PAUL JONES TRAINEE DONT SASS KVN TOPS NIGHT OF TRIALS TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DERBY
Paul Jones has won the Southern California Derby a record seven times during his incredible training career. The record setting conditioner will look to take his winning tally in this race to a great eight Southern California derby victories after saddling Bradbury Racing’s Dont Sass KVN to the fastest qualifying time during trials night on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
With Victor Salazar handling the reins, Dont Sass KVN was all business in the second of three trials to the Grade 2, $162,700 Southern California Derby. The gray colt by KVN Corona was all business from post number three, as he flew out of the gate and established a clear lead soon after the start. He continued powerfully from there and went on to score a two-length victory in the top time of :19.850.
Three trials were contested at 400 yards featuring a total of 28 sophomores. Dunn Ranch’s Aint He Tempting and Eleazar Gonzalez’s Up The Interest, both stakes winners at Los Alamitos in 2023, also picked up trial victories on Sunday on the way to posting the second and third fastest qualifying times, respectively. The horses with 10 fastest times will return on the meet’s closing night Sunday, December 17. Here are the qualifiers to the 36th running of the Southern California Derby: Dont Sass KVN (:19.850), Aint He Tempting (:19.895), Up The Interest (:20.112), Phoebes Baby Girl (:20.114), Required First (:20.128), Frivolous (:20.136), Terrific Phoenix (:20.143), Ima Sixy Man (:20.167), AJ Run For Cash (:20.175), and Good Wagon SA (:20.195).
Jones won this race for the first time in 1997 when Showoff Alibi, ridden by Joe Badilla, Jr., won the James Azevedo and Charles Boyles. Jones won consecutive runnings in 2002 and 2003 with Agouti and Deefirst before winning three in a row from 2005 to 2007. His training wins came with First Down Runner, Spike It And Fly, and Trisk, the later a full-brother to AQHA champions Wave Carver and Ocean Runaway. His seventh win came in 2013 when Jabuti Eagle SA went stride for stride with Nellie Delaney in the only dead-heat for first in the history of this race. Ten years later, Jones will look to add another Southern California Derby win to his great career.
“(Dont Sass KVN) really ran a nice race tonight,” Jones said. “This horse has always shown a lot of talent ever since he was a 2-year-old. He’s won some good trial races in New Mexico (and Los Alamitos). His issue has always been the gates. We’ve gotten him kind of quiet in the gates. He’s really starting to mind his manners and has matured. He broke good tonight. He had clean trip. He lugged out a little bit, but he was clear and running fast. It was a good thing. He won a trial for the Rainbow Derby and ran in the consolation. I’ve always liked him from day one. He was able to put everything together tonight and showed what he can do.”
Dont Sass KVN, who was picking up his sixth victory in 17 career starts, was third in the Town Policy Handicap in his previous start and ran in the El Primero Del Ano Derby and Los Alamitos Winter Derby earlier this year. Bred by McColee Land & Livestock LLC, he is one of the three horses Jones qualified to the December 17 final. He also trains Phoebes Baby Girl and Terrific Phoenix, both qualifiers for the Parsons Family.
Aint He Tempting (right), who was ridden by Armando Cervantes for trainer Monty Arrossa, showed a ton of early speed while breaking from the rail in the second trial. He was ahead of the field by a length and while he lugged out during the race, he still posted a 1 ½ length victory. The son of Tempting Dash entered this race after winning the Cerritos Handicap against older horses on November 12. Similar to Dont Sass KVN, Aint He Tempting also raced in the Rainbow Invitational at Ruidoso Downs. His best result in a major stakes race came during his freshman campaign when he finished second to Party Politics in the Ed Burke Million Futurity.
The opening trial went to Up The Interest, with Juan Pablo Leon in the irons for trainer Sergio Morfin. The Ed Allred-bred won his trial by a nose over Phoebes Baby Girl to pick up his first win since posting an upset at 23-1 odds in the Adequan Los Alamitos Derby Challenge here May 21. The gelding by Seperate Interest was picking up his fourth win in 15 career starts.
The first trial had Phoebes Baby Girl, Required First and Ima Sixy Man advance to the final, while the second trial was the most productive with the top five also moving on. Aint He Tempting was joined in this trial by runner-up Frivolous, who won the Governor’s Cup Futurity last year, plus Terrific Phoenix, AJ Run For Cash, and recent Town Policy winner Good Wagon SA. The latter was second in the Winter Derby and the Golden State Derby here this season.