DUTCH MASTERS III’S RACY SWEET CORONA, KEITH NELLESEN’S FOURSOME STAR IN KINDERGARTEN TRIALS NIGHT
No Quarter Horse owner has more Kindergarten Futurity wins than Dutch Masters III’s four victories, and no Quarter Horse trainer has scored in Kindergarten more often than trainer Jaime Gomez, who has won it eight times. Dutch Masters III and Gomez have teamed up to win the Kindergarten in four previous occasions with number five possibly occurring soon if the talented Racy Sweet Corona repeats his impressive trial effort in this year’s final on Sunday, May 14.
Ridden by Oscar Peinado, Racy Sweet Corona (photo) brushed at the start of his trial, but ran like a flash from that point on, as the gelding by 1996 Kindergarten winner Corona Cartel went to post a 2 ½ length win in the third of eight trials on Sunday at Los Alamitos Race Course. The gate to wire victory resulted in Racy Sweet Corona racing to the fastest qualifying time to the Grade 2, $275,900 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity at 300 yards. Starting from post number seven, the Johnny Trotter-bred runner covered the distance in :15.572, the fastest among the 62 trials participants.
“This is the kind of thing that lights your life,” said Dr. James Streelman of Dutch Masters III. “You smile when you see it happen. I now have one concern now when I call these guys on Tuesday, ‘How did he come back?’ because he ran pretty fast. What a nice win.”
Dutch Masters III shares the stakes record of wins with the late Hall of Fame owner and breeder Ivan Ashment.
“Just don’t ask me how many seconds we’ve had in this race,” added Streelman with a smile. “Twin Spires, Secret Card and Sassy Smith were some of the winners. Gold Nugget Rd won over Higher Fire in 2005. I asked (Jaime) that day, ‘Can the filly Higher Fire run with the colt Gold Nugget Rd?’ and he said, ‘She might beat him.’ That’s the only (stakes) he ever won, but she came back and did pretty good.”
Higher Fire would go on to win the Ed Burke Million Futurity and the Golden State Million Futurity before running second in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. She provided Streelman with many great memories, something that Racy Sweet Corona will look to do three weeks from now.
“This is the type of horse we are shooting for all the time early in the year,” Gomez said. “My man here, he likes the Kindergarten. He pays every (horse) that he has in the Kindergarten. I have to hold him to not to pay into it sometimes. He tells me that it matters to him to run them here so that’s what we do.”
“I like to see what we’ve got early,” Streelman added. “Cloud Burst got slammed sideways (in the first trial). She had no chance. She’ll have another shot.”
It was also a huge night for owner Keith Nellesen, trainer Heath Taylor, and jockey Jose Nicasio as they joined forces to win four of the eight Kindergarten trials. The Nellesen-owned quartet of Think Again Kev (photo), Kevins Knockout, Choosen One, and Political Rivalry all posed for winning photos following their trials and more importantly, they all qualified to the Kindergarten final. Nellesen’s fantastic four have combined to win their first eight career outings.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Nellesen said. “We are making a commitment to come back to California. We like it. It’s easy for us to come out here (from Utah). We have seven out here and six (ran in the trials). The Kindergarten is something we pointed for. We love it down here and it looks like it’s working. It’s a good start.”
Nellesen’s KVN Corona, who is the sire of Think Again Kev, Kevins Knockout, and Political Rivalry, enjoyed an outstanding racing career at Los Alamitos. He won the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million, Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity, and Grade 3 El Primero Del Año Derby at Los Alamitos, while nine of his 10 starts at the Orange County track.
“(KVN Corona), he’s part of our family. We are hoping that we can recreate a little bit of that magic that he had out here.”
Where did the names of Think Again Kev and Kevins Knockout come from?
“That’s his barn name at Lazy E Ranch,” said Nellesen of KVN Corona. “They call him Kevin out there so that’s where that came from. We named a few after him. Also, my business partner in McColee is named Kevin.”
KVN Corona is named after Super Bowl winner Kyle Van Noy, who now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Of the four Nellesen winners, Think Again Kev posted the quickest time, winning his trial by 1 ¾ lengths in a time of :15.623. His time was the second fastest of the night. The filly Kevins Knockout finished with the third fastest time after winning the opening trial by a neck in :15.694. Choosen One, a gelding by Favorite Cartel out of KVN Little Sister, was the sixth fastest qualifier following his victory by a neck in :15.735, while Political Rivalry clocked in with he seventh time of :15.738 following his ¾ length win.
