Chris O’Dell completed a sweep of the first three derbies held at Los Alamitos in 2019 after Rosenthal Ranch LLC’s Powerful Favorite racked up his major win of the meet after outdueling Dunn Ranch’s Apollitical Pence in the Grade III, $211,000 El Primero Del Año Derby on Sunday night.
It was the second derby win of the year for Powerful Favorite following his daylight victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on February 9. O’Dell also won the La Primera Del Año Derby on Saturday night after Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Terrific First Down won the Grade III, La Primera Del Año Derby for fillies. She had previously run an impressive third to Powerful Favorite in the Winter Derby. Jockey Eduardo Nicasio also completed a derby sweep, as he’s piloted both Powerful Favorite and Terrific First Down.
“I can’t believe it,” Nicasio said. “Chris has some excellent horses. They were good 2-year-olds, but now as 3-year-olds they’ve grown and are even better racehorses. Terrific First Down surprised me on trial night to La Primera. She had accident as a 2-year-old when she flipped in the barn area. We didn’t know if she would be able to run again. She ran three races and then started getting better. In the trials, it felt like I was back on the Terrific First Down that I remembered from early in her 2-year-old campaign. Powerful Favorite is just like the name says - he’s always been my favorite. I won the Champion of Champions with a 3-year-old (Apollitical Jess) in 2010 and I think I can win it again with this horse. We’re going to try. He’s a great horse.”
Powerful Favorite broke sharply from post number nine, but he trailed Apollitical Pence by neck. The two continued to battle with Powerful Favorite eventually moving past his rival while finishing in great fashion. The gelding by Favorite Cartel and out of the tremendous broodmare Remember Me Rose covered the distance in :19.733 while posting his seventh in 13 career starts. Also a winner of the Governor’s Cup Futurity last year, Powerful Favorite earned $88,620 for the win to take his career earnings to $496,835.
“Apollitical Pence that’s a tough horse,” O’Dell said. “He can really run. We had to go catch him. (Jesus Rios Ayala) told Nicasio when they pulled up on the backside that he was in front and was looking for (Powerful Favorite. Ayala said ‘Where is he?’ We came and found him at the finish line. (Eduardo) has a lot of faith on this horse because he can run down the track, if he can step away from there. Tonight he broke in the clear and Powerful Favorite can really finish. He had to play a little catch-up, but he’s done that a few times and has come out successful. He’s learning where the finish line is and that’s a good thing.”
Powerful Favorite had to catch Apollitical Pence in the trials to the El Primero on March 10. He stumbled out of the gate on that night, but was flying late to win with the fastest qualifying time. Bred by James Markum and Dr. Steve Burns, Powerful Favorite is now a perfect four-for-four this year.
“What a stride – if you go back and watch the replay – what a stride he’s got,” O’Dell continued. “He’s got all the makings to be a nice horse. We’ll see how tough the crop of Champion of Champions are this year. He might do something in there. You never know. We have that dream. We are going to rest him a little bit at the barn. We’re not going to send him anywhere. He’ll stay here and rest. I’m thinking about three months. We’ve run him a few times with races close together. I almost skipped this, but I’ve learned the lesson that when the horse is sound you don’t want to pass up too many races.”
It’s also been a little over a year since the passing of Robert Rosenthal, the patriarch of the Rosenthal Ranch. The longtime owner got a chance to enjoy Powerful Favorite as a yearling and early in his 2-year-old campaign, but his memory continues to be ever present whenever the sorrel gelding steps into the winner’s circle after one of this races.
“We all wish he was here so bad,” O’Dell continued. “Bob started it all and we’re just riding along on the coattails that he started. He loved horses. If they had a 20-1 running here, they’d drive out to watch him. They could have stayed home and watched it on TV, but they loved their horses, every one of them, and wanted to see them. His wife, Connie, is the same way. She comes out and wants to watch and enjoy the horses. Naturally, Powerful Favorite has a big spot in the (family’s) heart. He has a big following from everywhere now. He might be up there in the AQHA National Racing Poll again. He’s a good horse. I can tell you that.”
Led by Connie Rosenthal, the Rosenthal family was well represented in the winner’s circle on El Primero night while enjoying another victory thanks to their big star.
“It gets more nerve-wracking each race,” Connie said. “I want to keep him safe. He’s a fabulous horse. It was a fair, clean race. We are happy.”
“We get nervous because of the anticipation,” O’Dell added. “You want to win. The good thing is that they came out of the gate and in the first three jumps you didn’t see anybody bumping him. At least you know you have a chance. That makes it nice.”
With Ayala aboard for trainer Monty Arrossa, Apollitical Pence earned $35,870 for his career best second place finish in a stakes race. The Apollitical Jess gelding finished third in the Golden State Million Futurity and Laico Breeders Stakes last year. He was also a part of the Ed Burke Million Futurity and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Bred by Dunn Ranch and Womack Cavender Farms, Apollitical Pence, who is out of the Tres Seis mare Send City, has now earned $308,214 in 11 career starts.
Martha Wells’ homebred Red Hawk Cartel earned $25,320 for his third place finish in the El Primero. Ridden by Erasmo Gasca for trainer Matt Fales, Red Hawk Cartel was eight at the start before flying late to earn the show money. Dexxter, Ali Babe Foose, Bail Czech, KR Hi Five, Teller Hez Famous, Tac Me Up and Jess Curlin completed the field.