In a battle between Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby finalists, Jesus Garera Garcia’s Mr Its Country Time dominated the $20,000 James Smith Memorial Handicap thanks to a wire-to-wire victory over Spirit Leader on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Raul Valenzuela for trainer Juan Aleman, Mr Its Country Time covered the 350 yards in a time of :17.430 while earning $11,000 for the effort. The gelding by Country Chicks Man came into this race after crossing the wire in the Winter Derby behind Spirit Leader. Mr Its Country Time was fifth in that $197,000 race, while Spirit Leader finished in second place. Mr Its Country Time was the better of the two talented sophomores in the James Smith Handicap, as he broke perfectly from post number four and never looked back. Bred by Grant Farms LLC, the Louisiana-bred was picking up only his second victory in eight career starts. His only other win was a comfortable decision in the trials to the Winter Derby.
“He ran tonight like ran in the derby trials,” Aleman said. “He’s still a horse that is maturing. His maiden win came in the trials and he started pretty nicely in the Winter Derby final, but tired a little bit at the end. He’s going to keep getting better and better. He runs stronger when he’s had some time off in between starts. I think it’s because he runs so hard and gives it his all every single time. Every horse is different and he’s one that needs a little bit of time in between races.”
Mr Its Country Time will be featured in events like the James Smith in 2014 Aleman explained.
“He’s not paid into any major derbies so we’ll keep running him in handicaps like this one,” he said. “We’ll look into races like the Vessels Maturity for him next season.”
Mr Its Country Time improved his career earnings to $34,466.
Trained by Paul Jones for Abigail Kawananakoa, Spirit Leader finished in second place for the third race in a row. The son of Corona Cartel was second in both the Winter Derby trial and final to the talented Viva Mi Corazon before posting this runner-up effort. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, the colt earned $4,500 to take his career earnings to $50,542. Another Storm, China Wall, Well And Good and Sadie Sis completed the field.