“(Think Again Kev) broke in and (Nicasio) had to hold him probably the first 100 to 150 yards to keep him off the inside rival,” trainer Heath Taylor said. “I think that even though he ran and ran well he has a lot of room for improvement. (Choosen One) has had two nice outs. I think he probably needs a different bit. He runs with his head real low to the ground, kind of like the horse of Chris O’Dell that won the Los Alamitos Two Million last year, Cyber Attack. It’s almost like an armadillo. I think I have to change to a different bit, a ring bit, to help hold his head up. (Nicasio) said he just wants to run with his head real low. It’s hard to ride him. He said he stumbled pretty good. I thought that if you watch the slow-motion replay, I thought for how bad Political Rivalry fell two times all the way to the ground, that it was a pretty impressive race.”
Taylor had a busy night, as he entered a total of 17 juveniles to the trials. In addition to Nellesen’s four, he also qualified Bobby and Catherine Simmons’ Brindisi. The Tres Seis filly, who is out of the graded stakes winner Dash Ta Moon, ran second to Choosen One in the seventh trial and posted the ninth fastest time of :15.780.
“I thought the horses ran well. I had some first-time starters. Some of them had late birthdates so because of the rule out here, you can’t start until you’re a 2-years-old. Some of their greenness showed up and some of them shipped in a little later. I thought the ones that won ran well.”
J. Francisco Diaz’ Hez Lonesome (photo) posted the fourth fastest time after winning the second trial by a length in :15.715. The gelding by Hez Our Secret has won both of his career starts and is trained by Diaz’s son, Lindolfo Diaz.
“This year my dad only had one in the Kindergarten,” Lindolfo said. “We bought him as a weanling and he’s not that big. This is the only race that he’s paid for. He’s in the Kindergarten and nothing else. He’s sharp and smart. He picks up things quickly. He’s (small) but it looks like he can run a little, at least 300. That’s what we need him for.”
Hez Lonesome entered the night after winning one of the slowest 220-yard races of the season. However, the winning time did not reflect how well he performed in his first start.
“That day, he was in the one hole,” Lindolfo said. “He didn’t really break. Him being small, the break is his strength. He didn’t break. He kind of tucked back a little bit and he made the lead at about the third jump and took off. He actually did quite well. He won the race, but he had obstacles, and he overcame them. He showed me a lot that day. He showed me heart. Today, he actually broke the way I know he should. He finished pretty good. (Jesus Rios Ayala) said that he tapped him a few times and he started rolling late.”
The rest of the qualifiers all came out of the opening trial and are as follows; Ed Allred’s homebred Favorite Cartel gelding Just A Fooler, who finished with the fifth fastest time after running second to Kevins Knockout in the opening trial; Rojas Racing LLC’s Max Storm, who was third to Kevins Knockout at 20-1 odds; and Taos River Ranch and Randy Young’s Double Down 123, who was fourth across the wire in that highly productive opening heat.
Trained by James Glenn, Jr., Just A Fooler ran a solid third in his debut when finishing behind Kindergarten finalist Think Again Kev. His dam is the Foose mare Deceptive, who made two stakes appearances in her racing career.
Max Storm is a Foose gelding trained by Ricardo Guillen. Rojas Racing and Guillen also qualified to the Kindergarten last year with Smokin Hot Fire, who similarly to Max Storm also ran third in his Kindergarten trial at 22-1.
Randy Young, the co-owner of Double Down 123, will look to win the Kindergarten for the third year in a row. The owner won the race last year with Valiantli and the 2021 running with Fire Fast Honey. Young won both of those races in partnership with Dennis Jensen. Trainer Monty Arrossa saddled Valiantli and Fire Fast Honey to their Kindergarten wins. Arrossa will look to make it three Kindergarten wins in a row, as he also trains the Flying Cowboy 123 filly Double Down 123.
Here's the complete list of qualifiers: Racy Sweet Corona (:15.572), Think Again Kev (:15.628), Kevins Knockout (:15.694), Hez Lonesome (:15.715), Just A Fooler (:15.720), Choosen One (:15.735), Political Rivalry (:15.738), Max Storm (:15.762), Brindisi (:15.780), and Double Down 123 (:15.799).