Racing for AQHA champion owners Johnny Trotter and Burnett Ranches LLC, Viva Mi Corazon continued his love affair with Los Alamitos Race Course with an ultra impressive victory in the $196,600 Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Saturday night.
Ridden by AQHA champion jockey Cody Jensen for trainer Trey Wood, Viva Mi Corazon ran powerfully from post number one en route to a 1 ¼ length victory over Abigail Kawananakoa’s Spirit Leader in the 400 yard race. Sired by First Down Dash, Viva Mi Corazon covered the distance in a sizzling time of :19.467 to enjoy his fifth win in six outings at the Orange County track. Bred by Bob and Jerry Gaston in Texas, the gelding as a 2-year-old won the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity and was second in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in what is his only local defeat.
“I love this horse and the bottom line is that he loves it at Los Alamitos,” said Wood’s assistant trainer Paul Leal. “He enjoys it so much here. When I take him to the track to train, he just starts strutting around like a champion. He loves being here.”
Viva Mi Corazon was sent off as the second choice in the wagering at 9-5 odds following a strong trial victory on January 25. The role of favorite in this race went to Richard Frandsen’s fastest qualifier SS Paydirt, who ended up third in this race and is also trained by Trey Wood.
“Viva Mi Corazon was a little nervous in the paddock on the night of the trials,” Leal added. “He was all business tonight. He wasn’t trying to wash out or do anything like that. I knew he was going to run a great race. I could see it in his eyes.”
Jensen piloted SS Paydirt and Viva Mi Corazon to victory in the trials, but in the end he stuck with the horse that carried him to victory in the aforementioned Breeders Futurity.
“SS Paydirt impressed me so much on trial night, but Viva Mi Corazon had his worst race at Los Alamitos on the night of the (Winter Derby) trials and he still finished with the second fastest qualifying time. It was hard to turn down the opportunity to ride him again. The owners (Trotter and Burnett Ranches) have been so good to me and stuck with me on this horse for the Two Million Futurity. I got on this horse only because Ricky Ramirez, who is the first call rider for the barn, had trouble with his flight on the night of Breeders Futurity trials. They’ll have to pry me off this horse now.”
The past month has been memorable for the veteran rider. He was awarded his first title as AQHA champion jockey on January 22, made his acting debut in a music video for artist David Benn Tyson entitled “Second Chance”, and now has enjoyed a Grade 1 derby win aboard one of the most exciting sophomores in the nation.
“It’s been great,” Jensen said. “A lot of good things have happened recently and I cherished every one of them. To get on a big horse like Viva Mi Corazon means a lot. He gives you a chance to win every time. He’s become so professional. He had that trouble at the start in the Two Million where he got bumped and then he was flying to finish second. The winner (Foose Cash SR) shook away from us at the start and we couldn’t catch him. There are not a lot of races that I wish I could re-do, but the first three jumps in the Two Million with Viva Mi Corazon I wish I could do them over.”
Jensen liked leaving the gate from post number one aboard Viva Mi Corazon.
“I like the edges - posts one, two, nine, 10,” added the champion jockey. “The trouble factor can get minimized because you only get bumped from one side if you start from inside or outside post. If you’re in post two, the one horse usually goes inside so you don’t get bump from there.”
As much as Viva Mi Corazon loves Los Alamitos, plans call for the strapping gelding to now travel to Texas.
“He’s going to go home and rest at Trey Wood’s ranch in Texas,” Leal said. “He’ll rest for 45 days. He’s paid into the three derbies at Ruidoso Downs and also the Los Alamitos Super Derby at Los Alamitos. He’ll be back for the Super Derby.”
Viva Mi Corazon earned $82,572 for the win to take his career earnings to $601,241. He’s won seven of 11 lifetime starts.
Trained by AQHA champion trainer Paul Jones, Kawananakoa’s Spirit Leader earned $33,422 for running second. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, the son of Corona Cartel also ran second to Viva Mi Corazon in the Winter Derby trials.
“The winner was the best horse in the race going in and he ran strong,” Jones said. “I was pleased to see my horse finish second. I told Abigail that we could run third because I wasn’t sure that we could beat Viva Mi Corazon or SS Paydirt. We were able to beat SS Paydirt so I’m thrilled about that.”
Ridden by Ricky Ramirez, SS Paydirt had early trouble before flying to go from 10th to 3rd place. He earned $23,592 for his gritty rally.
“He stumbled first jump out of the gate,” Leal said. “He worked so hard to get back to the front of the race that he just couldn’t catch the second place finisher.”
Ron Hartley’s Moonist earned $13,762 for finishing fourth.
“We just missed third place by a nose, but we weren’t going to beat Viva Mi Corazon,” said Moonist’s trainer, John Cooper. “(Viva Mi Corazon) can really run. You can’t knock them when they run like that.”
Jesus Garera Garcia’s Mr Its Country Time finished fifth and was followed by Dynasty Of Habits, Moven Lannie, Energized, Ms Perry and Chalalita.