trainer will be looking for some handicap races for him in the near future. Cruz Mendez rode Consider to a 300-yard time of :15.276.
“He came into this race off of a third place finish in an allowance race,” he said. “He was running a winning race, but just came up a little bit short at the very end. He ran a great race tonight. His a tough dude and a very consistent horse. We’ll take it one race at a time with him.”
Lindolfo Diaz grew up watching his father’s talented sprinter Running Bac as she conquered four consecutive stakes races in 2002 headed by a victory in the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap. She also won the Blushing By, Deelish and Dicey Secret handicaps. The experience of being around Running Bac cemented Lindolfo’s love for Quarter Horses.
“Running Bac was always calm in her stall, but when she hit the track you couldn’t stop her,” he said. “She was the happiest when she was running. I went to help Jose Flores a couple of years ago and he taught me the ropes of training. I learned a lot under his tutelage. To win a race as a trainer is a dream come true for me. I’m happy to get the first one out of the way and hopefully I can win race number two on Saturday night. The only thing that could have made this better is if my first win would have come with a Quarter Horse because they are my true passion, but winning with a nice Thoroughbred feels great. I’m happy to be in the winner’s circle.”
Owned by J. Francisco Diaz, who is Lindolfo’s father, Milano Connection took the lead down the stretch and went on to score a half-length victory. The 5-year-old gelding improved his record to five wins in 17 starts. Diaz claimed him for $2,500 on March 2. Red hot jockey Alex Jimenez piloted him to victory.