Thus far the year 2008 has belonged to some of quarter horse racing's newest sires in the business. In Texas, freshman sire Executive Menace got off to a good start when one of his daughters, Executive Looks, won the Grade I Manor Downs Futurity, surprising the wagering public at odds of 15-1. In Utah, a daughter of first-year sire Hawkish named Tisa Dream Runne took the Dixie Downs Futurity in mid-April. The trend continues in New Mexico, where two of Sixes Royal's youngest runners had the first and second-fastest times to last week's Grade II New Mexico Breeders' Futurity at SunRay Park. And in California handicappers and racing fans alike are eagerly awaiting the next start for the brilliant colt Foose. By newcomer stallion Stel Corona, Foose romped by three and a half lengths in his debut and stopped the timer in a sizzling time of 15.19 at the 300-yard distance. Finally, young sire A Regal Choice has also enjoyed a productive start to his breeding career, as three of his offspring qualified to the Grade I Kindergarten Futurity at Los Alamitos.
As a result, numerous other stallions with a bright future in store, like California-based sire Special Cartel, have been lost in the shuffle. "I think he's a really underrated new sire," said trainer Jose Flores, who co-owns the stallion with Armando Leon. "All of his babies look really great to me. They're very alert and intelligent, much like their grandsire Corona Cartel. I also think we're going to see Corona Cartel become a great sire of sires as well. Special Cartel might be one of the stallions to make that possible."
A three-time winner and earner of $58,871, Special Cartel won the American Quarter Horse Racing Journal Stakes at Lone Star Park in 2002 and ran second in two other stakes races that year, including the American Airlines California Juvenile Challenge and the Corona Chick Handicap, both run at Los Alamitos. Special Cartel was also a finalist in the Grade I Los Alamitos Derby the following year, as well as the Bayer Legend California Derby Challenge and the Town Policy Handicap at three. Although his dam Lil Gamble Star was unplaced in both of her career starts, she comes from a nice family and is a full-sister to Prairie Gambler, a former star of the Oklahoma racing circuit. A winner of ten races lifetime, she was victorious in the Grade III Hopes and Dreams Futurity and banked $98,459.
"What I like about all of Special Cartel's babies is that they're very serious and they always try really hard with everything," added Flores. "I have seven two-year-olds by him this year and all of them have hit the board so far, with the exception of one. Plus, I don't think he got the absolute best mares first time around and so we probably haven't even seen his best runners yet. That's just the way breeding goes. Sometimes you sort of have to prove yourself in order to breed to the very best mares."
Of the five that have started thus far, Flores is most excited about Going Cartel and Kates Special Cartel. A winner of her only start so far, Going Cartel defeated maiden company earlier this May by a half-length despite a bumped break. "I'm really high on her right now," Jose said. "Her time wasn't all that great, but there was a big head wind that day. We're going to pay her in late to the Prescott Valley Lassie Futurity at Yavapi Downs and she'll run there next on June 8th. She's also nominated to the PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity here at Los Alamitos later in the year. As far as Kates Special Cartel goes, he's not really paid into much this year, so we'll most likely see him in allowance races and overnight handicaps." Kates Special Cartel has finished in the trifecta in all three of his starts so far, including a maiden-breaking score at the $16,000 claiming level on May 17th.
Special Cartel might not generate as much buzz as some of the other new stallion prospects this year, but trainer Jose Flores sees no reason why he can't develop into one of the sport's top sires. "From what I've seen of his runners so far, I like them a lot," said Jose. "When my partner Armando and I bought him at the Vessels sale as a yearling, he was kind of tall and gangly, but he really grew into a nice looking horse. He had a good year at two and even won his debut if I remember correctly. Hopefully he'll translate that same ability to his babies. I think he's definitely one to watch."
-Won the 2006 Golden State Derby with Starlet Hawk
- Won the 2006 Winter Derby with Starlet Hawk