Denny and Sandy Weigt’s Bannister (photo) pulled away in the final yards to score a half-length victory over Gary Allred, Fawna Knight and Leon Smith’s On The Go in the $20,000 James Smith Memorial Handicap for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, Bannister was on the lead the entire way, but it wasn’t easy, as he had to battle California Breeders Freshman Stakes winner Favorite Aquaholic and Goverrnor’s Cup Futurity finalist American Force for the majority of the race. Racing from the outside post number seven, Bannister began separating himself from those rivals, but then had to contend with recent allowance winner On The Go, which was flying along the inside rail at the end. However, there was no catching Bannister, as last year’s Wild West Futurity hero picked up his eighth win in 12 career starts and his second victory of the year.
“He is pretty awesome when he is fresh and we run him about once a month,” trainer Monty Arrossa said.
The Oklahoma-bred gelding by Maknmoves came into this race after a rare off-the-board finish when running seventh in the Grade 1, $225,000 Los Alamitos Winter Derby. He has previously posted one of his best wins in the Winter Derby trials, as he humbled six rivals by over a length on that night.
“I was disappointed in his Winter Derby final, but I think it was just a matter that he did not like the off track,” said Arrossa of the wet fast racing surface on the night. “He just didn’t like the mud. I felt he was going into the Winter Derby great. He had been training great for that race.”
Bannister figures to have other chances in big derbies, as he’s eligible to run in the Adequan Derby Challenge series. Bred by J. Garvan Kelly and Nancy Yearley, Bannister earned $11,000 for the win to take his career earnings to $116,537. He covered the 350 yards in :17.778.
Ridden by Tony Guymon, who is one win shy from 1,000 Quarter Horse wins in his career, On The Go earned $4,500 for running second. Mark Skeen saddled the Foose gelding. Ron Hartley’s American Force earned $2,000 for finishing third. Favorite Aquaholic, All Kinds Of Kind, Dashing Runner and Western Coast completed the field.
A pair of races for 2-year-olds were contest on Saturday night with La Presita LLC’s Low Fire winning the event for fillies and J. Francisco Diaz’s Casino Baccarat taking the race for colts and geldings. Saddled by Jose Flores, Low Fire is a filly by Walk Thru Fire and out of Baja Luna, whose mother is the Grade 1 stakes winner Racy Runner. The latter won the 1995 running of the (G1) Kansas Jackpot Futurity over a field that included two-time Los Alamitos Invitational Championship winner Heza Ramblin Man. With Cruz Mendez up, Low Fire covered the 300 yards in :15.902.
Trained by Lindolfo Diaz and ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, Casino Baccarat has been headliner every step of the way. He posted sizzling morning works and then posted the fastest time of the two juvenile races when covering the distance in :15.745. Casino Baccarat is by Favorite and out of Baccarat Bar, a half-sister to Dont Pass Bar, the dam of 2015 champion aged mare and multiple Grade 1 winner Quirky and Governor’s Cup Futurity finalist A Bit Quirky.