LARC NEWS Posted: 4/1/2018 2:28:41 AM

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             Keith Nellesen’s champion KVN Corona improved his career record to a perfect eight-for-eight thanks to a powerful late kick which helped win the Grade 3, $235,200 El Primero Del Año Derby on Saturday at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Paul Jones, KVN Corona was fifth at the start of the El Primero, but he quickly found his best stride to fly past early leaders King Of Appeals Mv, Black Fryday, and The Revenant on the way to scoring his third stakes victory.

“It’s always great. I’m always nervous,” said Nellesen after the win. “It’s almost like the fact that he has always won makes it even a little bit more nervous. He’s just a pro. I don’t know how to say it other than that. He comes out and does what he has to do. He had some health issues going into the Los Alamitos Two Million (trials). We knew the last race, he really needed it to get fit. Tonight, that’s just who he is. He’s not someone that is just going to run away from quality horses, but it’s going to take a special horse to beat him.”

The gray colt by Corona Cartel won the El Primero by a half-length while covering the 400 yards in :19.683. The McColee Land & Livestock LLC-bred runner won the Ed Burke Million Futurity over champion 2-year-old J Fire Up last June and the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity in early October. The two futurity wins and his undefeated record earned KVN Corona the title of AQHA champion 2-year-old colt last year.

“He’s a pleasure to train,” Jones said. “He’s the kind of a horse that makes trainers look good. He was set and ready to go (in the El Primero). There was a horse acting up on the outside and they were in (the starting gates) for a little bit. He didn’t get away quite as good as I thought he would and kind of got brushed a little bit. Two or three jumps and he was right there. He kind of broke through it. Horses can go one way or the other. Some horse come back off when that happens. Some horses can run through it. He’s such a classy horse that he runs right through. He has the will to get to the lead and he gets it done.”

KVN Corona earned $98,784 for his El Primero win to take his lifetime earnings to $679,534. He also took his record to that great eight-for-eight mark.   

“It’s always tough because you’re running against the best 3-year-olds here,” Jones added. “When you are running with this kind of competition it’s definitely tough. We gave him a little break after his 2-year-old (campaign). His (El Primero) trial was his first race back. He needed the race. We thought he came out of that race really well. It really tightened him up and it made him even better for this race.”

Jones has now won six runnings of the El Primero, tying him with the legendary Blane Schvaneveldt for the most victories in this race. Jones first won this race in 2003 with Sum Special Strawfly and then went on to win again each of the next three years (Ocean Cartel in ’04, Dutch Schultz in ’05, and Volcom in ’06). Jones also won it in 2009 with Royal Proclamation.    

KVN Corona is named after Kyle Van Noy, the star defensive player of the New England Patriots, who joined the Nellesen family at Los Alamitos Race Course to watch his namesake run live for the first time.  

“Kyle and (his wife) Marissa spend the off-season out here,” Nellesen said. “With TVG being such a great supporter, they’ve been able to watch all of his race, but this is their first one (live). I have my family, my kids, my in-laws, and my parents (here tonight). It’s a lot of fun.”

“Undefeated,” said Van Noy of KVN Corona. “It’s a lot better watching it live than on TV late at night being on the East Coast. It’s way better being in here and seeing him run. All thanks to the trainer and the people behind the scenes who take care of him day in and day out. They should be getting all the credit because they are the ones that are doing the hard work.”

Van Noy, a Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, shares a special bond with the Nellesen family.  

“Keith is an amazing person, a big influential person in my life,” he said. “I’m really blessed and proud to be a part of his family. He means a lot to me and I’m just happy that he gets to win situations and horse races like this because he deserves it. I’m just happy for him. We’re the champs.”   

KVN Corona and his perfect record now appear to be headed to Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico for the track’s big summer races. He’ll be back in Orange County later in the year to compete in the Los Alamitos Super Derby.   

            “With what we saw from the new ownership at Ruidoso (Downs), we’re pretty sure that we’re going to go to Ruidoso for the summer,” Nellesen said. “I didn’t keep him paid in (to the derbies there), but I’ll supplement him. We’re going to go over there and see what we can do. The (Los Alamitos) Super Derby is really the race we want to win. We’ll probably supplement him to (the All American Derby) and the others as well. I want to support what those guys are doing over there. We’re running all of our 2-year-olds (at Los Alamitos). I also think we have to give (KVN Corona) the chance to run against some different competition and see what happens.”

Ridden by Eddie Garcia for trainer John Cooper, Black Fryday ran second at 20-1 odds. Owned by Ron Hartley, the gelding by Favorite Cartel broke sharply from the outside post 10, but he was fourth at the halfway point of the race. He then rallied back and moved ahead of King of Appeals Mv and stablemate The Revenant to finish second. The Steve Burns-bred runner earned $39,984 for running second. That pushes his career earnings to $106,550.

Paulo Otavio Freire Macedo’s King Of Appeals Mv earned $28,224 for finishing third at 30-1 odds. Eduardo Nicasio piloted the Tres Seis colt from post nine for Paul Jones. The top three finishers were followed by The Revenant, Ditto Head, Eyes The Favorite, One More Cigarr, Rock Asteroid, Yanque, and Eagles Policy.

 

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