Paul Jones liked his chances going into the $25,000 Denim N Diamonds Handicap on Saturday at Los Alamitos. The AQHA champion trainer had a pair of top notch runners that included Grade 2 Charger Bar Handicap winner Native Tea Rose racing in the 350-yard event for 4-year-old mares.
“I thought I had a good chance to win it with Native Tea Rose, but she was in dancing in the gate and just didn’t leave,” Jones said after the race. “Good thing that my other nice mare came through.”
Racing for Veronica Gail Worth, Splendiferous Diva has a slight bump at the start and was perfect from there on the way to winning the Denim N Diamonds by a head over Tom Atwood’s stakes winner Curlie Cue. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez from post five at odds of 7-2, Splendiferous Diva covered the distance in a solid clocking of :17.629. Sanchez has proven to be a perfect match for the dashing mare, as the two have ended up in the winner’s circle the last three times that they’ve joined forces.
“I’ve just been lucky with her,” Sanchez said. “She got a good break and she was great at the end.”
“She runs pretty good for Ramon,” Jones added.
Native Tea Rose, the 2-5 favorite in this race, was looking for her third stakes victory in as many starts, but the 4-year-old mare broke slowly and never threatened the leaders. She ended up in fifth place.
“Splendiferous Diva outbroke her,” Jones continued. “Native Tea Rose got behind and then (Beautiful Fire) got in front of her and probably kicked dirt in her face. It’s hard to make up ground after that. It’s nice to have two runners in a race, just in case one makes a mistake. Native Tea Rose couldn’t win this one, but we had a nice back up plan.”
Worth and Native Tea Rose’s owner, Abigail Kawananakoa, were in Hawaii watching the running of the Denim N Diamonds according to the trainer.
“Veronica and Abigail are pretty competitive when their horses are running against each other,” he said. “I’m sure Abigail wanted to beat her in this race, but it was (Veronica’s) turn. It’s nice to get a stakes win for this mare. We’ll probably keep running in these types of handicap and will look for filly and mare races for her.”
A finalist in last year’s PCQHRA Breeders Derby, Splendiferous Diva earned $13,750 for the win. Bred by Sharon Brandsness, Splendiferous Diva is out of the 2001 Golden State Derby winner Royal Dip. The Denim N Diamonds winner has now won four of 12 starts while earning $42,225.
Saddled by Jose Hernandez, Jr. and ridden by Eduardo Nicasio, Curlie Cue earned $5,625 for running second. The First Down Dash mare has hit the board in seven of her last 10 starts. She won the 2012 Junos Request Handicap.
Trained by John Cooper, Ron Hartley’s Forgotten Dynasty earned $3,125 for running third with Cesar De Alba aboard. Beautiful Fire, Native Tea Rose and Zesty completed the field.