When fastest qualifier Rite Regal steps on the racetrack for Saturday’s Grade 1, $215,250 Los Alamitos Winter Derby, he’ll be representing the Urschel family’s 3-Bar-D Ranch, one of the most respected names in the history of Quarter Horse racing.
The late Dan Urschel, who passed away in September of 2014, and his wife, Jolene Urschel of Canadian, Texas, won nearly every major Quarter Horse race at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico over the last 40 years and campaigned the track’s only Triple Crown winner. They won their first of four Rainbow Futurities in 1973 with homebred mare Flying Rockette, campaigned with Dan’s mother, Mary Urschel. Dan had the breeding to Rocket Bar (TB) and his mother owned the dam Fly Straw. After taking a short break from racing, the Urschels returned to racing limelight in 1979 when Pie In The Sky, a son of Easy Jet, won the All-American Futurity that year. The following season, they won the 1980 Rainbow Futurity with Mighty Deck Three and finished second, by the closest margin in history, to Higheasterjet in the All-American Futurity.
In 1981, Dan and Jolene paid a then record price of $1 million for a two year-old American Quarter Horse named Special Effort. The son by the Thoroughbred Raise Your Glass caught the Urschel’s eyes after posting the fastest qualifying time for the Kansas Futurity, now the Ruidoso Futurity, the first leg of Ruidoso Triple Crown. Special Effort would go on to not only win the Kansas Futurity, but also take the Rainbow Futurity and win the All American Futurity by the largest margin in history, 3 ¼ lengths, on Labor Day. Special Effort would go on to become one of the industry’s leading sires and leading broodmare sires and was inducted into American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.
Over a three-year span from 1979 to 1982, the Urschels won the Kansas, Ruidoso, Futurity twice, Rainbow Futurity twice, All-American Futurity twice and the Kansas, Ruidoso, Derby. They also won the first running of Heritage Place Futurity in 1981 with Jumbo Pacific.
At Los Alamitos, the Urschels were instrumental in putting together Faberge Special Effort Futurity, which was the industry’s first $200,000-added race for two year-olds and the final leg of California Triple Crown at that time. Millie Vessels of Los Alamitos Race Course, the Barry family of Faberge and the Urschels underwrote the race.
The Urschels loved breeding horses and had one of the best broodmare bands in the history of Quarter Horse racing with the purchase of such mares as champions Miss Thermolark, Lady Juno and Pass Over, along with Pan O Lan, the dam of champion Moon Lark, and All-American Futurity winner, Possum Jet, to name a few. Leading sire, Strawfly Special, a son of Special Effort out of Fly In The Pie, was bred by the Urschels and became the first AQHA embryo transfer foal to win a Grade One race. Strawfly Special would become a notable stallion based in California’s Double Bar S Ranch.
In 2005, the Urschels purchased half-interest in Leading Spirit, a paternal grandson of Special Effort from the late Barry Thompson. Leading Spirit won the Ruidoso Futurity, G1, and Rainbow Futurity, G1, and was named champion two year-old gelding. He would go to win Bank of American Challenge Championship, G3, at Los Alamitos as a five year-old and earned $811,413. In 2014, couple’s great-granddaughter, Kharlottie Grace, became the sixth generation from the Urschel family involved in Quarter Horse racing, when she campaigned the three year-old CR Tuckernuck, who was a finalist in the Ruidoso Derby, G1, and Corona Cartel Stakes this season. She was only 12-years-old.
A gelding by Favorite Cartel, Rite Regal, will now look to carry on the racing success of the Urschel 3-D Ranch LLC. To be ridden by 2015 AQHA Champion Jockey Ricky Ramirez, Rite Regal will enter the final as the fastest qualifier after winning his trial by a neck in the fastest qualifying time of :19.86. Bred by Steve Burns, Rite Regal has won four of five starts at Los Alamitos Race Course, beginning his California career by breaking his maiden here by 1 ¼ lengths and he later won a trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. His only blemish is a fifth place finish in the Los Alamitos Juvenile Invitational. Rite Regal will start from post number seven on Saturday night.