Andrew Smith’s Wicked Courage made bold statement in the last half of the Grade 1, $1,055,000 Rainbow Derby when he pulled away from a strong field to win his ninth-straight race on Saturday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.
The $1,055,000 purse is an all-time record, surpassing the $903,744 set last year. It is the seventh consecutive year that the Rainbow Derby has established a new record purse.
Wicked Courage, the 4-5 favorite, spoke loud and clear that he could become just the fourth horse to sweep the three Triple Crown derbies at Ruidoso Downs. The Captain Courage gelding won the Grade 1, $823,000 Ruidoso Derby and now can complete the triple with a win in the Grade 1, $2.8 million (est.) All American Derby. All American Derby trials will be held on August 17 and the 440-yard All American Derby, which promises to have the largest purse in quarter horse racing history, will be contested on September 1.
The other three horses to win the Ruidoso Downs three summer derbies are My Easy Credit (1977), Dash For Speed (1988) and DM Shicago (2005). When My Easy Credit and Dash For Speed scored their wins, the first derby of the summer season was called the Kansas Derby.
Jjs Gone was one length behind Wicked Courage for second and it was another head back to third-place runner Joker On Jack.
Wicked Courage covered the 440 yards in :21.190 over a sealed track labeled wet fast.
“He broke (from the starting gate). He left the best that he can,” said winning jockey Cody Jensen. “He was heads up with an outside horse and I just hit him twice and he took off.
“He’s getting more serious about his job. He’s finally maturing and, even though he isn’t a big horse, he is one of the truest quarter-mile horses I’ve been on in a long time.”
The Luis Villafranco-trained Wicked Courage has not been beaten in 11 months. He started his winning streak at Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma and took a pair of minor futurities – the Black Gold 350 Futurity and the Black Gold Championship – last fall at the eastern Oklahoma track. After a winter’s rest he surfaced to battle to a head win in the Bob Moore Stakes at Remington Park.
Villafranco brought Wicked Courage to Ruidoso in mid-May and after being at the track’s 6,900-foot altitude for only a couple of weeks he was able to win his Ruidoso Derby trial by a neck and made the finals as the only horse to qualify while facing a headwind.
Then he blossomed with every start.
In the 400-yard Ruidoso Derby, he was backed down to 17-10 favoritism because of his qualifying while fighting a 25 miles-per-hour head wind. He rallied in the final strides to get up for the neck win.
He took another step forward in the Rainbow Derby trials. He scored the fastest-qualifying time from nine trials when he raced the quarter mile in :20.856 at 9-10 odds.
“He is getting better and better, but to win nine in a row a man has to be a little lucky,” said Villafranco. “We’ll just wait and get ready for the All American Derby.”
Maegan Cavasos’ Jjs Gone made his 2013 debut in the Rainbow Derby trials and scored a one-length win with the second-fastest qualifying time of :20.939. Last year, the Mr Jess Perry gelding’s only win from seven starts was his Hobbs American Futurity trial.
A. Wade Helton and Jarret Helton’s Joker On Jack, a gelding by Pyc Paint Your Wagon, won the $166,000 OHA Mystery Futurity and the $100,000 Hialeah Laddie Futurity last year. He raced to his sole 2013 win from three starts when he won his Rainbow Derby trial by a neck.
Absent from the Rainbow Derby was last year’s champion two-year-old filly PJ Chick In Black, who was scratched. She was involved in a trailer accident on Monday near Abeline, Texas and is recovering well. She is expected to return top Ruidoso within several days.