Thanks to a couple of spectacular efforts by homebreds Heza Dasha Fire and Ima Fearless Hero, S-Quarter K LLC of Kennewick, Washington enjoyed a ‘Perfect 10’ championship weekend at Los Alamitos Race Course on December 12-13. In less than 24 hours, S-Quarter K won Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions with the outstanding Heza Dasha Fire starting from post number 10 followed by a victory in California’s richest horse race of the year, the Grade 1, $1,957,175 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on Sunday, courtesy of Heza Dasha Fire’s half-brother, Ima Fearless Hero.
Heza Dasha Fire and Ima Fearless Hero both won their respective races this weekend from the outside post number 10 in impressive fashion, but in a different manner. Heza Dasha Fire was quick as lightning from the outside post on the way to a dominant daylight win. Ima Fearless Hero’s victory was the result of a hard-fought affair against the outstanding Docs Best Card, which finished only a neck behind the winner. Ima Fearless Hero covered the distance in :19.682 while earning $801,434. The win pushed his career earnings to $982,699. Add to that amount the $300,000 that Heza Dasha Fire earned in winning the Champion of Champions and it sums up to a million dollar weekend for Don, Kathy and Shawn Meneely of S-Quarter K.
Heza Dasha Fire and Ima Fearless Hero’s weekend sweep also makes S-Quarter K the first owners to win both the Champion of Champions and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in the same year. The two geldings combined to win 11 of 13 starts this year with Ima Fearless Hero contributing with six wins from eight starts during his juvenile campaign.
“I’m speechless,” said Shawn Meneely, the son of Don and Kathy. “My mom is a big reason for this success. She works hard in picking the stallions, she does the research, she raises them and takes care of them. She’ll call me for advice from time to time and I tell, ‘Why are you asking me?’ She knows this horses better than any of us. I thought last year was unbelievable while watching Heza Dasha Fire win (the Ed Burke Million and Golden State Million), but this year has been amazing watching these two.”
The path to this amazing weekend for the Meneelys began when the family decided not to sell Heza Dasha Fire at a public auction.
“We always sold the males and kept the fillies,” Kathy Meneely said. “We didn’t have a filly to sell in 2013, but we had Dash. Our trainer, Jose Flores, loved Heza Dasha Fire and Shawn enjoys racing our horses so we decided to keep him and run him last year.”
And without the success that Heza Dasha Fire enjoyed in 2014, he earned over $800,000, the Meneelys may not have kept Ima Fearless Hero.
“Dash made it possible,” she added. “We are a shoestring outfit so when Heza Dasha Fire did so well, we did not have to sell Hero. We had him in the catalog at the Ruidoso Sale, but if someone wanted to buy him they were going to have to pay the price. No one did so we brought him home to race. Heza Dasha Fire allowed us to repurchase Hero. We used the money he earned to continue making payments and the other costs involved.”
“I remember my parents calling me to tell me that they wanted to keep Dash instead of selling him at auction,” Shawn added. “I told them that it sounded good to me. It’s proven to be a great decision. After what Heza Dasha Fire did last year and with Ima Fearless Hero being his half-brother, it was hard to not want to run him. My favorite of the two might still be Heza Dasha Fire, but only by a nose. Hero has been improving and improving and he’s been so impressive in his last (five) starts.”
Just like on Saturday night, jockey Cruz Mendez and trainer Jose Flores were part of the success.
“There are no words to describe this win,” said Flores, who saddled his second Los Alamitos Two Million winner after saddling Matabari to victory in 2012. “I told my dad that when Matabari won this race we had qualified three horses to the final. We qualified three horses to this year’s futurity so maybe that was a sign. I’ve been dreaming of winning the Champion of Champions since I was a kid and I was fortunate to win it last night. To add this win is just more icing on the cake. I’ve been training since I was 18 or 19-years-old and I’ve been at Los Alamitos for 23 years. The emotions are unreal right now. I just can’t believe it. I feel blessed.”
Flores credits Ima Fearless Hero’s success to another decision that the Meneelys took earlier this year.
“This horse won the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity and shortly after the race the owners opted not to run him in the Golden State Million trials. It wasn’t my choice at all. I wanted to run him, but the Meneelys decided to skip the race. As it turns, what a great plan. It just helped him stay fresh.”
Cruz Mendez chit-chatted with his fellow riders earlier on Sunday afternoon when Cody Jensen asked him how early he knew Heza Dasha Fire was going to win the Champion of Champions.
“I knew 10 yards into the race,” Mendez said. “This one was different because it was hard-fought. “The horse was slipping around, but he kept going. I saw that we were bunched up at about the 300 yard mark, but I could feel that we were catching up. I started to feel like we were going to win at about 350 to 370 yards in this one. It was a tough race. Docs Best Card was tough and I knew he was in front, but Ima Fearless Hero responded in a big way and had a great finish.”
Sadly, there will not be any brothers or sister of Heza Dasha Fire or Ima Valiant Hero at Los Alamitos next year.
“We had bred (Dasha Freda) to Tres Seis, but we lost the baby 150 days into it,” Kathy said. “It was upsetting. We bred her Tres Seis and we also have a recipient mare carrying an embryo by Walk Thru Fire. We’ll probably breed Dasha Freda again to Walk Thru Fire. It’s worked great so far. We’ll breed her to Valiant Hero as well. You can’t go wrong with either one.”
Ridden by Oscar Peinado for owner/trainer Jaime Gomez, Docs Best Card earned $324,390 for running second in the Los Alamitos Two Million. The colt by Corona Cartel has posted four runner-up efforts in major futurities this year. He was second in the Kindergarten and Ed Burke during the first half of the year. He came into this race after running second in the Golden State Million Futurity. First or second in 10 of his 11 career starts, Docs Best Card has earned $736,595 in his career.
Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Dynasty Energy earned $228,981 for running third. His lifetime earnings are now $241,186. The FDD Dynasty gelding has hit the board in all seven career starts. Tony Guymon piloted him for trainer Chris O’Dell.
Trained by Jose Flores, Howard Nchols’ We Like Corona earned $133,572 for running fourth. Jess A Pollitician, Time For Jess, Senor Gianni, Mi Viejo, Sale Topper, and Walk Thru Crystal completed the field. Sale Topper was ridden by G.R. Carter, who was making his final riding appearance at Los Alamitos before retiring at the end of the year.
“Sale Topper broke a bit to the right,” Carter said. “It wasn’t a good trip, but none the less I will remember this one forever. It was just nice to try to win one more big race at Los Alamitos. It’s been great.”