JESSICA CRUZ UPSETS STRONG CAST TO WIN JAMES SMITH MEMORIAL HANDICAP
Gary Laramie’s Jessica Cruz scored a gate to wire victory at 27-1 odds in the $30,000 James Smith Memorial Handicap on Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Purchased for $71,000 at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale in 2021, Jessica Cruz had the looks and the breeding of top stakes winner. She started her career with a futurity trial win at Laurel Brown in Utah and would later finish fourth in futurity finals in Wyoming and Nevada. She returned to California in time for the trials to the $97,000 Wild West Futurity and the filly by FDD Dynasty had two of her best career efforts. First, she won her Wild West trial and then she was in contention the entire way before running second in the final.
After breaking sharply and eventually settling for fourth place in her trial to the Los Alamitos Oaks, Jessica Cruz took on open competition in the James Smith for 3-year-olds. One of only two fillies in this strong nine-horse field, Jessica Cruz had a great start in the 350-yard race, taking off to a half-length advantage and then holding off impressively the challenge from the Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity winner Chicks First Flash in route to her fourth win in 10 career starts. Ridden by Rodrigo Aceves for trainer Elena Andrade, Jessica Cruz earned $16,500 for the win, taking her career earnings to $55,938.
“She was just my favorite pick out of all the fillies at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale,” Laramie said. “I just fell in love with her and ended up buying her. We took her to Utah and she was the fastest qualifier for the first (futurity) that she was in up there. After that they canceled that race, which was unfortunate because of bad weather. She was in other futurities and did quite well. She just couldn’t get over the hump. She ran second in the Wild West and was the eleventh fastest qualifier in the Oaks (trials). We’re pretty proud of her.”
Laramie has been involved in racing for over 20 years. His horses have 44 races and finished in the money 119 times from 392 starts. Laramie appears to have found a breeding line, as he also purchased Jessica Cruz’s younger sister.
“She’ll be a 2-year-old here this year,” he added.
Their dam is the talented Jess Cuz, a talented multiple graded stakes place mare for Double Bar S Ranch. Jess Cuz earned $82,597 in her career, which included runner-up efforts in both the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap and Grade 2 Golden State Derby.
Five Livestock Company and Steve Wright’s Chicks First Flash was third out of the gate and came on strong after the midway point before settling for second place. He has finished in the top two in eight of his 10 career starts. Armando Cervantes piloted the gelding by First Moonflash. He earned $6,750 for running second. Ronnie Brooks Keller’s Normandy was third and was followed by Hay Shaker, Forever Dynasty, Ima Sixy Man, Henry D, Dangerous Fella, and Marcelo.