A long inquiry into Rite Regal’s journey to the finish line in the Grade 3, $210,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby had trainer Jose Flores pacing back and forth between the edge of the winner’s circle area and the dirt of the racetrack surface, shaking his head, muttering about the race, while hoping that the outcome of the race would remain the same with Rite Regal in first place.
The stewards, meanwhile, were looking at an incident between Rite Regal, racing from the outside post number 10, and the number nine horse Chicks Fayvorite, and whether Rite Regal had interfered with his rival and cost him a better place during the race.
“I complain about everything,” said Flores after the race. “I’m a complainer. That’s just my nature. We haven’t had much running this year. I just want to win the race, not just for me, but for everybody, especially the owners because they’re the ones that make it happen. You hate to lose it for them.”
In the end, Rite Regal and his connections got the win after the stewards ruled that that the gelding by Favorite Cartel was clear of his inside foe.
“I think the stewards made the right decision,” said Flores after the race. “I saw my horse over a length in front (of Chicks Fayvorite). I’m glad the stewards made (that) decision. (Rite Regal) still drifts in and we have to correct that, but the 10 hole doesn’t help. We did good last year and you don’t want to be greedy, but you want to win the race for everybody.”
Owned by Urschel 3-D Ranch LLC, Rite Regal crossed the wire a head in front of runner-up My Favorite Check, the winner of the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes for owner Ron Hartley earlier this year. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Rite Regal covered the distance in :19.777 on the way to earning $88,200 for the win.
“He was looking for competition,” said Sanchez, who was picking up his first win since returning from a bicep injury that sidelined him for most of the past six months.
“It feels like it’s always felt, which is pretty good,” he added about the derby win. “Rite Regal was alone and he lugged in looking for competition. I tried everything I could to not bother anyone, but things happen.”
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, the great Special Effort. They also campaigned the 1979 All American Futurity winner Pie In The Sky. 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. Lifetime members of the AQHA, the Urschels are members of the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Bred by Burns Ranch, Rite Regal could remain in California as he’s eligible to the Golden State Derby and Los Alamitos Super Derby.
“I’ll talk it over with Donnie Knight and Jolene Urschel and see what they decide to do,” Flores said. “He’s in a few more derbies paid for him here. I don’t know if they’ll decide to move him. They like to race at Ruidoso, but they race everywhere. They had not race here at Los Alamitos in a while so it’s great to have the Urschels back in California. They’re a truly great part of our industry. Donnie picked Rite Regal out and he’s always liked this big red horse. He told me that this horse is for real when I first got him. We just kept missing because of minor little issues here and there, but it’s great to see him get a stakes win.
“Donnie and I talk every week and he keeps on top of things,” the trainer added. “I have fortunate to have the chance to meet Mrs. Urschel in Ruidoso and she’s a delight. I also have to thank Dr. Burns, the Harts, and George Seward because they recommended and got me in contact with her. It’s an honor to train for Urschel 3-D Ranch.”
Rite Regal, which earlier in the year posted the fastest qualifying time to the Los Alamitos Winter Derby, has now earned $120,581 while winning five of nine career starts. Trained by John Cooper, My Favorite Check earned $35,700 for running second with jockey Tony Guymon aboard, while the Flores-trained We Like Corona finished third. Owned by Howard Nichols, We Like Corona earned $25,200. El Compa JV and Mi Viejo finished fourth and fifth and were followed across the wire by Chicks Fayvorite, Dom Perry Own, Over Limits, El Karma and Eternity.
Flores took time to give an update on World Champion Heza Dasha Fire and AQHA champion 2-year-old gelding Ima Fearless Hero, which are both resting at Rick and Mindy Overly’s Lazy Creek Ranch after having surgery.
“They’re coming along great,” Flores said. “Hero is going to start swimming this week and we should have him back in month. Heza Dasha Fire, we are in no rush with him. He’ll be back when he’s 100 percent and if he comes back only for the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials (on November 13) so let it be. He was sound forever. We (tried) to get back in the Champion of Champions, but Moonist got in the way (by winning the race). It happens. It’s horse racing.”