LARC NEWS Posted: 5/13/2024 4:16:40 AM


        Eddie Willis’ first attempt to win the Rober Adair Kindergarten Futurity was a huge success, as the 2020 AQHA champion trainer saddled the Capo De Capi gelding Cedar Hill to an upset victory at 13-1 odds for owners Abelardo Flores and James Sills in the Grade 2, $256,200 final on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

Willis has made Los Alamitos a key part of his schedule in recent years, often arriving at the Orange County oval after the end of the Ruidoso Downs meet on Labor Day. Once here, Willis set his sights on the late season major stakes races like the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, Golden State Million Futurity and Los Alamitos Super Derby.

From 2009 to 2023, Willis had 254 starters at the Southern California track, but it wasn’t until last year that Willis started a horse here prior to the month of September. Even then, Willis had only six starters in the months of January through March, but it may have been a sign of things to come for the champion trainer at Los Alamitos.

So far in 2024, Willis has already made a huge impact at Los Alamitos. He’s already saddled 31 starters resulting in 11 wins, now, of course, highlighted by Cedar Hill’s victory in the prestigious Robert Adair Kindergarten. Cedar Hill and his stablemate Freight Lyner both debuted in the Oklahoma Futurity trials at Remington Park on March 9. Cedar Hill ran a good second in his Oklahoma Futurity trial and then followed it with an appearance in the Oklahoma Juvenile Stakes on March 23,

After those starts, Cedar Hill was sent to California to run in the Kindergarten Futurity trials on April 21. He was tremendous in his trial, as he led from start to finish in route to winning his local debut by a nose while earning the third fastest qualifying time.

For the Kindergarten final, Oscar Peinado picked up the mount on Cedar Hill and the two worked great together. The Oklahoma-bred was fastest of all at the start, lugged in after being well clear of his early rivals and from there he held off a strong effort from Keith Nellesen’s My Budd to win the Kindergarten by a neck.  Racing from post number six, Cedar Hill earned $107,604 for the win while covering the distance in :15.430, the fastest by a 2-year-old at 300 yards this season.

“He can really leave the gate,” Willis said of Cedar Hill. “That’s his big deal and the reason I brought him out here for this shorter race. We ran (Cedar Hill and Freight Lyner) in Oklahoma and they both got in some trouble. I thought they would fit here and the reason I brought them out here.”  

Named after Sills’ hometown in Texas, Cedar Hill is the second stakes winner at Los Alamitos for Flores and Sills. Their first Los Al stakes win came with another Willis-trainee, the multiple stakes winner A Toss Up, who won the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship in 2014. Willis also played a big part in Flores and Sills becoming partners in owning Quarter Horses.

“I bought a mare a long time ago and made them partners on her,” Willis said. “We raised two fillies out of that mare. The mother and granddam of these two horses, we raised them all. It’s been a really good partnership and a very good family of horses. It was a cheap investment. The mare was $25,000. James also owns the stud Capo De Capi and we had Freighttrain B also. It’s a whole deal.”

Sills bought his first Quarter Horse in 1980 and since then his horses have won nearly 200 races for over $4.6 million. Flores has been in racing since the early 1990s as well.  

Cedar Hill’s dam is Ms Shakem Cartel, who earned $33,703. She won her trial to the Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Futurity, qualifying to the Grade 3 final. His granddam is Shakem Easy Dash, who made nearly $200,000. This family also includes the previously mentioned A Toss Up, who earned over $500,000.

With no other major engagements in California, Cedar Hill will return to Oklahoma and be pointed to stakes races there.

Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo and trained by Heath Taylor, the KVN Corona gelding My Budd earned $43,554 for running second from along the rail. A winner of the Kindergarten in four previous occasions, Dutch Masters III was represented by third place finisher Play Misty in this race. A filly by Jess Good Candy, Play Misty earned $30,744 for her strong effort from the outside post 10. Jaime Gomez, an eight-time winner of the Kindergarten, saddled Play Misty, who was ridden by Eduardo Nicasio.

Randy Young, who had been part of the winning ownership team in each of the last three Kindergartens, is part owner of fourth place finisher Hey Wauss. His partners on the Ivory James runners are Lex Fabrizio and Dennis Jensen, who teamed up with Young to win the Kindergarten in 2021 and 2022. Jose Luis Valdez’s Val Sofia completed the top five. Exploiter, Set The Edge, Zoomin On Home, Fear N Fridays and Freight Lyner completed the field.



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