Graded stakes winners Flokie, Tell Cartel, and Sass Go Blue posted impressive trial victories on the way to qualifying to the Grade 3, $213,300 El Primero Del Año Derby on Sunday night at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Four trials were contested on Sunday with the horses with the 10 fastest times advancing to the 400-yard El Primero final to be held on Sunday, March 29. In addition to the aforementioned trial winners, Steve Burns’ You Can Run, the runner-up to Tell Cartel in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby, also won his derby trial to advance to the El Primero final.
Owned by Guadalupe Bujunda and J. Francisco Diaz, Flokie posted the fastest qualifying time thanks to a flawless effort in the third heat of the night. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, the gelding by Favorite Cartel flew out of the gate and the completed the distance in a sizzling final 220-yard time of :09.53 to win in a time of :19.726.
“(Flokie) ran lights out,” said trainer Lindolfo Diaz, who is the son of co-owner J. Francisco Diaz. “He broke like a rocket. He had not broken like that in a long time, perhaps since his first or second start. He finished really strong. He needed the race so this should get him a little bit tighter for the final. Jesus Rios Ayala fit this horse like a glove.”
For Flokie, who won his trial by a length over Martha Wells’ Old School Icon, this was his first start of 2020 and his first since running third in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on December 15. His biggest win last year came in late June when he outdueled Dreams Divine by a nose to win the Ed Burke Million Futurity. Dreams Divine has since returned to win back-to-back races this year, including a trial to the Los Alamitos Oaks in which she posted the fastest qualifying time. Flokie’s victory was fifth in eight starts and he’ll certainly be one of the favorites in the El Primero final.
You Can Run, who was the fastest qualifier to the Winter Derby, posted the second fastest time after winning his trial by ¾ lengths. The son of Favorite Cartel led nearly the entire way but he did lug out before coming back to drift inside during the race. When winning his Winter Derby trial, You Can Run lugged in throughout. Nevertheless, the homebred runner continues to display outstanding speed and late running ability and figures to be a key challenger in the final. Mike Casselman saddled You Can Run, who was ridden to victory by Rios Ayala.
Martha Wells’ Tell Cartel broke in and bumped on both sides during his trial, but rallied from fifth to win going away in the second trial of the night. Ridden by Ruben Lozano for trainer Matt Fales, Tell Cartel ended up crossing the wire 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Fredericos Fantasy to post his fifth win 12 career starts.
“(Jockey) Ruben Lozano overcame some adversity and that was just huge,” Fales said. “When something like that happens hopefully they’ll learn from it. We’ve got that trip out of the way. Hopefully we’ll get some clean trips in a row now. I was nervous coming into this race for the simple fact that he ran so huge in the Winter Derby. Often horses will bounce, but this horse being a stud colt he recovers really smooth.”
Also sired by Favorite Cartel, Tell Cartel covered the distance in the third fastest time of :19.853.
Steve Burns and Antonio Flores’ Sass Go Blue, the winner of the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity last year, broke sharply and battled with Ruben and Sandra Villalobos’ Corona Required early on before establishing himself late in the race to score a ¾ length victory. Fourth in the Winter Derby in his last start, Sass Go Blue covered the distance in the fifth fastest time of :19.891. Lucky Seven Ranch bred the gelding by Separate Interest.
“He’s an honest horse,” said Diaz, who also saddled this horse. “He tries hard. He behaved well in the paddock. He’s a solid horse. He seems like he always gives you his all. He’s a quick breaker and always gives you what he’s got. I’m happy with how he did and hopefully he does well in the final.”
Cruz Mendez piloted Sass Go Blue
The complete list of qualifiers is as follows: Flokie (:19.726), You Can Run (:19.756), Tell Cartel (:19.853), Old School Icon (19.866), Sass Go Blue (:19.891), Diamond Rock (:19.899), Mister Tornado (:19.924), Corona Required (:19.989), Fire By Night (:20.011), and Fredericos Fantasy (:20.042). Fredericos Fantasy won a shake over Long Time Favorite on Sunday night to advance to the El Primero final.