Paul Jones and Thompson Racing, Inc’s That Rico bumped leaving the gate of trial race to the $224,100 El Primero Del Ano Derby, but still came away with the fastest qualifying time to the richest running of this race since 2011 on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
With Roberto Hernandez aboard for trainer Paul Jones, That Rico bumped with Mr Tempting at the start before covering the 400 yards in a time of :20.066. The son of Carters Cartel and out of Jess Like That posted his fourth win in eight starts and will now headline a field of 10 colts and geldings in the El Primero Del Ano final on Sunday, April 2. The purse for that race will also be the El Primero’s second highest since 1987.
“He is kind of hit and miss,” said Jones of That Rico. “He wins or runs bad, but luckily tonight he won. He’s got the talent. When he puts it together and everything goes right he can really run. He got into a little bit of a tangle out of the gates tonight. The final to the El Primero and La Primera are a pretty tight group. It’s a pretty tight group for the (El Primero) and it’s going to be a pretty nice race for the final. We got a pretty well matched group of horses. We’re pleased to have a couple qualify for this race.”
Jones also qualified the eighth fastest qualifier Whata Corona and 10th fastest Thats A Good Reason in addition to That Rico. The trainer is also off to a nice start in big money races at Los Alamitos. He saddled Jess Good Reason to victory in the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap in January and All Kinds of Kind to victory in the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes last month.
Trainer Valentin Zamudio also enjoyed a nice trial night with his horses, as the trainer qualified one horse in each of the three trials. Eva Carrasco’s Stelfast finished a head behind That Rico in their heat and finished with the second fastest qualifying time of :20.078. Sired by Stel Corona and out of the stakes winning mare The Goodbye Kisser, Stelfast will be making his third stakes appearance in a stakes final. The colt was fourth in both the $389,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity and $151,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship. Leading Quarter Horse rider Cesar De Alba piloted Stelfast.
Zamudio also won the second trial of the night aboard Junior’s Quarter Horses, Inc.’s Maximo, a gelding by Tempting Dash that finished with the fourth fastest qualifying time of :20.105. Sent off at 8-1 odds, Maximo was picking up his second consecutive win. He broke his maiden in his previous start on February 19. Zamudio also qualified the 40-1 longshot Jess Kan Fly after his second place finish to the Grade 1 stakes placed runner Katella Deli in the opening trial of the evening.
Trainer Jaime Gomez will have two runners in the final after saddling The Natural Nine and Katella Deli to qualifying spots. Owned by Gomez and Howard Nichols, The Natural Nine finished with the third fastest time of :20.080 after his third place finish to That Rico. Paul Blanchard and Dutch Masters III’s Katella Deli ended up with the fifth fastest qualifying time of :20.141.
“This is a horse that Paul Blanchard picked out,” said Dr. James Streelman of Dutch Masters III. “I confirmed that I would partner up with him after I saw him. We had one a year ago that did decent for us and obviously he’s shown his talent. Jaime is the best Foose trainer in the country. We go back to She Forgives, Forget It and now Katella Deli. They are all sired by Foose and Jaime has done well with all of them.
Katella Deli is named after the popular bakery and restaurant located just a few miles west of Los Alamitos Race Course and Streelman has already been asked if another local, famous eatery will serve as the next source of inspiration.
“I called (Los Alamitos Nominations Director) Melodie Knuchell and she asked me if my next one is going to be The Fish Company,” said Streelman of the seafood dining establishment also located a few miles from the track. “I do like eating at The Fish Company.”
The complete list of qualifiers to the El Primero Del Ano Derby is as follows: That Rico (:20.066), Stelfast (:20.078), The Natural Nine (:20.080), Maximo (:20.105), Katella Deli (:20.141), Jess Kan Fly (:20.160), Try Again (:20.169), Whata Corona (:20.184), Up For Plenty (:20.195) and Thats A Good Reason (:20.208).