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By Martha Claussen
VINTON, LA—JUNE 30, 2019—The excitement is building for the July 6 card at Delta Downs when the Vinton, Louisiana racetrack hosts Louisiana Showcase Night. The action gets underway at 5:15 pm (CT) with eight stakes highlighted by the $700,293 Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1).
The Lee Berwick Futurity is the second-richest Quarter Horse futurity in the state, surpassed only by the LQHBA Louisiana Million at Evangeline Downs in December. Since its first running in 1981, a distinguished list of champions has emerged, and ten very talented juveniles will vie for this year’s trophy and the winner’s share of $350,146.
The fastest qualifier from 15 trials run on June 15 was Apollitical Bug, a daughter of Apollitical Blood, bred, owned and trained by Mardonio Flores, Jr. The resident of Mission, Texas, bred his mare, Tinys First Bug to Apollitical Blood after seeing the first-crop stallion’s standout performance in the 2015 All American Derby (G1) at Ruidoso Downs.
His cousin, Eloy Garcia, halter broke the filly and Flores sent her to Tonya Martin’s farm in Mora, Louisiana for sale prepping. When she did not meet her reserve at last year’s LQHBA Yearling Sale,
Flores bought her back for $10,000. She made her racing debut on April 26, running fourth in her Lassie Futurity trial, improving in her second start three weeks later. But nothing prepared Flores and jockey Noe Castaneda for her riveting victory in the Lee Berwick trials when she drew of to a 2 ½ length score in the seventh race.
She covered 350 yards in :17.339 seconds, earning a speed index of 97. Her time held for the remainder of the card, which was an epic first for Flores and his team.
“We always felt she had potential,” stated Flores. “Heading into the Lee Berwick trial, I had a feeling she would win. Our goal was to get her qualified, but we never dreamed that she would get the fastest time!”
Apollitical Bug will break from post position five under the 23-year-old Castaneda, whose top victory was with JLS Dash N Fire in the 2017 Laddie Futurity at Delta Downs.
“It’s amazing,” said the young rider. “When I began galloping her, I knew she had talent. This would be the biggest win in my career!”
The Flores family will be out in force on Saturday night, including Mardonio’s wife, Enereida, who is very much a part of the operation. The two were high school sweethearts before tying the knot four years ago.
Runaway Second Down recovered gamely off troubled trips in his two previous starts in a May 18 allowance at Delta to break his maiden by three-quarters in the sixth trial under jockey Antonio Alberto.
The son of multiple stakes sire Sir Runaway Dash won his trial in :17.503 seconds to set the second fastest time. Grant Farms LLC bred the gelding out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Second Down Perry. Owners Eulalio Argote and Victor Alvarado signed a $80,000 ticket at last August’s LQHBA Yearling Sale. They owned his full brother, Second Down Leaving, who was a multiple stakes winner.
Trainer Robi Meche, who will turn 24 next month, was a world champion barrel racer before getting her trainer license less than a year ago. She ponies her racehorses and will guide Runaway Second Down to the gate on Saturday evening.
“It was upsetting to see him get into trouble in his first starts,” said Meche. “We put on the blinkers for his Lee Berwick trial and were ecstatic with the result!”
Sir Runaway Dash will also be represented by eighth-fastest qualifier, Sir Runaway Cash. Bred by Tracy Smithwick, the gelding out of the Heza Fast Dash mare MCM Premo Dash broke his maiden at first asking on May 4 at Delta Downs. He is owned by Meal Ticket Racing and trained by David Bustamante.
He will break from post position two with John Hamilton in the saddle. The respected 55-year-old rider has won the Delta Downs title six times; this would be his first victory in the Lee Berwick Futurity.
Third fastest qualifier Pilotoshinning remains undefeated in three starts for owners Rancho Herradura LLC. The son of 2010 All American Futurity champion Mr Piloto is out of the First To Shine mare La Shinning Streak. Barbara Alcantara trains and will give a leg up to rider Rolando Cabrera. Terry Alwell bred the gelding, a $3,700 LQHBA Yearling Sale graduate.
Mr Piloto is also represented by tenth-fastest qualifier, Ed O. Owner Edwardo Lopez signed a $4,700 ticket for the gelding at the LQHBA Yearling Sale. Trained by Jose U. Lopez, Ed O was the fastest qualifier to the $369,405 Laddie Futurity (RG2) and ran a close second to Tdz Jet Black in the May 18 final.
Earl Landry, Jr. of Erath, Louisiana bred his mare Shezadashinatcha to Mr Piloto and named Ed O in honor of LSU Tiger Coach Ed Orgeron. Landry wore LSU purple for the Laddie and will do so again Saturday. Coming in as the tenth fastest qualifier did not phase Landry.
