The father and son team of owner J. Francisco Diaz and trainer Lindolfo Diaz enjoyed their biggest win in Quarter Horse racing after their homebred gelding Chayito Cartel improved his record to a perfect three for three with a victory in the Grade 2, $361,700 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Racing from post number five with leading jockey Jesus Rios Ayala in the irons, Chayito Cartel broke with the leaders in the 300-yard race and got stronger with each stride, taking the lead shortly after the start and then holding off Bobby Simmons’ Mental Error by a neck in the 65th running of the Kindergarten. Chayito Cartel, the 2-1 second choice in the wagering and the fastest qualifier in the trials, covered the distance in :15.430.
“Ayala said he broke well and it took about 200 yards to really get going. Mental Error pushed him pretty hard early on, but Chayito Cartel finished nicely,” said the 31-year-old trainer Lindolfo Diaz. “I knew it would be a tough race. I thought we had a shot. All I wanted was a clean race. We got a decent start, a great ride and I’m just happy for my dad.”
J. Francisco Diaz has been involved in Quarter Horse racing since the late 1990s with 234 wins to his name. He campaigned the talented mare Running Bac to victory in the 2002 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap plus six other stakes, including the Kindergarten. Lindolfo credited his father to helping reach this winning moment, one in which Chayito Cartel earned $151,914.
“It’s special and having that man, my dad, here makes it even more special,” the trainer said. “Words can’t describe it. I’m just so happy for my dad. He’s had horses for a while. He started with Charles Treece, then Juan Aleman and later Jose Flores. When I got out of high school I started (working) my dad’s horses at the farm. It’s a little ranch in San Diego. I was 18. I came here with Jose Flores and I was Jose’s assistant. I learned a lot from him. He was my teacher, my mentor. I have 13 horses right now. My dad has six right now at the track. He told me tonight ‘Win or lose, if we get a clean race just keep your head up. Hopefully we win, but if not you know you tried your hardest.’ It was all up to (Chayito Cartel) tonight.”
“Chayito Cartel was facing better horses than ever before,” the trainer continued. “He didn’t get away as fast as he had in other races. He showed determination. Like Ayala said, after 150-200 yards he got the lead and didn’t look back. Mental Error was coming on strong. Honestly, we didn’t think he would be this good. His mother (the Dash Thru Traffic mare Runnin In Traffic) never produced much. She was a pretty good racehorse. She was a solid stakes placed filly, but never had a baby like this one.”
“He worked :12.5 first time and didn’t break that sharp. He came back and caught the other horse. He impressed me right there. I told my dad, ‘Hey, you know what, we might have something here so let’s make that double payment for the Kindergarten.’ Luckily, we had enough time to make the double. I had previously told him to drop him from the Kindergarten because when I breezed him, just a turn and work with another horse that I had, the other horse outworked him. I thought maybe he wasn’t of that caliber, but he surprised me.”
J. Francisco Diaz is not surprise to see his son enjoy stakes winning success. He knew that his son had a strong work ethic and that good things would eventually happen for him.
“I’m very proud of my son,” the owner said. “He’s doing things well with the horses. I’m proud that he followed this career path because this is a sport that I’ve always loved. When he was a young boy I would take him the ranch with me and eventually bought him a horse. I would have him sit on the horse and I would lead them around just for fun. He started liking the horses and I started teaching how to take care of them, feed them, and get them ready to work. I used to keep some horses at our ranch and then we would send them here to Los Alamitos to train. Eventually, when he was about 15 to 16 years old, he told to stay home because he would go feed and care for the horses. He would wake up at 5 a.m. to spend time with the horses before school. After he finished high school, he told me that he wanted to keep working with the horses. I told him that I would give him my support as much as I could. Now, here we are. I’m very happy for him and for this night.”
Diaz is hoping to keep building on his success with Chayito Cartel.
“I just want to keep working hard and maybe get some more babies,” he said. “It’s hard to build a barn. There are a lot of good trainers at Los Alamitos and they’re all relatively young so it’s hard for a new guy coming up. Hard work is paying off. (Chayito Cartel) is not paid into the Ed Burke Million Futurity or many others. He’s in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity. We’ll give him some time off until then. He’s had a hard campaign already. He’s made three starts in six weeks. He’ll need the time off. We’ll give him some time to rest.”
Ridden by Ramon Sanchez for trainer Paul Jones, the Favorite Cartel colt Mental Error earned $61,489 for his runner-up effort. The Steve Burns-bred runner was third at the start and ran solidly throughout. Reliance Ranches LLC’s Dreams Divine earned $43,404 for third for trainer Mike Robbins and jockey Ruben Castro. The John Cooper-trained stablemates Cartel Jess Rockin and Chickititas Favorite, both also sired by Favorite Cartel, finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Favorite Cartel sired four of the top five finishers in this race. A Political Spell, Spectacular Corona, Corona Lake, Diamond Rock, and Leonel Bugatti completed the field.