LARC NEWS Posted: 4/2/2017 11:38:22 PM

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      Eva Carrazco’s Stelfast was fifth at the start of the Grade 3, $224,100 El Primero Del Ano Derby after some early bumping around, but once he got going he kissed his rivals goodbye on the way to a solid ¾ length victory in the 400-yard race on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

Sired by Stel Corona and out of the stakes winning dam The Goodbye Kisser, Stelfast lived up to his mother’s name, as he separated himself from his nine rivals on the way to his third victory in 15 starts. Sent off at odds of 7-1 and with Cruz Mendez in the irons, Stelfast covered the distance in :19.887 while giving trainer Valentin Zamudio the first graded stakes victory of his 10-year training career. This was the richest running of the El Primero Del Ano Derby since 2011 and second richest in over 30 years.  

Zamudio, who has been a mainstay at Los Alamitos since 2000, worked as a groom and assistant for various trainers for seven years before deciding to work towards his training license. Over the past 10 years, the 43-year-old conditioner has qualified several horses to several graded stakes races, but nothing matched what he experienced on the night of the El Primero Del Ano Derby trials on March 12.

“We qualified three good horses,” Zamudio said. “Stelfast was a horse that we purchased privately during the winter and I thought he was a great buy. He had qualified to a couple of futurities and his mother was a stakes winner here at Los Alamitos. I was also fortunate to qualify Maximo and Jess Kan Fly and they both ran good races in the trials. I came away from that night thinking that I had a chance to a fun night in this final.”

And fun it was for Zamudio and his wife, Irma, and their children Angel and Katie.

“My family loves the horses,” he said. “My wife is my assistant and so is my young boy. He just loves the Quarter Horses and loves to come and see them at the track. He’s my helper and it’s a great feeling to come to work and have a chance to bring him with me when there is an opportunity. You need that family support and feeling to it because the horses are our lives. It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time and sacrifice. I couldn’t do it without the support of my wife and entire family. The great thing is that we like it and I enjoy the work.”

During his 2-year-old campaign, Stelfast won a trial to the Governor’s Cup Futurity and then was second during the early stages of the $389,000 final before settling for a respectable fourth to talented Grade 1 finalist AJS Anna Smoke. The Paul Jones and Marcello Jorge-bred runner then competed in the Pat Hyland Handicap before coming back later in the year to run fourth in the $151,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship to multiple stakes winner One Proud Eagle. While Stelfast won one of 11 starts last year, the quality of his competition made him an attractive horse for Zamudio.

“He’s just so consistent and he always tries hard,” Zamudio. “Tonight things worked out. I’m very happy because this is my first big stakes win. We have 40 horses right now and the barn is growing.”

Stelfast, which came into this race as the second highest earner in the field with $70,460, earned $94,122 for his El Primero win to take his career earnings to $164,582. His dam, The Goodbye Kisser, won six of nine starts and earned $283,110. She won the 2010 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity and that year’s John Deere California Juvenile Challenge.

Racing for Paul Jones and Thompson Racing, Inc., fastest qualifier That Rico battled gamely the entire way and finished second at 6-1 odds. Ridden by Roberto Hernandez, the Carters Cartel gelding earned $38,097 for his runner-up effort. He has now earned $59,472 in his nine race career for trainer Paul Jones.

Lisa Beauprez, John Hammes and Tom Bradbury’s Thats A Good Reason and Juan Jose Calderon’s Try Again finished in a dead-heat for third place and each earned $21,289. Jones saddled Thats A Good Reason, while Jesus Nunez saddled Try Again. The fifth through ninth place finishers were Up For Plenty  Maximo, The Natural Nine, Walk Thru Septacular, and Jess Kan Fly. Paul Blanchard and Dutch Masters III’s Katella Deli was the betting favorite and the richest horse coming into this race with over $280,000 in earnings, but he broke slow and finished 10th.

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