The Grade 2 Southern California Derby final on December 17 had the potential to be a big night for John and Cina Sperry’s multiple Grade 3 winner Jess Good Reason. The Oklahoma-bred came into the race having posted a spectacular daylight victory in the derby trials and she was one of the favorites to win the 400-yard derby. Unfortunately for her connections things did not as they had hoped. While in the starting gate, Jess Good Reason reared back, lifted up and unseated her jockey, Oscar Peinado, and finished 10th in a race to forget.
Following the Southern California Derby trainer Paul Jones went back to work with Jess Good Reason, working to get her comfortable in the starting again.
“She’s had a few things happen at the start of her races,” Jones said. “It’s been something we’ve been working with her to improve. We just want her to get a good break.”
Jess Good Reason got the start she needed on Sunday night, flying out of the gate on the way to winning first Grade 1 stakes race of the new season at Los Alamitos, the $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap at 400 yards. With Peinado board, Jess Good Reason was ahead of the field by a half-length right from the start and she maintained that lead all the way to the finish line. It was Jess Good Reason’s third graded stakes win of her career having previously won the Grade 3 La Primera Del Ano Derby and the Grade 3 Adequan Derby Challenge final.
“It’s a real credit to having a good gate crew at Los Alamitos,” said Jones. “They go out of their way to do a good job. They do a great job working with horses in the gate. It paid off for me tonight.”
The perennial leading Quarter Horse trainer at Los Alamitos, Jones finished second in the nation in money earned with $2,105,506 and in wins with 116 in 2016. Ninety of those wins came at Los Alamitos, good enough to earn him his 18th Quarter Horse title at the Southern California racetrack. However, Jones admits that 2016 was a down year for his barn.
“I’ve been champion trainer 14 years in a row, but I had kind of a down year,” he admitted. “We were still second in the nation in money earned, but it was still a down year. Champion trainer 14 years in a row, it’s been a good run. I’m really happy that we’re starting this year out with a good beginning with this stakes win.”
“She broke fast, right to the front and finished strong. This time no trouble in the gate. She did everything right,” Peinado added.
Bred in Oklahoma by Preston and Karen Cloud, the now 4-year-old mare by Good Reason SA earned $50,000 for the win to take her career earnings to $333,652. This was her eighth career wins in 17 starts. She’s hit the board in 14 of those outings.
“She’s paid to the Los Alamitos Winter Championship (trials on January 22), but we’ll play it by ear,” Jones added. “We might get an embryo or two out of her.”
John Sperry, who is one of the first owners that Jones ever trained for, was on hand at Los Alamitos to enjoy Jess Good Reason’s victory.
“She’s fantastic,” he said. “We’re still deciding if we’ll breed her next.”
If she remains on the track, she could be one of the top mares in 2017.
“Let’s hope,” Sperry said. “I certainly hope so. I’d love to have a champion in the racing business before I retire.”
Jess Good Reason’s victory in the Charger Bar came against one of the best fields ever for this race. The field included reigning champion aged mare Quirky, the defending Charger Bar winner the past two years, Grade 1 winners Sass Me Blue, Little Talks and Time For Wine plus stakes winners Jess Ravin, Send Me This Wagon, Time For Jess, BF Fooserageous and Thermonuclear Energy.
Michael Pohl’s homebred Send Me This Wagon, the winner of the AQHA Members Plus Stakes on October 29, finished second thanks to a strong late in the final half of the race. Trained by Juan Aleman and ridden by Eduardo Nicasio, the 6-year-old mare by PYC Paint Your Wagon earned $17,000 for running second. She’s made $179,310 in her 20-race career.
Dr. Steve Burns’ Little Talks, the winner of the 2015 Golden State Million Futurity and 2016 PCQHRA Breeders Derby, flew in the second half of the race to finish in third place. Piloted by Cesar De Alba for trainer Mike Casselman, the mare by Favorite Cartel was eighth at the start before flying late. She earned $10,000 for the effort to raise her career total to $552,897.
BF Fooserageous, Time For Jess, Time For Wine, Sass Me Blue, Jess Ravin, Quirky and Thermonuclear Energy completed the field.