Sent off at 38-1 odds, Reliance Ranches LLC’s homebred Conquering Marie posted the biggest upset win in the Grade 2 Golden State Derby since the late Spencer Childers’ Diller A Dollar won at 47-1 odds in 2005 while also becoming the first filly to win this derby since AQHA champion Alice K White in 2009.
Ridden by Ruben Castro for trainer Mike Robbins, Conquering Marie broke perfectly from post number three, took the lead shortly after that and then held off EG High Desert Farm’s Bail Czech by a head on Sunday at Los Alamitos. The Oklahoma-bred daughter of Coronado Cartel covered the 400-yards in :19.66 while earning $88,662 for the win. Conquering Marie improved to four wins in 13 starts while taking her career bankroll to $124,193.
Conquering Marie’s quick break out of the gate was the key, as she was able to avoid the trouble faced by several other horses after Delayed Steal veered in and bumped after leaving the gate from post eight. The chain reaction of trouble affected derby favorites Chocolatito and Favorite Motion, as they both got bumped and were left well behind the early leaders. Richard Frandsen’s Favorite Motion recovered to finish third, while 3-5 favorite Chocolatito flew late to move up from last to fifth. Delayed Steal was disqualified by the racing stewards from sixth and placed last in the nine-horse field.
“There was some commotion (behind me), but I am glad that I avoided it because I don’t know if we would have come up with this win,” Castro said. “There were some tough horses in there, but I had faith in my filly. She was coming back better than in the trials. I knew she had more. Halfway through the race I could see two heads bobbing. There was one right next to me (Favorite Motion) and then the outside horse (Bail Czech). We were going head to head to the wire. I didn’t know if we had gotten the win.”
Castro was concerned prior to the start that Conquering Marie would become a little two anxious awaiting the start of the race.
““In the trials (on August 4) there was a little setback in the gate,” he added. “There was some unloading (of the horses) and then reloading them. It got (Conquering Marie) a little bit wound up and she started sweating. She got tired on us. I knew she had more left in the tank if she had not washed out before the race. She did great today. She was getting kind of anxious on me in the gate and was starting to kick. I was hoping she would wait on me. She was gone when they opened the gates.”
The victory was Castro’s first graded stakes win. It’s been a quick rise for the 20-year-old Kansas native.
“On November 11, 2018 I showed up at Reliance’s barn in Guthrie, Oklahoma asking for some work and hoping to gallop horses in the winter,” Castro added. “I never expected to get the opportunity to ride these kind of horses for these kind of owners. As the winter went through I guess they liked my riding. Mike (Robbins) asked me in February before these horses got shipped out here if I would come out and ride for him at Los Alamitos. That sounded good to me and I said ‘let’s go.’ Ever since then he’s kept his word and he’s kept me on the horses. We’ve done some good.”
Castro has now won 15 Quarter Horse races from 79 starters at Los Alamitos this season, none bigger than Conquering Marie’s derby win. The bay filly is out of the Walk Thru Fire mare Illegal Fireworks, who earned $181,901 in her 18-race career. A winner of six races, Illegal Fireworks won the Grade 3 Junos Request Stakes in 2011 at Remington Park. Her mother is Totally Illegal, winner of the 1993 Governor’s Cup Futurity and runner-up in the 1994 Los Alamitos Derby.
Ridden by Jonathan Roman for trainer Jesus Nunez, EG High Desert Farms’ Bail Czech earned $35,887 for finishing second. The Corona Czech gelding has now earned $82,945. The winner of the Vandy’s Flash Handicap earlier this year, Bail Czech has hit the board in eight of 15 career starts.
Piloted by Cruz Mendez and saddled by Jose Flores, Favorite Motion earned $25,332 for running third. The Favorite Cartel gelding is now over $100,000 in career earnings. He’s now made $107,844 in eight starts.
Janet McKinnerney’s Jess Motions finished fourth and was followed by Chocolatito, Ali Babe Foose, Golden Boy Gonza, Purty Fancy Dude, and Delayed Steal. Ed Allred’s Chocolatito had a lot of trouble even before being bumped at the start. The son of Favorite Cartel was hard to load, unseated jockey Vinnie Bednar as he was entering the gate, and then broke awkwardly. This was his first loss in four starts this season.
Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Terrific First Down was scratched after undergoing colic surgery earlier this week. Her connections are hoping to have her back in the barn this week.