Jim Walker’s Zoomin For Spuds’ six-stakes win season earned him the title of Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Horse of the Year plus two more titles at the annual awards banquet on Thursday night at Los Alamitos. The Idaho-bred son of Zoomin For Bux was also named the PCQHRA top 3-year-old gelding and the Intermountain Horse of the Year in California.
Zoomin For Spuds’ crowning achievement was winning the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions and also won the Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap and a division to the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial. In addition to winning three other stakes races at Los Alamitos, Zoomin For Spuds earned $352,581 for trainers Monty Arrossa and Bret Vickery in 2016.
“This one is for 84-years-young Jim Walker, who has spent over 40 years breeding Quarter Horses,” said Arrossa, who saddled Zoomin For Spuds in his Champion of Champions, Z. Wayne Griffin and Blane Schvaneveldt wins. “Jim is Mr. Positive and the reason that all this has happened. I came up with the crazy idea of paying him into the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials and Jim said ‘Let’s do it.’ He is always ready to try a challenge and it paid off with Zoomin For Spuds. This shows that small breeders can still achieve great things in this sport.”
John Cooper (shown in photo with wife, Carol) received the Frank Vessels, Sr. Memorial Award in recognition for Outstanding Contributions to the Sport of Quarter Horse Racing. Cooper has trained horses at Los Alamitos since the early 1970s and his star pupils have included champions Moonist, Separatist, Sign Of Lanty, Chingaderos and more. Cooper trained futurity winners AJS Anna Smoke and One Proud Eagle to major futurity winners in 2016. Cooper has won over 1,400 Quarter Horse races at Los Alamitos, fourth most ever at the Orange County oval. Cooper has never been fined for a medication violation over his long and great career.
“I’m looking over this crowd (at the awards banquet) right now and I see a lot of good people,” Cooper said. “Everybody wants to be a winner and I hate to lose, but I love this business and care for it so much. I hope I can do it a little longer. I enjoyed many great years with Mac (owner and breeder Rod MacPherson Jr.), but we lost him this year. I miss Mac. As long as (owner and breeder) Ron Hartley is still around, I’ll be around as well. This is really a great honor and I hope the next person that gets this award enjoys it as much as I am going to enjoy it now.”
Enrique Gonzalez’s EG High Desert Farms was named the owner of the year and also received the breeder special achievement award. EG High Desert Farms finished the meet as the second leading owner in terms of victories and also raced stakes winners Unclaimed Dividend, Jess Hawk, Jess Ravin and more. Gonzalez bred Unclaimed Dividend, winner of the Governor’s Cup Derby and A Ransom Handicap, and Jess Hawk, winner of the Pat Hyland Handicap. The breeder of the year title went to Ed Allred as runners from his Rolling A Ranch included Grade 1 winners Worth Doing, Quirky and He Looks Hot, plus stakes winners Nymph, Stel Easy and more.
Paul Jones was recognized as the trainer of the year after leading the meet in Quarter Horse wins while also campaigning stakes winners Jess Good Reason and Flay. Mike Casselman received the special achievement trainer award for his great work with Grade 1 stakes winners Sass Me Blue and Lotta Blues Man and PCQHRA Breeders Derby winner Little Talks.
“I’m very thankful to Jo and Steve Burns for sticking with me all these years,” Casselman said. “Steve does not micro-manage. I’ll call him and say, ‘Steve, what do you want to do with this horse?’ and he’ll say, ‘you wanted to be a trainer, so train.’ ”
Cesar De Alba was the jockey of the year after winning the Quarter Horse riding title by one win over Jesus Rios Ayala while also piloting stakes winners Moonist, AJS Anna Smoke, Little Talks and more.
“It was a lot of hard work to win this title and I have a lot of people to thank,” De Alba said. “My wife and my children, they make me want to work harder every day.”
Tony Guymon won the jockey special achievement award after enjoying big wins aboard Worth Doing in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and One Proud Eagle in the Kindergarten Futurity.
“I want to thank Dr. Allred because he keeps Quarter Horse racing the main focus at Los Alamitos,” he said.
Owned by Fawna Knight and trained by Mark Skeen, Worth Doing was the top 2-year-old gelding after winning the Two Million and finishing second in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity and third in the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity. Knight was honored with the owner special achievement award.
“Quarter Horse racing is such a great sport because you can do this with your entire family,” she said. “(Trainer) Mark Skeen is my brother and also one of my best friends. His wife, Holly, she’s amazing and we have a great time together at the (Los Alamitos Equine Sale).”
