FAVORITE COLOSSUS’ EL PRIMERO WIN IS A FIRST FOR THE CONNECTIONS
Jeff and Michelle Cravens’ homebred colt Favorite Colossus fought back from fifth place and 1 ¼ lengths behind at the start to outduel fastest qualifier Constituent by a nose at odds of 11-1 to win the Grade 3, $225,200 El Primero Del Año Derby on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.
The El Primero Del Año translates to The First of The Year. For Favorite Colossus and his connections this graded stakes was the the first of their racing careers. From the Cravens to 21-year-old jockey Irving Lara to former leading rider and now trainer Cesar De Alba, who won the El Primero during his riding days with the great champion Moonist in 2014, each of them got to celebrate their first graded stakes win ever after Favorite Colossus was 'primero' across the wire.
The Oregon-bred colt by Favorite Cartel was recording his second career victory and first since winning a trial to the Governor’s Cup Futurity by a nose last year. After running fourth to Constituent in the futurity final, Favorite Colossus made only one more start last year. His sophomore debut was a fourth-place finish in the El Primero trials on March 7, but the effort was good enough to earn him a spot in the final.
“After the Governor’s Cup last year, he wasn’t paid into anything else, so we just gave him time,” De Alba said. “He was still green and immature. I wasn’t so sure that he was going to run this big. I told the owner that we might need to geld this horse. Obviously, he’s a good horse, he’s sound, and he’s happy, but being a stud, I thought we might need to cut him. If he had finished fourth against these horses I would have been ecstatic.”
Leaving the gate from the outside post 10 with Lara in the irons, Favorite Colossus broke okay but was fifth after the initial 50 yards of the race. He lugged in at around the midway mark, but at the same time he hit a higher gear and started making up ground on Constituent, who had left the gate flying. At that point, Favorite Colossus was third and only trailed by ¾ lengths. From there, he began to chip away at Constituent’s advantage with each stride. The two were together at the wire, but it was Favorite Colossus who had the late momentum and eventually the victory after the review of the photo finish. Favorite Colossus covered the 400 yards in :19.858 and his earnings of $94,584 took his career earnings to $119,609.
De Alba, who began his training career in February of 2019, proved with this victory that the fruits from hard work are the sweetest.
“It’s a lot of hard work and sometimes you get down,” said De Alba, who now has 10 victories as a trainer. “You get on a losing streak and you go, ‘Sonofagun do I want to keep doing this? You get up at three thirty in the morning to be here at four thirty. It is a lot of hard work, but this makes it all worth it.
“The outside (post) was a big advantage. I don’t think he broke as sharp as he could, and he was far behind. If he was in the middle, he probably would have gotten some dirt thrown to him. He’s determined. I was expecting a bigger race in the trials but knew that he needed the race. I knew he would run better in the final. He has run against these horses and we know he had the talent. It was about getting the right hole and things to open. He’s not in the Los Alamitos Super Derby but maybe I can talk the owners into paying him up.
“I was watching, and I couldn’t believe that he got there. I was in shocked. I try not to get too excited, but I got excited. I was cheering and I was happy. I try to stay humble and pretty low (key). It’s amazing because I’ve only been doing this for two years. It took me five, six or seven years, I can’t remember how long, to win one of these (graded stakes) as a jockey. Thanks to Jeff, he gave me an opportunity and now we won a stakes race with him.”
De Alba, a multiple graded stakes winning rider, won 1,031 Quarter Horse races in his career. He’s now a multiple stakes winning trainer as well, as he also won the John Ward Handicap with the Texas Icon gelding Staubauch last year.
Prior to the El Primero, the Cravens’ biggest wins were Favorite Colossus’ Governor’s Cup trial win and One Sweet Jewel’s victory in the 2016 Autumn Handicap. The couple from Corona, California can now dream of other derby wins and perhaps taking a shot at the Super Derby by paying the $30,000 late nomination fee on July 1.
“If we feel confident maybe we give it a run,” Jeff Cravens said. “I’ve told Cesar, we’ll give it a run. Winning this helps a lot. We have some money now, we’re just little home breeders. We have a home here in California, which is where Favorite Colossus was born and bred. We have a ranch in Oregon where we keep them and raise them. We live locally and we get to come and watch our horses run now that the (restrictions) are lifting a little bit. We have missed a lot, but we got tonight. I wouldn’t change this. This is one of the biggest moments we’ve had. I was shaking when I was calling my wife.”
The Cravens know well how special every stakes win can be.
“The (2016) Autumn Handicap came at a very good time. My wife had just lost her personal horse and was down. She wasn’t going to come on that night, and I told her, ‘Hey, they’re giving away a trophy at Los Al and we got a shot at winning. She said, ‘I’m going,’ and we won. We needed that moment.”
Now they have another moment to cherish in racing.
“(Cesar) has done a good job with our little homebred,” the owner added. “Those three horses stacked in the middle were tough. That’s who we competed against in the Governor’s Cup Futurity. We were all within a head distance and lucky we came out on top tonight.
“We have two horses here with Cesar right now and we have a Favorite Cartel yearling filly at home that we like We’ll need to be patient with her, but I think she’s showing some good potential and competitiveness. She’s in with a couple of big mares at home and she’ll hook them up and go.”
Only 21-years-old, jockey Irving Lara rode Favorite Colossus like a seasoned veteran, as he allowed the brown colt the time to roll and then hustled him to victory. Lara was aboard the talented runner in the trials and De Alba showed confidence in him by keeping him on for the final.
“I just told him ‘win, lose, or you run last, you’re still on my team and we’ll still be good,’” De Alba said. “I said to him ‘Just go out there and ride him like you know how to ride and don’t stress about it. You know how to ride and just stay relaxed.’ He did an awesome job. I just like that he’s quiet and works hard every day. I like the way he rides. Nobody has noticed him, but he’s a good rider and very humble. He got the job done tonight.”
“I’m thrilled and very happy,” Lara added. “I’m very thankful that Cesar gave this opportunity. He’s been a big supporter. The horse did everything right and he was strong at the end. He broke well and was pressuring the no. 5 horse trained by Valentin Zamudio the whole way. He never folded and just kept getting stronger and stronger and thankfully we got the victory.”
Owned by M & G Farms, Constituent earned $38,284 for his solid effort to take his career earnings to $224,015. Ruben Lozano piloted the colt by Seperate Interest. Les and Kim Sweeting’s BF Outfoosed earned $27,024 for finishing third for trainer Paul Jones and jockey Ramon Sanchez. The top three were followed by Dont Ride The Slide, Fly The Coup, Favorite Five, Untuckit, Garda Da Cash, Watch Over Bella and This Parties Hoppin.