Andrew Smith’s homebred Ruidoso Derby winner Wicked Courage raced to his eighth-straight win and set the fastest-qualifying time to the Grade 1, $1,055,000 Rainbow Derby on Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.
Wicked Courage covered the 440 yards in :20.856 with Cody Jensen aboard.
“He really ran a big race,” said Jensen. “He broke (from the gate) and then the three horse (Sudden Thoughts) came up to him and he rebroke. He just exploded.”
Wicked Courage, the 9-10 favorite, finished three quarters of a length ahead of Sudden Thoughts, who posted the third-fastest qualifying time of :20.967 under Rodrigo Aceves.
A gelded son of Captain Courage, Wicked Courage came off his neck win in the Ruidoso Derby and his connections believe that he may be improving.
“He’s really done well since the Ruidoso Derby,” said Jensen. “He’s been training super and is improving.
Wicked Courage started his winning streak in Oklahoma after not winning in three starts at Ruidoso Downs last summer.
“We had a little trouble with his shins last summer here. He didn’t shin buck, but we were dealing with them” said trainer Luis Villafranco.
Villafranco took him back to his home base in Oklahoma and he started winning against lesser competition. He closed out 2012 with four wins, including the Black Gold 350 Futurity and the Black Gold Championship at Will Rogers Downs. After a five-month winter rest, Villafranco brought Wicked Courage back at Remington Park and he won the Bob Moore Stakes before coming to Ruidoso Downs.
“The people (in Oklahoma) said he wasn’t a good enough horse to come up here, but I knew he was a good horse,” Villafranco said. He brought Wicked Courage to Ruidoso Downs in mid-May and he won his Ruidoso Derby trial on May 25 and the Ruidoso Derby on June 9.
“He’s finally had time to acclimate (to Ruidoso Downs 6,900-foot altitude), Villafranco said. “It’s amazing the way he’s been running. He’s a totally different horse than he was here last year.”
Wicked Courage prevailed in a strong eighth trial, perhaps the deepest of the nine trial races.
Runner-up Sudden Thoughts was second behind world champion One Dashing Eagle in 2012 All American Futurity. The Wave Carver-sired Sudden Thoughts was turned out after the All American Futurity on Labor Day and returned to take an optional-claiming race in April by a neck. He was then a lackluster fifth in his Ruidoso Derby trial as the 3-10 favorite.
Maegan Cavasos’ Jjs Gone won the sixth trial in :20.939 under Esgar Ramirez for the second-fastest qualifying mark. The Mr Jess Perry gelding was making his first start since last fall and scored his first win since taking his Hobbs America Futurity trial, but not qualifying for the futurity.
Reigning champion two-year-old filly Pj Chick In Black raced to her ninth win from 10 starts when she won the first trial by a neck over Dublinon. PJ Chick In Black was timed in :21.033 while Dublinon raced to a :21.083 mark.
Owned by Denny Bowen, Susan Taylor and Jack Smith Farms, Pj Chick In Black started her career with five-straight wins before finishing sixth in the All American Futurity as the 7-10 favorite. She won the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity and the New Mexican Spring Futurity over New Mexico-breds before setting the fastest-qualifying time of :21.081 for 440 yards in her All American Futurity trial, which she won by five-and-three-quarter lengths.
Pj Chick In Black is now four-for-four this year with a win in the West Texas Derby at Sunland Park.
2013 Rainbow Derby Unofficial Qualifiers
Horse/Trial # Trainer Jockey Wind Time
Wicked Courage/8 Luis Villafranco Cody Jensen 0 20.856
Jjs Gone/6 V. Rodriguez-Flores Esgar Ramirez 8t 20.939
Sudden Thoughts/8 Eduardo Gonzalez Rodrigo Aceves 0 20.967
Run With the Eagle/2 Blane Wood Ricky Ramirez 4t 21.012
Pj Chick in Black/1 John Stinebaugh Esgar Ramirez 8t 21.033
Point Break Dash/3 Paul Jones Cody Jensen 4t 21.034
Jokers On Jack/5 Oscar Nunez Raul Gutierrez 6c 21.043
Scatmandu/6 Juan Aleman GR Carter 8t 21.079
Dublinon/1 Dwayne Gilbreath Roy Baldillez 8t 21.083
Krash Cartel/7 Judd Kearl Cody Jensen 5c 21.093