S-Quarter K LLC’s Heza Dasha Fire became the newest millionaire in Quarter Horse racing after posting an impressive wire-to-wire 1 ½ length victory in the Grade 2, $180,200 Golden State Derby on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Cruz Mendez for trainer Jose Flores, Heza Dasha Fire earned $75,684 for the win to take his lifetime bankroll to $1,041,940. Racing from post number nine, Heza Dasha Fire covered the 400 yards in :19.577 while scoring his eight win in nine career starts. The Washington homebred added the Golden State Derby to his victories in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and Golden State Million Futurity last year. Double Bar S Ranch’s Jess Cuz, second to Heza Dasha Fire in the trials, ran second in the finals.
“Heza Dasha Fire just continues to amaze us,” said Don Meneel y of S-Quarter K LLC. “He looks like he is having fun on the track. In the last 100 yards he’s just looking around and his ears are flipping. He loves to run. He’s so amazing. It was exhilarating to watch him run.”
Heza Dasha Fire is now a perfect two for two this season after winning six of seven starts in 2014. The son of Walk Thru Fire took some time off after finishing fourth in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity at the end of his 2-year-old campaign.
“We sent him to Lazy Creek Ranch with Dr. Rick Overly and his wife, Mindy,” Meneely added. “Anytime you turn horses out you do worry because a lot of things could happen. A horse may get sick or they don’t come back the same way, but Lazy Creek Ranch did a great job taking care of Heza Dasha Fire. I felt like they gave him the best care in the world. Dr. Overly is his on track vet so he knows the horse better than anyone.”
“We went to see Heza Dasha Fire two to three times at Lazy Creek and he would be in his pasture looking pretty good,” Flores added. “He kept his weight on during his time off and when he came back we changed a few things in his diet. Last year he lost some weight towards the end of the year and I think that may have hurt him late in the year.
“We came back to the track about three months ago and we took our time with him,” Flores added. “We gave him two short works (at 220 yards) and then a 350-yard work (on July 11). I knew we were going to run in the derby trials without a prep race, but I thought those works would be enough to get him ready. He’s the kind of horse that tells you when he’s ready. He starts acting differently when he’s ready. He’s more bouncy, more on the muscle. I love those horses that tell you how they’re doing and how they’re feeling.”
The victory in the Golden State Derby also gave Flores a big boost, as his barn had been quiet in terms of winning graded stakes races this season.
“It’s been a good year, but not a great year in terms of stakes wins,” Flores said. “We’ve qualified to a lot of races, and I’m always happy to qualify and be in the dance, but we had not won a big stakes race. You have years like that so it does feel extra nice to finally win a big race like the Golden State Derby. Hopefully this win will get the barn going. I had never won the Golden State Derby, but came close by finishing second and third with Princelike and Danny Cartel in the same race.”
Winning jockey Cruz Mendez always felt confident that Heza Dasha Fire’s first stakes race as a sophomore would be special.
“He’s a monster of a horse,” Mendez said. “I had a lot of faith in him because every time I worked him I could feel his strength. He just feels like a more mature horse. He warmed up great tonight and he behaved perfectly in the starting gate. He broke better tonight than in the trials. Towards the end of the race I just had to get his attention a little bit because he was moving his ears all over the place and watching what was going on. He’s just a terrific horse.”
Heza Dasha Fire will make his next race in the trials to the Los Alamitos Super Derby on Sunday, October 11. The Super Derby final will be held on Halloween Night, Saturday, October 31. The winner of the Super Derby will earn a berth to the prestigious Champion of Champions.
“He’ll have some time to recuperate,” Kathy Meneely added. “He’s all business in there. He looks down the track and just gets going. We’ll be heading back to Washington this week, but first we’ll go visit Lazy Creek Ranch before we leave. We want to go our other horses there. We have a yearling filly by One Famous Eagle out of Ima Chickie Two that we’ll race next year and we also have a One Famous Eagle colt out of Ima Chickie Two’s mother that will go through the sale ring at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale (in October). We’ll head home after that visit.”
Ridden by Alejandro Luna for trainer Elena Andrade, Jess Cuz ran another huge race to finish second in the Golden State Derby at nearly 13-1 odds. In what was considered a surprise at the time, Jess Cuz had the second fastest qualifying time following her runner-up effort in the trials back on August 9. The Mr Jess Perry filly proved that her great showing on trial night was not a fluke, as she battled right from the start while fending off the challenge from Lucky Seven Ranch’s Sass Me Blue. Jess Cuz earned $30,634 for running second. Saddled by Mike Casselman and ridden by Cesar De Alba, Sass Me Blue earned $21,634 for running third. Chicanery, One More Card, Run By You, Energy Cartel, Walk Around Blues, Lavish Ivory, and Valiant Energy completed the field.