LARC NEWS Posted: 11/29/2020 11:46:20 PM



        The final set of trials of the 2020 Los Alamitos racing season were highlighted by several races that were decided by the slimmest of margins, but then again what else is new in Quarter Horse racing?       

          Link Newcomb’s Cattail Cove posted the fastest qualifying time to the Grade 2, $154,550 Southern California Derby after outdueling Martha Wells’ Old School Icon by a nose in the first of five trials, while Dunn Ranch LLC’s Southern Wagon won by an even tighter margin after battling Ed Allred’s Nomadic in the final heat on Sunday night.                                                                 

           The four runners finished at the top of the qualifying list with Cattail Cove earning the top spot with a time of :19.793 with Old School Icon right behind him at :19.802. Southern Wagon finished with the third fastest time of :19.883 with Governor’s Cup Derby winner Nomadic rounding out the first four with a time of :19.893. A total of 34 sophomores compete in the 400-yard trials with the horses with the 10 fastest times advancing to the Southern California final to be contested on the meet’s closing night on Sunday, December 20.                                                                                     

          Ridden by Raul Valenzuela for trainer Juan Aleman, Cattail Cove posted his first win in eight starts this season on the way to the top honors on the night. The Favorite Cartel gelding has enjoyed a productive campaign despite of his previous lack of winner’s circle visits. Cattail Cove qualified to the Governor’s Cup Derby in the summer before running second to Mister Riptide in a trial to the All American Derby. He then finished third in the $100,000 All American Derby Invitational before qualifying to the (GI) Los Alamitos Super Derby final with a runner-up finish in his trial. Cattail Cove ran a solid fourth in one of the fastest runnings ever of the Super Derby final, an effort that came close to duplicating his runner-up effort in last year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

          “He broke super and hooked up with Old School Icon,” Aleman said. “He ran a great race. He’s a good horse. He’s proved it since he was a 2-year-old. We’ll see what happens in the final. Link Newcomb is a great person and a great owner to trainer for. He knows the sport and has been through the ups and downs of racing. He had a great year in 2019 and he’s having a solid year, especially with this nice horse Cattail Cove. This horse has come back nicely. Link is one of the great owners that I have the pleasure to train horses for right now. For next year, he has a First Down Dash filly out of mare that I trained named Celtic Emblem. He also has a Corona Cartel colt that I’m breaking at the farm right now. We’re looking forward to running them next year.”

          Aleman is looking forward to saddling Cattail Cove and another trial winner, Gentry Farms’ Kiss Thru Fire, in the Southern California Derby final. In one of the most competitive trials of the night, the multiple Grade 1 finalist flew in the second half of the race to win over 2019 Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity winner Runforyourlife and Grade 2 Golden State Derby winner Circle City. With Valenzuela in the irons, Kiss Thru Fire won the race by a neck and in the sixth fastest qualifying time of :19.905. Runforyourlife and Circle City also qualified from this trial.

          “She had a bad start,” Aleman said. “She got sandwiched. I was a little worried when I saw her get bumped that bad. She was able to sweep by. This filly has so much heart that it’s unbelievable. If she has a hole to run through, she will try her hardest every time and will try to run everything down. She’s always shown tons of run at the end. Her problem is she has so much trouble out of the gate. In the Super Derby she got wiped out. She still wanted to run but she had nowhere to run. Today, same thing. We hope she has a clean start one day so that she can show what she’s capable of doing.”

          In the Super Derby, Kiss Thru Fire bumped and lost her running lane while closing late to go from 10th to seventh place. She’ll be looking to add to her record of five wins in 16 starts and earnings of $358,680 when she returns for the Southern California Derby final.

          With Jose Nicasio up for trainer John Cooper, Southern Wagon picked up her seventh career win in 16 starts in her derby trial. The filly by Pyc Paint Your Wagon won the La Pacifica Handicap earlier this year and was second in the Los Alamitos Oaks. She also finished third in the Rainbow Oaks.

          “Those were some pretty nice horses,” Cooper said. “She was behind, maybe about a shoulder. That was a horse race, right there. It almost looked like it could have been a dead heat. I’m pleased to see her qualify to the final.”

          Behind Cooper’s face covering, it was apparent that he was sporting a fresh and neatly groomed beard, a first for the veteran trainer as far as one can remember.

          “It started out as a bet with (trainer) Art Sherman,” Cooper said. “We were going to grow beards until we were able to get spectators back at the track for live racing. Sherman did not keep his for very long. I still got mine. I might end up looking like Santa Claus.”

          Bobby Simmons’ Mental Error, the Super Derby runner-up, and Allred’s Just Be Real, third in both the PCQHRA Breeders Derby and Governor’s Cup Derby, also advanced to the final after winning their respective trials. Here’s the complete list of qualifiers to the Southern California Derby: Cattail Cove (;19.793), Old School Icon (:19.802), Southern Wagon (:19.883), Nomadic (:19.893), Just Be Real (:19.899), Kiss Thru Fire (:19.905), Circle City (:19.939), Runforyourlife (:19.949), Up For Speed (:19.972) and Mental Error (:19.973).


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