Jockey Eduardo Nicasio could sense Maximo II rapidly lugging towards him and his mount, Up And Coming, during the running of the $20,000 James Smith Memorial Handicap. The veteran pilot quickly began to process ways to avoid major trouble, while continuing to pilot the La Feliz Montaña and MRB Racing LLC-owned gelding during the running of the 350-yard race on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
With only a moment to react, Nicasio smoothly guided Up And Coming, who started the race from post number two, just a couple of feet towards the inside portion of the track. Fortunately for Nicasio and Up And Coming, jockey Armando Cervantes was also able to stop Maximo II from continuing to veer to the inside after leaving the gate from post number seven.The two horses avoided making contact but by then Up And Coming had already lost his momentum and trailed Maximo II by ¾ lengths.
“When the horse came over, it scared Nicasio and our horse,” trainer Chris O’Dell said. “I thought we were going to get bumped pretty hard. I was pretty proud of how they handled the trouble. Up And Coming fought through from there and ran a tremendous race.”
Halfway through the race, Up And Coming began to pick up speed with a gutsy run that led him to move past Maximo II before holding off P & J Racing Ltd.’s Pay Me In Front by a head to win the James Smith in a time of :17.837. Ed Allred’s Sounds Good finished third and was followed in the official order of finish by Zoom On Jess, Spring Favorite,Brockmire and Maximo II, who was disqualified from fourth and placed seventh for lugging in badly and impeding several horses in this race.
“When I saw that we had drawn the number two post I was not thrilled,” O’Dell said. “That’s not my favorite post position, but if we had drawn the six, five or event three post position wewould have had a lot of trouble and may not have had a chance to win the race.I’m tickled with the way Up And Coming handled himself out there. That horse ispretty game. My birthday is on Tuesday so this is a good present.”
Sired by Kiddy Up and out of the Walk Thru Fire mare Hits Keep Coming, Up And Coming was purchased for $67,000 at the 2018 Los Alamitos Equine Sale. Earning $11,000 for this win, the Allred-bred runner has proven to be a solid purchase for La Feliz Montaña and MRB Racing LLC as his lifetime earnings now stand at$73,686 while picking up six victories from 10 starts. He also qualified to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity last year.
“He’s really grown and has gotten taller and longer,” O’Dell said. “I’ve let him sit tight. He likes to be fresh. He broke through the front of the gate in the Two Million final. I’m not saying that he would have won theTwo Million but I thought we could have gotten a piece of it. We worked with him in the starting gate and it’s paying off. I’m proud of him.He’s in a couple of derbies and we’ll look to see if we can (supplement) him into a derby or two. We can also point him to the handicaps for 3-year-olds that are out here.”
Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Jaime Gomez, Pay Me In Front earned $4,500 for finishing second. Sounds Good, who was ridden by Vinnie Bednar for trainer Scott Willoughby, earned $2,500 for running third.