“We finally got an outside post,” he said. “We’re ready!”
First-crop sire Apollitical Blood has two additional qualifiers to the Lee Berwick final. Rf Apollitical Cookie, owned by David Gutierrez, set the fourth-fastest qualifying time under jockey Jesse Levario. Tim and Jennie Rogers bred the gelding, out of the Separatist mare, One Famous Cookie. The Josue Ponce trainee ran third in the Laddie Futurity and will make his fifth career start in the Lee Berwick final.
Flash of Light is also a son of Apollitical Blood out of the Walk Thru Fire mare Crystal Sola. Bred by Simmons Racing, he is owned by Tyler Graham and Adame Racing, LLC. He broke his maiden in the thirteenth trial under rider James Flores, who will retain the mount for trainer Heath Taylor.
Paragon Farms LLC’s Jess A Fast Rogue was the second-highest LQHBA Yearling Sale purchase, fetching $200,000. The colt by Heza Fast Dash out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Miss Jess Rogue, was bred by Triple M Farms LLC. He won his third lifetime start in the Lee Berwick trials for James B. Padgett, II and will be ridden by Cesar Esqueda as the sixth-fastest qualifier.
A Quick Jewel, bred by Run Bayou Ranch, LLC is a filly by Jet Black Patriot. Owned by Jorge L. Martinez, she is trained by Jesse Rodriguez, Jr. Luis Vivanco, who was shared the 2018 LQHBA Champion Jockey title with Everardo Rodriguez, has the mount.
Freighttrain B sired ninth-fastest qualifier Baby Freighttrain, who was bred by 2018 AQHA and LQHBA champion breeder Grant Farms, LLC. Owned by J F Racing Farm LLC, she has four runner-up finishes and will be looking to break her maiden in the final under rider Cipriano Vidana. Jorge Luis Barrera is her conditioner.
Post time for Saturday’s card is 5:15 pm with eight stakes on the program. The Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1) will run as the twelfth race of the evening, with an approximate post of 10:09 pm.
The field, in post position order, with jockeys:
- Flash of Light (James Flores)
- Sir Runaway Cash (John Hamilton)
- Jess A Fast Rogue (Caesar Esqueda)
- Baby Freighttrain (Cipriano Vidana)
- Apollitical Bug (Noe Castaneda)
- Rf Apollitical Cookie (Jesse Levario)
- Runaway Second Down (Antonio Alberto)
- Ed O (Noe Villatoro)
- Piloto Shinning (Rolando Cabrera)
- A Quick Jewel (Luis Vivanco)
The Championship Named in Honor of Lee Berwick
Lee Berwick was a highly-regarded advocate for Louisiana Quarter Horse racing.
He grew up as a sharecropper’s son and began in the cattle business. Fortunately for the state’s Quarter Horse industry, Berwick quickly developed an interest and passion in Quarter Horses.
His enthusiasm for racing led to the development of Delta Downs racetrack in Vinton, Louisiana. The track opened in September, 1973, and Berwick was the president and a major stockholder for several years. While it is now under the ownership of Boyd Gaming, each year, he is honored with the running of the Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity (RG1); his wife Betty and several grandchildren will be in the winner’s circle to present the trophy.
Berwick was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1994. He died in 2001 at the age of 79 and was inducted into the LQHBA Hall of Fame in 2017.
LQHBA Scholarship Drawings Set for Saturday Night
The Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (LQHBA) will award a $2,000 scholarship and two $1,000 scholarships to further the education of Louisiana students on Saturday, July 6 at Delta Downs. The final night of the 2019 Quarter Horse racing season will feature several quality stakes, including the $700,293 Lee Berwick Futurity (RG1) and the $308,863 Delta Downs Louisiana Bred Derby (RG3).
The scholarship drawings will be awarded as part of the very special evening saluting accredited Louisiana-bred racehorses. Scholarship entrants must be a Louisiana High School graduate or a Louisiana High School student graduating in 2019 planning to attend a higher education institution.
Those eligible may sign up at the LQHBA Scholarship Registration Table (located at the foot of the escalator on the casino level), beginning at 4:30 pm.
Registration will close at 6:30 pm and scholarships will be drawn live in the winner’s circle by LQHBA board members, local legislators and dignitaries. Students must be present to win. More information on the scholarship eligibility can be found on LQHBA.com.
"Louisiana Showcase Night is a true showcase for the depth of Louisiana breeding and racing" said Bruce Salard, LQHBA executive director. "We salute our breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys as well as the tremendous team at Delta Downs for presenting this exceptional card with record-setting stakes purses.”
Martha Claussen served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.