Hialeah, FL / December 5, 2013 – The top 10 qualifiers for the $200,000 (estimated) Hialeah Derby on December 29 will come out of five trial heats at Hialeah Park on Sunday December 8.
A total of 43 three-year-olds, headed by past Hialeah Park stakes winners Ms Southern Dynasty, Habits Secret, Rawhide Creek, Ahs Ironsmash, I See Visions, and Joker On Jack, signed on to run 440 yards in the trials.
Joker On Jack, Wade Helton’s Oklahoma-bred gelding by Pyc Paint Your Wagon-Miss Six Fortune, leads all the Hialeah Derby hopefuls in career earnings with $316,878. He garnered $85,865 of his money won with a game victory in last season’s $204,440 Hialeah Laddie Futurity.
Trainer Alfredo Gomez, who saddled Joker On Jack for his Laddie score, welcomed the gelding back to his barn in August after Joker On Jack ran two races –including a third-place finish in the $1,000,000 Rainbow Derby at Ruidiso Downs– for Oscar Nuñez. In his most recent start, Joker On Jack broke slowly, rallied late, and finished 4th in the Lovington Stakes at Zia Park on November 3.
“He’s going to qualify (for the Hialeah Derby),” said an optimistic Gomez. “He likes it down here, he ran tough last season, and our jockey (Omar Reyes) is riding well.”
Gomez will also saddle Highclass Fly, a recent acquisition, and Llano Cartel –a six-time winner this year– for owner Helton. “Llano Cartel really likes it here,” he said, “He’s worked well here. If everything goes well, with no mistakes, Joker On Jack and Llano Cartel could qualify 1-2.”
After Joker On Jack, the Valiant Hero-Jess A Lil Bit gelding Ronnie James is next on the earnings list at $259,364. Owned by Brett Mennen, he earned $221,876 of his total winning 5 of 7 starts for trainer Heath Taylor last year.
In the Bienvenido De Nuevo, a $25,000-added affair at 330 yards that drew 10 three-year-olds and up, another Mennen runner –The Lizzard King– is one of two entrants out for trainer Frank Elizondo. The conditioner will also saddle First Prize Doc for owner Dewey Kendrick III. Elizondo picked up the latter for two races in Louisiana, including a stakes win at The Fair Grounds in late August and a third-place try at Evangeline Downs a month ago.
“He ran OK last out,” Elizondo commented. “He might have been a little short or maybe the distance was too short (220 yards). I gave (jockey) G. R. Carter the choice of my two horses, and he took First Prize Doc.”
JOHN HERNANDEZ / RACING NEWS & PUBLICITY