Owner and breeder Martha Wells had several reasons to look forward to the running of the $20,000 Barbra B Handicap Sunday at Los Alamitos. For starters, Wells had two horses running in the Barbra B with one of them being her longtime favorite sprinter, the 8-year-old Forrest Fire, who was making his 50th career start. She was also excited to watch her Separatist gelding Phone Tag, who was making his second outing at 550 yards after finishing third at that distance in the Paul Ford Handicap on December 12.
In the end, Wells found herself in the winner’s circle thanks to the 15-1 longshot Phone Tag. The California-bred ran a perfect race from the outside post number nine to earn his first ever victory at Los Alamitos and his second in 18 career starts. Forrest Fire made her owner proud as well, as he gave it his all while being bumped in the first ever outing at 550 yards. The three-time stakes winner by Walk Thru Fire finished in sixth place.
Ridden by Rodolfo Arvizu for trainer Paul Jones, Phone Tag battled with Double Bar S Ranch’s Jess Bring It for the early lead before sailing past him in the final yards to post a half-length victory. Ed Allred’s China Wall was flying late to dead-heat with Jess Bring It for second place. Phone Tag covered the distance in :27.60 over a sloppy track.
“I galloped this horse on Tuesday and he felt great,” Arvizu said. “I’ve ridden him before so I know him. He just felt like he wanted to run. He was so easy to ride tonight. He just kept on going.”
Phone Tag earned $11,000 for the win to take his career earnings to $51,761.
“He won a futurity in Arizona,” Wells added. “He had not done as well here so Paul suggested that we try him at 870 yards. We gave him a workout (660 yards in :37.10 on November 25) and then we ran him in the Paul Ford at 550. He got a little short in that race, but it helped him a lot. He looked good tonight and Rodolfo gave him a great ride. It was a sweet surprise. We’ll keep running at 550 and at 870 yards. Maybe he’ll be another No Pet Peeves for me.”
Wells was referring to her multiple 870-yard stakes winning runner. No Pet Peeves won six stakes races during his career in the late 1990s and early 2000s, while also starting 69 times and earning $208,197.
“I think he can go the distance,” Jones added. “He posted a pretty good time considering the (sloppy) track.”
Trained by Chris O’Dell and ridden by Eduardo Nicasio, Jess Bring It earned $3,500, as did the Scott Willoughby-trained China Wall, who was ridden by Carlos Huerta.
Hugos Private Jet ran fourth and Siete Tres was fifth. Forrest Fire, Forgotten Dynasty, Balata Joe Now and Im Corralitos Baby completed the field.
“It looked like Forrest Fire came back alright and he looks great,” Wells said. “In the past he has not done well after it has rained on the track. I still love him and I’m looking forward to his 51st start.”