LARC NEWS Posted: 10/2/2023 12:45:04 AM


         Like father, like son. In 2017, Keith Nellesen’s KVN Corona enjoyed a perfect juvenile campaign while winning all six of his starts including the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity and Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. Fast forward to 2023 and Nellesen’s Political Rivalry, a gelding sired by KVN Corona and out of the mare Apollitical Zoom, matched his dad’s freshman campaign, as he improved his juvenile record to a perfect six for six while also winning the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity on June 18 before adding the Grade 2, $265,000 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.

        “He reminds us so much of his dad,” Nellesen said. “He’s just a professional and super gritty too. In the (Grade 2 Robert Adair) Kindergarten (Futurity) trials he fell, got up, pulled both shoes off and still got up there for the victory. He’s just a super gritty horse. I thought this was the best race he’s had. He started running away from them a little bit. I couldn’t be happier. I’d like to say this is what we planned. Obviously, you always want to win but this is a great ride. We are hoping that he’s ready to go back for the Two Million (trials).”

        Trained by Heath Taylor, Political Rivalry qualified to the Robert Adair Kindergarten, but his connections opted to skip the final to concentrate on the Ed Burke trials. Of course, Political Rivalry won his Ed Burke Million trial and then the final to better his mark to four wins in as many starts. He returned to win his  trial to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity, although it was much closer than expected race, as he only posted a neck victory as the 1-5 favorite. Call it a case of just needing a little tightening before the final, as Political Rivalry won the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity by ½ length over Dunn Ranch’s Southern Divine while covering the 350 yards in :17.470. Political Rivalry’s winning time is the fastest in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity since Viva Mi Corazon won the 2013 running. Jose Nicasio rode the McColee Land & Livestock-bred runner from post nine. Nicasio has ridden the freshman star to five of his victories.

       “You don’t get too many of them with this kind of a record,” Taylor said. “Usually somewhere along the way you get a bump on the road. This horse has just been phenomenal. He just continues to go on. We’ve been fortunate that he’s been healthy and sound. They do a tremendous job (at Los Alamitos) taking care of the surface. I think that’s a big attribute to helping the horse. It’s hard to win one futurity and super hard to win two. To win six in a row is really difficult. He did get a super beautiful start. That’s always key. I thought he finished up well. It may have been his most complete race.”

       Taylor was pleased to see Political Rivalry looking so dominant following his winning effort in the trials.   

       “I may have slightly underestimated how ready he was,” Taylor said when asked about the closer winning margin in the trials. “I knew he was ready. Not really resting on his laurels. Those 2-year-olds get into a routine. He had had a long time off and it was 350. I thought in the trials he ran well, especially any time you win and qualify. I wouldn’t say he struggled but he didn’t check them off very easily. He had to grit it out. We changed some of the equipment and gave him the opportunity to see a little bit better, see a little bit more. I thought that helped him some too. I think I underestimated how much he needed the last race and, in this race, how much it helped to have the race.  

         “He had been getting a little washy in the paddock,” Taylor continued “We schooled him some too. He was warm tonight but nothing like last time when he was really, really hot. The horse is the kind of horse that just wants to run. All the rest is just in the way of the time to do his job. I thought he left fast and finished well. I thought (Nicasio) rode a great race. The gate people did a good job. As long as the horse comes out well, we’ll point him to the Two Million.”

          Taylor also took the time to explain the decision of running in the Breeders Futurity instead of going after the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity trials which are scheduled for next Sunday night at Los Alamitos.

         “I didn’t want to wait all the way to the Golden State Million Futurity trials and go 400 yards and put all the eggs in one basket,” he said. “Once he qualified (to the Breeders Futurity), I thought the timing would be good. The trials for the Golden State Million are next week. Maybe it’s better to give him an extra three weeks rest (for the Two Million) and maybe try to hit those horses when he’s really fresh and at his best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the plan now. He doesn’t owe anybody anything. If he’s got any issues, we’ll wait until later on and run the horse whenever he is ready. As long as everything is good, he’ll run in the trials to the Two Million (on Sunday, November 19).”

         That sounds just fine for Nellesen, who had the bittersweet fortune of seeing KVN Corona win his Two Million trials but missed the race against the clock when not qualifying to California’s richest Quarter Horse race. Nellesen is excited to see his young star enter the Two Million trials after such a nice showing in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity.   

          “We think it’s perfect,” Nellesen said. “It looked like it to me tonight that at 400 yards, he’ll be just fine. That’s been the goal the whole year to have him ready for the Two Million. I think he’s on the right path. It couldn’t be better. He’s undefeated. He’s six for six. Hopefully we’ll be back here in December and be eight for eight. That’s the plan.”

          And of course, Nellesen is all smiles when it comes to talking about his champion KVN Corona.  

          “We think the world of KVN Corona,” the owner said. “I’ve run quite a few and I’m running more of them next year. We think he’s a game changer. He’s beautiful. His babies are pretty. We love to run them. I think once the world thinks of him as much as I do that it’ll be great for us all. Everybody is starting to hear more about him. We love it out here in California. I wish we could make it out here more. I like where we are at. I like where KVN is at, and we would like to do more racing here in California.”

          Political Rivalry earned $107,100 for his victory in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity to take his career earnings to $483,060. With this win on his resume and an unblemished record to boot, the Utah-bred gelding will certainly put the spotlight on him in the Two Million trials.  

          “In the (PCQHRA) trials he was coming back after running in the Ed Burke,” Nicasio added. “He had some time off and we knew that after qualifying for the final that he would be stronger. He’s a good horse and he showed it. He dominated the race from the start. He behaved well in the gates. I worked with him from the beginning, and I had a good eye. Right from the start, I liked him the best.”

          Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala and trained by Monty Arrossa, Southern Divine finished second at 16-1 odds. Bred by Dunn Ranch, the filly by Pyc Paint Your Wagon earned $43,350 for her solid effort. Eligible to the Two Million trials, Southern Divine has finished second or better in five of her six career starts.

          Arrossa also saddled Double Down 123, who ran third in this race. Owned by Taos River Ranch and Randy Young, Double Down 123 had her four-race win streak stopped in this race. She did win in the Kindergarten Futurity and the John Deere California Juvenile earlier this year. Bred by Bob and Jerry Gaston, the Flying Cownboy 123 filly earned $30,600 for running third.

          Talk Bout Somethin, Winners Share, Send In A Favor, Mv Royal Pappasito, Optical Illusion, and Cowgirl Upp completed the field.


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