LARC NEWS Posted: 1/26/2018 1:28:39 AM


          Darling Farms, Jaime Gomez and Ernesto Solis’ J Fire Up, who set a track record last year for earnings by a filly or mare during a single season at Los Alamitos Race Course, was named the 2017 Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Horse of the Year at the annual awards banquet on Thursday night at Los Alamitos. Bred and trained by Jaime Gomez, the California-bred filly by Kiddy Up was also named PCQHRA champion 2-year-old filly.

J Fire Up finished her brilliant season with seven wins in nine starts and earnings of $1,430,411. Out of the mare This Boogie Fires, J Fire Up won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity, and the Restricted Grade 3 Governor’s Cup Futurity. She was also the runner-up in the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity. Her single season earnings for a filly bettered the previous mark set by another Gomez-trained filly, Higher Fire, of $1,241,933 in 2015. She was only $6,354 shy of the all-time single season mark in earnings set by Tres Passes ($1,436,765) during his 2-year-old season in 2008. 

“I see J Fire Up as one of my daughters,” Gomez said. “I’m really happy for J Fire Up’s dam, This Boogie Fire, and for her sire, Kiddy Up. J Fire Up is so fast out of the gate and the next day she’s like a million dollars. I took a couple of little chips out of her ankle, little itty, bitty ones. I’ll give her about four months off and we’ll be back in about six months. You’ll probably see her around before the Los Alamitos Super Derby. That’s the plan.”

J Fire Up was previously named the AQHA champion 2-year-old and AQHA champion 2-year-old filly. “I’m so proud of this filly,” Gomez said on that night. “I’m so proud of this filly. I’ve trained a few champions, but to train, raise and breed one, that’s something very special. This is one of the best moments of my life.”

Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms received the Frank Vessels, Sr. Memorial Award in recognition for outstanding contributions to the sport of Quarter Horse racing. Enrique Gonzalez first Quarter Horse at Los Alamitos was Quality Counts, who he acquired in the early 1990s and was trained by Jaime Gomez. Since then, EG High Desert Farms has grown into one of the nation’s leading racing operations and a force at Los Alamitos for more than two decades. He’s also been the track’s second leading owner in wins during that span, only behind Ed Allred. Since 2000, Gonzalez has started 2,922 Quarter Horses and won 507 races. His horses have finished in the top three a total of 1,345 times during that span and have earned $8,136,626. Gonzalez’s EG High Desert Farms was recognized as the AQHA’s champion owner in 2003. EG High Desert Farms has campaigned AQHA champions Hawkinson (2001 aged stallion), Hawkish (2003 2-year-old colt), and Walk Thru Crystal (2015 2-year-old filly) and his star runners have also included stakes winners Corona Czech, Dash To The End, Magic Show Czech, Jess Ravin, Matilda Czech, Short Czech, Unclaimed Dividend and more. EG High Desert Farms was named PCQHRA owner of the year and the winner of the breeder special achievement award in 2016. EG High Desert Farms was the leading Quarter Horse owner at Los Alamitos in 2006. Gonzalez, who has served on the PCQHRA Board of Directors, is also among the top consigners each year the Los Alamitos Equine Sale. Based in Temecula, California, EG High Desert Farms is the home to stallions Hawkinson, Red Hot Rhythm, Hawkish, Fast Prize Cartel, and EG Special Ways.  

 “It’s great to be in the sport of Quarter Horse racing,” Gonzalez said. “When I heard how many horses I’ve raced over the years, it took me by surprise. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been special to have been a part of nice horses over the years.

The PCQHRA posthumously awarded Brad McKinzie with the Sam Thompson Award, which is presented to an individual who displays leadership within the Los Alamitos racing community. McKinzie passed away last August, but he’ll be forever remembered at Los Alamitos Race Course for his many contributions to the sport. He was co-founder of the Finish Line Self Insurance Group, and one of the driving forces in bringing daytime Southern California Thoroughbred racing back to Los Alamitos Race Course. McKinzie served as the vice president and general manager of the Los Alamitos Racing Association, overseeing the expansion of the Orange County oval from a 5/8th of a mile track to a one-mile oval, as well as the addition of 700 stalls to accommodate Thoroughbreds following the closure of Hollywood Park. He was also the co-founder of the racing publication QuarterWeek Magazine from 1984 through 1999, and served as general manager of Los Alamitos Race Course in the 1990s. 

“Brad kept his spirit and positive attitude to the very end,” said Bob Baedeker, who was one of the speakers on behalf of the McKinzie family. “Brad’s mother, Jean, was there by his side the entire time and so was his brother, Mark. They handled everything with such strength and dignity. It was amazing to see the love in the McKinzie family. Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, and Bob Baffert wanted to name a horse after Brad. Bob chose a Street Sense colt and named him McKinzie. Bob has said ‘I think we got the right one,’ and hopefully this horse will be racing on Kentucky Derby day. I know Brad will be looking from above rooting on McKinzie.”

Ed Allred was named the owner of the year and breeder of the year. Allred finished as the leading owner in terms of victories during the 2017 Quarter Horse meet at Los Alamitos and campaigned homebred stakes winners He Looks Hot, Tustin Kid, and Bound To Bet, who was named the top distance horse of the year. Paul Jones was named trainer of the year after leading the meet in Quarter Horse wins while also campaigning graded stakes winners Jess Good Reason, KVN Corona, and That Rico.

“I’m the one that accepts this award, but this award belongs to the whole team,” Jones said.

Gomez received the special achievement trainer award for his great work with the champion J Fire Up. He also trains Dutch Masters III’s Chazaq to victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and Lisa Anderson’s Moonie Blues to victory in the West Futurity. Gomez took some hardware home after receiving the trophy for breeder special achievement award for J Fire Up and Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Imaqtpie.

