Angela Aquino enjoyed her best training night saddling Thoroughbreds after winning three races – two of them with longshots – during Saturday’s nine race card at Los Alamitos. Aquino won back-to-back races with her 13-1 longshot Meta Merlot in the fifth and with Steven Mingione’s 3-1 shot Strong Suggestion in the sixth race before completing the triple with Pasq and Pasq, Inc’s classy veteran Usurp in the evening’s eighth race. Usurp returned $19.40 for the win while helping to make sure that there would be a Pick 6 carryover of more than $18,000 heading into Sunday’s nine race program.
Aquino entered the night with four Thoroughbred winners on the year, but she nearly doubled that figure in a 90 minute span. This was not Aquino’s first winning triple, as the trainer fondly remembers a memorable evening a few years back.
“I won three Quarter Horse races in one night and they came in consecutive races,” she recalled. “I think it was in 2008.”
As the field headed into the final stretch with Usurp looming dangerously in striking distance, Aquino wasn’t sure if she would be able to match her career best for wins in one night.
“I didn’t get excited until the stretch when (track announcer) Ed Burgart started calling Usurp’s name,” she added. “Any win is a great win for me, but I did like Usurp’s victory because he’s an old class horse. His owners have been sending me Thoroughbreds from Golden Gate and from across town and we’ve been trying to see if we can figure them out and get them going right again. Sometimes we’re able to turn them around and it’s a lot of fun when it happens.”
An 8-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Deputy Commander and out of a Storm Cat mare, Usurp came into Saturday’s race with $209,625 in career earnings and a record that included a third place finish in the $50,000 Governor’s Cup Handicap at Fairplex Park in 2009. After his hard-fought half-length victory on Saturday night, the Mace and Samantha Siegel-bred runner was $5,190 richer while enjoying his sixth win in 32 career starts.
“He’s eight years-old and he’s made a lot of money,” Aquino added. “He’s a classy, veteran horse. He had been finishing (at the end of the pack) in his last few starts before we got him. It feels like a nice accomplishment when you are able to turn around a horse like this one.”
Dionicio Navarro piloted Usurp. Aquino’s other wins came with the help of leading Thoroughbred rider Ramon Guce, who piloted Strong Suggestion, and with Gary Boag, who rode Meta Merlot.
“It was nice to win with Steven Mingione’s Strong Suggestion as well,” Aquino added. “Steven has been very involved with the horses and they provide a lot of fun for him. My barn went through a bit of a dry spell for a couple of months, but things have turned around in the last few weeks. This was a fun night.”