Ed Allred’s superstar mare Quirky successfully defended her title in the Grade 1 $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap after holding off the talented Sass Me Blue and rising star Apolitical Zoom in an exciting blanket finish Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Eulices Gomez for trainer James Glenn, Jr., Quirky became only the second mare to win consecutive runnings of the Charger Bar Handicap after covering the 400 yards in :19.808. The 5-year-old Stel Corona mare joins AQHA champion Stylish Jess BR, the winner of this race in 2010 and 2011, as the only distaffers to repeat as winners in this race since the event’s inaugural running in 2001.
“That was a horse race,” said Glenn, Jr. “It was a pretty clean race and she broke well. Eulices let her drift in a bit and when she saw Sass Me Blue and Apolitical Zoom to her inside she dug in.”
Sent off as the even money favorite in the Charger Bar, Quirky has won six stakes races in seven starts since December of 2014. The Allred-bred won the Grade 1 Southern California Derby in 2014 and then came back in 14 days to win the then Grade 2 Charger Bar last January. Her 2015 season followed with victories in the Ivan Ashment Handicap, California Breeders Matron Stakes and Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap. She faced the top male horses on the grounds in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions, finishing a solid sixth in that prestigious race, before returning 22 nights later to score her third career Grade 1 victory.
“We took some embryos out of her by Walk Thru Fire (at Burns Ranch in Menifee, California) and we’ll do something similar this year,” Allred said. “We’ll get one Favorite Cartel and one Walk Thru Fire and then she’ll be back to the track to run. She’s a very sound mare.”
“I think going to Burns Ranch for breeding purposes was a good thing for Quirky last year,” the trainer added. “It was a chance to get away from the track for a little bit and served her as a mental break. It was a change of scenery and it did her a lot of good. She came back to the track refreshed and ready to work.”
After returning to Los Alamitos from Burns Ranch, Quirky won her next three starts and before closing out the year in the Champion of Champions. During her great 2015 campaign, Quirky won four of five outings and earned $157,955. On Sunday night, Quirky earned $50,000 for the win to take her career earnings to $393,598, while also improving to eight wins in 16 career starts.
“This was a great field and I think a lot of the mares in this race were coming in razor sharp,” Glenn, Jr. added. “Apolitical Zoom ran second in the Winter Derby last year and had won her last two starts, while Sass Me Blue is an outstanding runner with some great recent races under her belt. Quirky ran her eyeballs out to win this race. She was facing some really good mares. I was really nervous about this race, but Quirky bailed me out again.”
Glenn, Jr. breaks into a smile whenever he talks about Quirky. He had another smile to share when it came to crediting Eulices Gomez for the winning ride in the Charger Bar.
“He did all the work with Quirky when she was a 2-year-old,” Glenn, Jr. said. “He was aboard Quirky when she broke her maiden and he piloted to a qualifying spot in the (2013) Ed Burke Million Futurity. He also finished second with her in the La Primera Del Ano Derby the following year. Eulices got injured just around the time that Quirky was getting really good that year. Carlos Huerta eventually got the mount and by then Quirky was really, really good. Eulices handled everything with so much class and he worked hard to get back to riding. I know it’s tough for a young jockey when something like that happens because riding a horse like this can make all the difference.”
With Huerta injured in riding accident on December 11, which will sideline him for the next several months, Gomez got the opportunity to ride Quirky again.
“I’m really happy for Eulices,” the trainer concluded.
Lucky Seven Ranch’s Sass Me Blue posted another fine race while making her first start as a 4-year-old. Ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Mike Casselman, the Valiant Hero mare earned $17,000 for finishing second in the Charger Bar. This is her third runner-up effort in a Grade 1 race since October 31. She was the runner-up to champion Heza Dasha Fire in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and also second to Forget It in the Grade 1 Southern California Derby. Last August, Sass Me Blue ran third in the Golden State Derby. For her career, the Lance Robinson and Max Anderson Utah-bred mare has earned $214,958. She’s finished in the money in 10 of her 11 career starts.
Dennis and Kris Hill’s Apolitical Zoom earned $10,000 for finishing third – a nose behind Sass Me Blue in the race. The Apollitical Jess mare won the Las Damas Handicap in her previous start. Cesar De Alba piloted her for trainer Bret Vickery. Political Chick, Walk Around Blues, Take A Look, Tallulah Moon, Vivid, Skinny Jeans and Solid Connection completed the field.