Top horses that were recognized were top 2-year-old colt Tarzanito, the runner-up of the Golden State Million Futurity, and top 2-year-old filly Ms Jess Knockout, a finalist to the Los Alamitos Two Million. In the 3-year-old division Big Lew was named colt of the year after winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and running third in the Champion of Champions, while Jess Good Reason was the top 3-year-old filly after winning the La Primera Del Ano Derby and Adequan Derby Challenge Championship. Sass Me Blue, winner of the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap for AQHA champion owners Lucky Seven Ranch, was named top aged mare. Forever linked by their great duels in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Winter Championship trial, Heza Dasha Fire and the late great Moonist were named co-winners in the top aged gelding category.
“We miss Moonist and the great matchups he would have had with Heza Dasha Fire last year,” said Kathy Meneely, owner of Heza Dasha Fire.
Other equine awards included Bobbys Angel Handicap winner Precious Dominique being recognized as the Most Improved Horse and multiple derby winner Rite Regal, a winner in seven of 11 starts in 2016 the recipient of the first ever Moonist Award for his season long success and longevity for a stakes or allowance horse. Rare Ed was named distance horse of the year.
PCQHRA presented Oscar and Elena Andrade’s Corona Mas Fina with the James V.A. Carter Award for Outstanding Broodmare. The mare produced multiple stakes finalist Uno Corona Mas and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finalist Jess Mas.
“I’ve dreamed of winning this award since I was a little girl,” Elena Andrade said. “Corona Mas Fina was the first horse that Oscar and I bought after Oscar’s (riding) accident. She’s kept us going in the business ever since. We had offers to sell her and we could have used the money. I stood my ground and never wanted to sell her. I told Oscar that I sold her, then I would go with her.”
Jones, Thompson and Burns Ranch’s Favorite Cartel, the sire of major stakes winners Lotta Blues Man, Little Talks, Rite Regal, Flay, Fire At Will and stakes runners Tarzanito and Militarist was presented with the Three Bars Award as the outstanding stallion.
“We knew that he would need to have a great season in order to beat a great stallion like Walk Thru Fire for this award and Favorite Cartel had a great year,” Terry Thompson said. “Everyone that knows me knows how much I love this horse. We are so excited about the future of Favorite Cartel.”
G. Jairo Rangel, who is only 21 years old, was presented with the Val Tonks Award for up and coming Quarter Horse jockey.
“At his age, Jairo reminds me of a young Joe Badilla, Jr.,” Los Alamitos track announcer Ed Burgart said.
In one of the moments of the night, Oscar Andrade, who was paralyzed in a riding accident in 2001, but has remained an ever present, respected, admired and loved figure in racing, received a standing ovation by the entire room when announced as the winner of the Sam Thompson Award. The award is presented to an individual who displays leadership within the Los Alamitos racing community.
Awards for the top Thoroughbred horsemen were given to owner Ashley Garcia, trainer Angela Aquino and jockey Ramon Guce.
“Angela made this happen,” said Garcia. “We claimed a lot of horses and she trained the hair of the horses.”
The leading Quarter Horse horsemen in the Northern California Fairs were also recognized on the night. Awards for leading money winning Cal-bred in nine difference divisions were also presented on the night.
They are owner Cuadra Mariscal, trainer Ricardo Guillen and jockey Irving Orozco. Awards for leading money winning Cal-bred in 10 difference divisions were also presented on the night. They are as follows:
LEADING MONEY-EARNING CAL-BRED HORSE OF THE YEAR: WORTH DOING
Cal-Bred Breeder: Ed Allred
LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT: TARZANITO
Cal-Bred Breeder: Patricia Visscher
LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING: WORTH DOING
Cal-Bred Breeder: Ed Allred
LEADING MONEY-EARNING TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY: JESS HAWK
Cal-Bred Breeder: EG High Desert Farms
LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT: FLAY
Cal-Bred Breeder: Paul Jones
LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING: RITE REGAL
Cal-Bred Breeder: Dr. Steve Burns DVM
LEADING MONEY-EARNING THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY: LITTLE TALKS
Cal-Breeder: Dr. Steve Burns DVM
LEADING MONEY-EARNING AGED CAL-BRED GELDING: HEZA DASHA FIRE
Cal-Bred Breeder: S-Quarter K LLC
LEADING MONEY-EARNING AGED CAL-BRED MARE: QUIRKY
Cal-Breeder: Ed Allred