CARTEL KISSES WINS RICHEST OAKS EVER BY A NOSE OVER CANDYS SPECIAL POWER
Owned and bred by Bobbie and Larry Rice, Cartel Kisses won the richest race ever for an all-female Quarter Horse cast after outdueling Ken O’Brien Candys Special Power by a nose to win the Grade 1, $461,500 Los Alamitos Oaks here on Saturday night.
Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo for trainer Heath Taylor, Cartel Kisses also posted her ninth career victory from 12 starts, and seventh from her last eight outings. The Oklahoma-bred left sharply from post seven before drifting out slightly during the early stages of the race. Sigala Vallejo kept the Kiss My Hocks filly focused on her task and she responded beautifully to finish a nose ahead of the talented Candys Special Power.
Cartel Kisses has now won stakes events at three different tracks, having previously scored in the Easy Jet Stakes at Remington Park and in the Rainbow Juvenile Stakes at Ruidoso Downs. Her victory in this record running of the Oaks earned her $193,830 to take her career bankroll to $399,284.
“She’s a once in a lifetime filly,” Larry Rice said. “She likes to run at the end, but she sure waited until the last minute it looked like tonight. I love to stand by the finish line and see it myself, but I didn’t know myself if she had won. I wasn’t sure. She just did it at the wire. She’s the most honest, dependable horse I’ve ever had. Heath felt that she would fit this race. We thought about giving her some time off this winter. Heath wanted to bring her out here and let her have some time off here. It’s worked out.”
Taylor credited the owners for allowing him to race Cartel Kisses in California.
“It wasn’t the plan to bring her here,” Taylor admitted. “The plan was to let her rest. I got to thinking about the schedule knowing that this would be a Grade 1 Oaks with a large purse, so I called them and asked them one more time. They thought about it and said that they would bring her out here. I have to thank them for having trust in me. We had already paid her late in a couple of other races and with very high penalties. We paid her for the Rainbow (and the All American), but those races also have $400,000 Oaks that go with them too, so it was an investment on the horse. They’ve invested millions of dollars in horses and it’s really hard to get a good one. It’s really, really hard, so sometimes when you get a good one you just have to double-down and invest in a good one. Luckily now she’s eligible to the Rainbow Oaks and All American Oaks and she’s gotten some of the money back by winning the Rainbow Juvenile last year and got a stakes win.”
“It’s just tremendous, especially a filly to be that consistent and win that many races,” Taylor added. “She’s been a blessing and very consistent from the start. We are really pleased with this race. She needed every single yard to get there. We are thrilled to death to get a Grade 1 and in the largest filly race to have ever been run at any track. It took every inch of that 400 yards but that’s where they pay. Luckily, we got it done.”
And to think that this may not have occurred for these connections had it not been for a major change of plans.
“I was going to sell this filly,” Larry Rice said. “I was talking to Heath and he really liked her and Bobbie always liked her when we sale prepped her. We bought her back out of the Heritage Place Sale for $50,000. Bobbie and Heath saved Larry from himself because Larry wanted to sell her.”
“She would have been somebody else’s filly running right here,” Bobbie Rice added.
Well known in the horse industry throughout the midwest, Larry and Bobbie operate Flag Ranch in Purcell, Oklahoma. There, they breed and raise top Quarter Horses in the various disciplines, from racing to roping to cow horses.
“We are from Torrington, Wyoming,” Larry Rice added. “We ranch and feed cattle there and we also have a place in Oklahoma. That’s where we raise the horses and that’s where Bobbie spends a lot of her time. She does the breeding and the foaling. I spend three fourths of my time in Wyoming and then the winter in Oklahoma. In Wyoming, we are 80 miles north of Cheyenne. Our ranch runs right up the state line between Wyoming and Nebraska.”
The couple has made a tremendous impression in the Los Alamitos racing scene, not only with Cartel Kisses but also with the winning filly R Ladys Dynasty. For now, Cartel Kisses is clearly the darling of their racing operation.
“I don’t know how she can look any better,” Larry Rice said. “Heath has her looking great. She absolutely looks 12 o’clock.”
Even on the rare occasions in which she has not won, Cartel Kisses has still impressed.
“She got slammed in the Remington Park Futurity,” the owner continued. “She got knocked sideways out of the gate and that took her out of that race. She drew a trial in the Rainbow where no one could qualify with the head wind. She won her trial easily and then went into the Rainbow consolation and won easily. In the All American trials it was a freaky deal. A horse kicked the gate and she really false broke. You write her off, but she gutted it out and still won her trial.
“We have to make up our mind now because she’s still in the Heritage Oaks but she’s also in the Rainbow and All American Oaks. We paid her late into the Rainbow and All American Futurity trials last year and we paid her late here too. We just didn’t have a very good plan. We didn’t know how good of a filly we had. We’re excited to see her 440 yards. We think that’s probably her lick.”
The entire Quarter Horse racing world now knows that Cartel Kisses is a special filly with a winning habit when the big money is on the line.
“She’s really, really sound,” Taylor said. “She went to Louisiana Downs and had some solid works then went to Remington and Ruidoso and came back and worked hard at Lone Star. She then went to Will Rogers and ran a couple of times. She’s very well-traveled. I have a lot of faith in the vet team that we’ve got. They went over her completely and basically, she had nothing at all that needed any maintenance. That’s what helps win races, her soundness. The horse likes being at the track. She likes to train, the activity. A lot of fillies don’t. This one eats and trains well and we’ve been lucky that she’s been such a durable horse.
“She won her trial to the All American but she had a little problem at the gate that day and wasn’t herself. We lost money that day, but the final counting is not done. Now she’s got a chance to run in the All American Oaks at 440 yards against other 3-year-old fillies in September.”
Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for trainer Monty Arrossa, Candys Special Power took the lead in the Oaks at the midway point but came up inches short at the wire. The Power Jam filly still enjoyed a profitable evening, as her runner-up effort earned her $78,455. Her stablemate, Streaks Of Power, finished fifth and earned $27,690 for owner Ken O’Brien.
Legacy Ranch’s Mid Knight Flash finished strongly to win the photo for third over fourth place finisher AJ Born Runnin, who is owned by P & J Racing. Mid Knight Flash earned $55,380, while AJ Born Runnin earned $32,305. Budder Off Friends finished sixth and was followed by Fearless Moon, AJ Run For Cash, Bf Lizzierageous, and Quirky Bitty Jess.