Owner John Sperry and trainer Paul Jones have been winning races together since the early 1990s. It was a time before Jones had established himself not only as the nation’s leading Quarter Horse trainer and perennial AQHA champion trainer, but he had yet to win his first Quarter Horse training title at Los Alamitos.
Training for Sperry was a great opportunity for the young horseman as he continued to build his stable and racing operation. The two quickly began enjoying victories together, wins like an allowance race together with a filly by the name of Keen Dasher on July 1, 1993. Keen Dasher would later produce the multiple stakes winner Inthetwinkleofaneye, which Jones conditioned to several stakes victories in the late 1990s.
Horses like Keen Dasher served as the foundation of a great working relationship that continues strong for Sperry and Jones nearly 25 years later.
“John is one of the owners that has been with me the longest,” said Jones. “John Sperry and John Bettencourt are two owners that have been with me the longest. John is a great guy. He’s been really good to me back when I didn’t have a lot of horses. He really supported me and would give me horses to train.”
Sperry, 80, probably felt like a young buck in the winner’s circle on Saturday night at Los Alamitos after his Jess Good Reason won the Grade 3, $227,100 La Primera Del Ano Derby by ¾ lengths. For Sperry and Jones it was another moment to celebrate a fine victory together.
“To win a (derby) for him is really special,” Jones said. “It means a lot. I wish he was 20 years younger because he’s a really good guy.”
“This win is great,” Sperry said. “You can’t get any better than this.”
Leaving the gate from post number eight with Roberto Hernandez aboard, John and Cina Sperry’s Jess Good Reason took the lead a few steps out of the gate and never looked back on the way to recording her fifth win in seven career starts. The fastest qualifier coming into this race, Jess Good Reason covered the 400 yards in a time of :19.687 while earning $95,382. The runner-up in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby in her last start, the Good Reason SA filly has now earned $158,264.
“When she gets away and gets a clean trip she’s pretty hard to beat,” Jones said. “She was unlucky to lose in the Winter Derby. She ran second in that. She was flying at the end of that one. If she would have gotten a little better start she would have won the Winter Derby too.”
Jess Good Reason made no mistakes in her La Primera trial, as she cruised to a 2 ¼ length victory in that start.
“She really broke well and cut loose and got away from the field. She had a really good trip,” the trainer added. “We’ve worked a lot with her in the gates. Every time she went to the track we would take her to the gate and work with her. The starter Gary Brinson has been really good and his crew did a lot of work with her. They did a really good job with her and helping me get her right in the gate. A lot of the success has to come from the gate to get them rolling.”
Bred by Preston and Karen Cloud, Jess Good Reason did not debut until November of her 2-year-old campaign.
“She had a tibia fracture early on and we had to give her some time off,” Jones said. “We brought her back and then she had gate trouble. You have to have patience sometimes, but sometimes the horses also just make you wait. When they are talented, the patience can really pay off.
“She showed a lot of talent right from the beginning. She was just a handful and had her quirks. She’s matured and settled down and now she’s showing that ability,” Jones concluded.
For winning rider Roberto Hernandez, the La Primera was also a special race.
“This is my first big stakes win,” said Hernandez, who previously piloted Jess Good Reason to victory in the $25,000 Holiday Handicap on December 27. “It’s an emotional win for me. I have to thank the owner and trainer for their faith in me. This was not an easy win. Winning a race is tough and you’re always facing the toughest jockeys in the sport. I feel blessed to have won this race.”
EG High Desert Farms’ Jess Ravin earned $38,607 for finishing second in the La Primera. Yanet Rodriguez saddled the filly, who was ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala. Hilda Torres’ First N Final finished third. Piloted by Cesar De Alba for trainer Valentin Zamudio, she earned $27,252 for running third. Miss Special Regard, Shes A Temptation, Crooked Path, Bo Dash Back, Time For Jess, I Wont Give Up, and One Sweet Runaway completed the field.