Jesus Garera Garcia’s Mr Its Country Time began his sophomore year a maiden despite a solid 5-race freshman campaign in 2013. But now it’s been his time to shine at Los Alamitos.
The Lousiana-bred gelding by Country Chicks Man has been outstanding in four starts in 2014, his most recent outing resulting in a wire-to-wire 1 ¼ length victory over El Primero Del Ano Derby runner-up Fire Cliff in Saturday’s $25,000 Dillingham Handicap. Mr Its Country Time came into this race fresh off a victory in the James Smith Memorial Handicap and earlier this season he broke his maiden in a trial to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. His only blemish was a fifth place finish to the iron-tough Viva Mi Corazon in the Winter Derby final on February 15.
Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Mr Its Country Time was at his finest in the Dillingham, as he left the gate sharply from post number seven on the way to increasing his lead with each stride. Bred by Grant Farms LLC, Mr Its Country Time covered the 400-yard distance in :19.622 while posting a flying final 1/8th of a mile time of :09.44.
“He won it out of the gate,” said winning rider Raul Valenzuela. “I felt that we had to beat Spirit Leader because he had finished second to us in the James Smith. My horse had a great start and the way that he was running from there I felt that we would prevail. He didn’t miss a step. He just keeps getting better and better.”
Mr Its Country Time’s current form will give his connections some scheduling options for the second part of the year.
“The way he ran tonight, I will need to talk to the owner and see if he’d like to make the late payment to make him eligible to the Los Alamitos Super Derby,” said trainer Juan Aleman. “It’s a lot of money to make him eligible ($30,000 due on July 1), but the race offers a big purse and a chance to win a lot of money if he makes it to the final. To be honest, I was a little concern about how he would handle the last 50 yards of this race, but he broke great and his final 1/8th time was like that of the good ones. He finished the race fast.”
Aleman added that “after this effort, I’ll talk it over with the owner to see if he wants to roll the dice and pay him into the Super Derby. It’s an option. If we do not go in the Super Derby trial (October 12), then we’ll keep looking for handicap races and wait for the races for older horses next year.”
Mr Its Country Time earned $13,750 for his Dillingham win to take his career earnings to $48,216. Ed Allred’s Fire Cliff earned $5,625 for running second to take his earnings to $54,908. Carlos Huerta piloted the Walk Thru Fire gelding for trainer Scott Willoughby. Fire Cliff has finished third or better in 10 of 11 career starts.
Kolleen Ledgerwood’s Stel Just Me finished in third place for trainer Roberto Dominguez and jockey Cruz Mendez. Smithy, Solo Jess Senor, More Than Wild, Mesa Marvel, Spirit Leader and She Forgives completed the field. Conquer All was scratched earlier on Saturday.