Jesus Rios Ayala was the jockey of the year after winning his first Quarter Horse riding title. Rios Ayala, who finished second in the jockey race in 2016 by just one victory behind Cesar De Alba, had a great season last year. He rode stakes winners That Rico, Moonie Blues, SC Vapor Trail, Flash N Bling, Hoose Coose, and the Grade 1 stakes placed runner Call Me Cole. Jose Nicasio won the jockey special achievement award after piloting J Fire Up to a record breaking season. The 21-year-old pilot was also recognized with the Val Tonks Award given to an up and coming Quarter Horse rider.

The owner special achievement award went to Reliance Ranches after campaigning stakes winners Flash N Bling and SC Vapor Trail. Reliance Ranchez also raced Los Alamitos Two Million finalists Call Me Cole and Peighnt Your Fate and Grade 1 Vessels Maturity runner-up The Charm Of Corona. 

Owned by Keith Nellesen, KVN Corona was the top 2-year-old colt after enjoying a perfect juvenile campaign. The colt by Corona Cartel won all six of his starts and won the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million and Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. KVN Corona was also honored by the AQHA as the champion 2-year-old colt.

“My backup plan was that he would be a barrel horse,” said Nellesen in the event KVN Corona did not shine on the racetrack. “This is our third crop of horses to go to the track. We are committed to racing at Los Alamitos. My 8-year-old daughter told me that we were partners on KVN Corona. I asked her what that meant and she said ‘it means that I get half.’ Instead I made her a deal that she would get (some money) every time he won. She said ‘that’s even better.’ ” 

Abigail Kawananakoa’s multiple Grade 1 finalist Chance To Fire was named the top 2-year-old gelding. Allred bred Chance To Fire.

The aforementioned Chazaq won the meet’s richest race for 3-year-olds, the Grade 1 $956,500 Los Alamitos Super Derby, while Paul Jones and Thompson Racing’s That Rico won the Grade 2 Golden State Derby and was a force in the sophomore division the entire year. The two outstanding geldings were named co-winners of the PCQHA champion 3-year-old gelding award. Leah and David Nelson’s Kiddy Up Cowgirl was named the champion 3-year-old filly after winning the PCQHRA Breeders Derby. The champion 3-year-old colt was Stelfast, the winner of the El Primero Del Ano Derby and multiple stakes winner in 2017.

In the older horse’s awards, Jose Flores and Ron and Denise VanAmburgh’s Mr PYC To You, who scored the biggest upset in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions history when winning the race last December at 60-1 odds, was named the top aged stallion.

“I’ve watched the Champion of Champions 500 times and I still think we are going to lose the race,” Ron VanAmburgh said. “(Jockey) Carlos Huerta was open for the Champion of Champions. He was the final piece of the puzzle.” 

 Jess Good Reason, who raced for John and Cina Sperry, was named top aged mare after winning the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap, Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial, and running second in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap. Jess Good Reason was named the AQHA champion aged mare.

“John was a good man and an owner in my barn for about 25 years,” Jones said. “He was big part of my success. He was a great man and deeply missed.”

 Bill Hoburg’s homebred BH Lisas Boy was named the top aged gelding after winning six of seven starts and scoring victories in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Grade 1 Vessels Maturity.

“I’m a small breeder,” Hoburg said. “I have one broodmare and to get a horse like BH Lisas Boy like this is like a lottery ticket. All I can say to small breeders is don’t quit.”

Other equine awards included J. Francisco Diaz’s stakes winner Hoose Coose being recognized as the Most Improved Horse and Thompson Racing and Jones’ multiple stakes winner That Rico being honored with the Moonist Award for his season long success and longevity for a stakes or allowance horse. Lisa Anderson’s Moonie Blues was named the Intermountain Horse of the Year. The Freighttrain B filly won the Wild West Futurity to go along with her runner-up effort in the Los Alamitos Two Million final.

PCQHRA presented Dr. Steve Burns’ Remember Me Rose with the James V.A. Carter Award for Outstanding Broodmare. The mare is the dam of three Grade 1 futurity finalists in 2017 in Golden State Million and Ed Burke Million Futurity finalist Remember To Dash, Golden State Million Futurity finalist The Revenant, and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finalist Remember The Rose.  

Ed Allred and T.J. Simers’ Kiddy Up, the sire of major stakes winners J Fire Up and Kiddy Up Cowgirl, was presented with the Three Bars Award as the outstanding stallion.  

TVG received the PCQHRA Special Recognition Award.

Awards for the top Thoroughbred horsemen were given to owner CD Ranch, trainer Jesus Nunez and jockeys Vinnie Bednar and Juan Sanchez.  

The leading Quarter Horse horsemen in the Northern California Fairs were also recognized on the night. They are owner Etelvina and Isaias Olmos, trainer Isauro Guillen, and jockey Jesus Arriaga. Awards for leading money winning Cal-bred in nine difference divisions were also presented on the night. They are as follows:


Cal-Bred Breeder: Jaime Gomez


            Cal-Bred Breeder: John Firth


            Cal-Bred Breeder: Ed Allred


            Cal-Bred Breeder: Jaime Gomez


            Cal-Bred Breeder: Paul Jones & Marcelo Jorge


                        Cal-Bred Breeder: Dr. Steve Burns DVM                      


            Cal-Breeder: David Martin


            Cal-Breeder: Aldo Quintana



            Cal-Bred Breeder: S-Quarter K LLC


            Cal-Breeder: Parsons Family Partnership


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