Balgo Racing Team, Inc. and Marlyn Gonzalez’s Matabari is headed to the Champion of Champions after holding off Rainbow Derby finalist Scatmandu by a head to win the $953,200 Los Alamitos Super Derby on Saturday night.
With Ramon Sanchez aboard for trainer Guillermo Morales, Matabari is only the third horse to win both the Los Alamitos Super Derby and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. She’s the second filly to accomplish the feat, joining the champion million Corona Kool in that exclusive club. One Famous Eagle, who is also a champion, millionaire and one of the nation’s leading stallions, is the only other horse to have won the track’s richest futurity and richest derby. Matabari’s victory in the Super Derby made her a millionaire. From only nine starts, the homebred daughter of Mr Jess Perry and out of the Separatist mare Hold Me Now has won six races for earnings of $1,246,930. She earned $378,504 for winning the Super Derby at 400 yards in a time of :19.454.
Matabari now joins a great cast for this year’s Champion of Champions. The field for the 440-yard Grade 1 classic will also feature Los Alamitos Winter Championship winner Rylees Boy, the winner of last year’s Champion of Champions; Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship winner Ochoa, who is Quarter Horse racing’s all-time leading money winner; Feature Hero, the winner of the sport’s richest race ever – this year’s All American Derby; Remington Park Championship winner Priceless Feature; Vessels Maturity and Go Man Go Handicap winner Last To Fire; and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap winner Check N Fetch. The final three berths will be decided in next week’s Bank of America Challenge Championship, the Zia Park Championship on November 23rd and Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 23.
Leaving the gate as the second choice in the wagering at odds of 7-2, Matabari broke sharply from post number one to duel right away with Scatmandu and fastest qualifier Otoole Hero. Matabari ran better and better with each stride, taking the lead at the midway point of the race while confidently holding off the gritty Scatmandu. Otoole Hero, who broke through the gate before the start, was tremendous in his effort to finish third while Governor’s Cup Derby winner Scoop Of Sunshine recovered from a bump at the start to finish in fourth place. Remembering Spence, who was the 3-5 favorite, left the gate in fourth place, but was in sixth place after the first 180 yards. He ended up fifth and was followed across the wire by All American Derby runner-up Bon Accord, Lavish Susan, Tres Queens, Kat Quick and Henoshersecret.
The night belonged to Matabari, who will now look to become eighth 3-year-old filly to win the Champion of Champions and the first since World Champion Blues Girl Too in 2007. Flame N Flash was the runner-up in last year’s Champion of Champions as a 3-year-old filly.
“It’s amazing,” said owner/breeder Jose Maria Gonzalez. “It’s a dream come true to have a horse in the Champion of Champions and also being the breeder just makes it that much more special. For us Matabari is the best 3-year-old filly in the country. I don’t know how the rest of the people see it, but we think she’s the best. She’s very sound and she has no (bone) chips as far as we know.”
Before winning a trial to the Super Derby, Matabari ran in a conditioned event and in a trial to the All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs.
“It was the first time we went up there and it was a lot of fun,” Gonzalez added. “We didn’t have much luck in the trials, but it was worth a try. Paul Jones did a great job with her in Ruidoso. She came back to Guillermo’s barn very fit. We want to run her next year. The Mildred Vessels in 2014 is a possibility. We also want to breed her and get some embryos out of her, but we do want to run her next year.”
Several minutes after the race, trainer Guillermo Morales was still in disbelief about his barn’s accomplishment in the Super Derby.
“Two years ago I wasn’t even running horses in trials and now I have a horse in the Champion of Champions,” said the trainer, who took out his license in the early 2000s. “I had a small barn with cheap claimers. I was doing well, but I didn’t have anything running in trials. Balgo Racing Stables gave me a great opportunity to train horses like Matabari. What a great accomplishment this is for her. She’s such a sound filly. She does everything the right way. Everything went her way tonight.”
Morales said that the filly did suffer a minor cut during her Super Derby trial.
“It was in her hind left foot,” he said. “She got bumped leaving the gate and I think that’s when it happened. I’ve looked at the video of the race several times and I couldn’t find the exact point when it happened, but I believe that it occurred when the number three horse in the race got close to her after the start. She (healed) well after the trials and was eating and training well. We kept her schedule the same. We didn’t have to give her a break. She didn’t’ miss a day. She handled everything so well.”
She also handled the night of the Super Derby expertly.
“She was so easy-going during warm ups,” jockey Ramon Sanchez said. “I didn’t have to warm her up. I didn’t want to get her too hot. She was doing great so I just left her alone. She knows what to do. We got a good break and I felt that we were in the right spot. We were right there with the other horses and maybe after 200 yards we started passing everyone. I was just letting her do her thing. All I care about is winning the race and I don’t care if we win by a nose or by a length.”
Owned by Robert K. and Robert A. Gentry and Robbi Force, Scatmandu earned $153,204 for finishing second for trainer Juan Aleman and jockey Cruz Mendez. A gelding sired by the Thoroughbred Scat Daddy, Scatmandu came into this race after winning his Super Derby trial.
“He was training well and he broke pretty good,” Aleman said. “I thought we were going to get her, but we got beat. That’s the way this game goes.”
Aleman is also the trainer of Remembering Spence and Bon Accord.
“(Remembering Spence) got left in the gate,” Aleman said. “He made up ground, but not (as) much (as he needed). Bon Accord ran a good race. He broke okay, but he got into traffic and had nowhere to go.”
Racing for Burnett Ranches, Ltd. And Johnny Trotter, Otoole Hero earned $108,144 for finishing in third place. Ricky Ramirez rode Otoole Hero for trainer Trey Wood. Otoole Hero broke through the gate early on, but Ramirez did a tremendous job preventing Otoole Hero from running off. Otoole Hero reentered the starting gate nicely and broke on the lead from there.But in the end it was Matabari who was the heroine of the Super Derby.