Archive for August, 2006

Strawkins cuts to the chase

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Although Arealstraitheart was the fastest qualifier for the 2006 All American Derby, to be held Sunday, September 3 at Ruidoso Downs, my money is on Strawkins, who set a new track record for 440 yards, while winning the Rainbow Derby by 1¾ lengths on July 22.

In addition to his notoriety on the track, Strawkins has an interesting family that includes Smart Little Philus, a cutting performer with $14,000 in National Cutting Horse Association earnings.

Trained by Paul Jones for Donald and Peggy Boyles of Madras, Oregon, Strawkins is the fastest horse ever to run the classic quarter-mile distance in the 60-year history of Ruidoso Downs. His time of :20.73 seconds eclipsed the previous record of :20.94 set by Snow Big Deal in 2003, and threatened the world record of :20.68 set by Long Goodbye at Sunland Park in 2005.

“He stumbled a little at the start, but he stumbled to the lead and just drew off from there,” said jockey Cody Jensen. “I had no idea that he was setting a track record, especially with the stumble.”

The Boyles, Oregon farmers who own the gelding’s dam, Shirleys Strawfly, by Strawfly Special, almost lost Strawkins as a newborn, when he contracted a soil borne bacterial infection. But in his first start, the Hawkinson son went on to ace the Pot O’ Gold Futurity trials in Kennewick, Washington, and broke the 300-yard track record in the Futurity.

The Pot O’ Gold victory was the first of Strawkins’ four stakes wins at four different tracks, including two at Ruidoso Downs. The Boyles paid a supplemental fee to enter the Rainbow Derby trials and a $40,000 supplemental fee to enter the All American Derby trials, where Strawkins drew the number one post position on a sloppy track to finish third. It was his first defeat at the New Mexico track following four wins; he has a lifetime record of 10 wins from 14 starts.

Among Strawkins’ fans at Ruidoso Downs on Derby day will be Tom and Jan Tofell, Millsap, Texas, who own Nylas Special Girl, a full sister to Strawkins’ dam and the mother of Smart Little Philus, by cutting sire Smart Little Jerry.

The Tofells, who worked for Ernest Cannon and cared for Jae Bar Fletch, when Cannon and Kenny Patterson rode the stallion as 1991 NCHA Non-Pro and 1989 Open World Champion, acquired Nylas Special Girl in 1996, at two, when they traded a “kid’s horse” for her.

The mare had been started once on the track and earned $475, and Jan thought she might make a nice barrel racer. Tom, however, had toyed with the idea of crossing a cutting horse to a racehorse, and when he received a breeding to Smart Little Jerry for helping to form that stallion’s syndicate, Nylas Special Girl went to the breeding barn instead of to the barrel races.

Smart Little Philus was the first foal out of Nylas Special Girl, as well as Smart Little Jerry’s first foal. Jason Clark(pictured right) trained the filly and showed her as one of the high-scoring horses in the first go-round of the NCHA Futurity.

“I was with Dan Lufkin when he decided to breed Doc N Missy to Dash For Cash,” Tofell recalled. “His idea was that if you breed an athlete to an athlete, you’re going to get an athlete.” Miss N Cash, 1987 NCHA Derby champion and NCHA Futurity sire, was the result of Lufkin’s cross.

“Shorty Freeman was one for it, too,” Tofell added. “He said that a little bit of race doesn’t hurt a bit in these horses.”

Bobby Pidgeon, owner of Bar H Ranche, noticed Smart Little Philus, when Clark was showing her. When Pidgeon inquired about her pedigree and found out about her strong racing blood, he offered Tofell a breeding to Dual Pep in exchange for an embryo from Nylas Special Girl. The foals are now two-year-olds and training well.

“Bobby said he likes a running Quarter Horse (as an outcross) rather than a Thoroughbred because a Thoroughbred reaches and a Quarter Horse pulls,” Tofell explained.

This year, Nylas Special Girl produced two colts by Freckles Fancy Twist (one for the stallion’s owner, Daniel Bloom, and one for Tofell), and she is carrying a Bets CD foal for 2007. In 2007, however, Nylas Special Girl may go another route.

“I took her papers over to Sleepy Gilbreath,” explained Tofell, referring to the leading race trainer and All American Futurity winner. “He looked at them and said, ‘You know, you might have one of the best bred mares in the State of Texas and you’re breeding her to a damned cutting horse.’ It was kind of funny, but we’re thinking about breeding her to Brimmerton next year.”

Brimmerton, a son of First Down Dash who stands at the Four Sixes Ranch, won the 2004 Rainbow Derby and All American Derby.

Ollie Ashley, 1928-2006

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Ollie Ashley, 78, wife of National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame member Beamon Ashley, collapsed and died Sunday night at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, during the North Texas Cutting Horse Association Summer Circuit. The Ashleys, who lived in Dallas and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week, were avid cutting fans and seldom missed a day of competition, from first go-round through the finals, at Will Rogers Coliseum.

 “They had no children,” said former NCHA president Punk Carter. “NCHA was their whole life.”

Beamon Ashley (pictured with Ollie) was born on January 1, 1922 and grew up on a ranch in Huntsville, Texas. He met George Glascock, the first NCHA world champion, in Dallas, where Ashely was employed as a driver for John W. Carpenter, founder and chairman of Southland Life Insurance Co, and a major force in Dallas’ development during the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1957, Ashley went to work for Glascock, who maintained a ranch near Fort Worth and called on Ashley’s services during the Fort Worth Livestock Show and Rodeo. In the 1960s, Ashley was hired by NCHA executive director Zack Wood to work at NCHA events in Will Rogers Coliseum, a post he held for more than three decades.

Ashley was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame in 2000.     

Mrs. Ollie Ashley will be at Singing Hills Funeral Home, Dallas, Texas, this week.  214-371-4311. Her funeral will be held at Salem Baptist Church, 3918 Crozier Street, Dallas, TX 75215. (214) 428-3797 on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Photo of Beamon & Ollie Ashley by Pam Robison

All set for All American Futurity

Monday, August 28th, 2006

It’s all in the family for the 10 qualifiers to the $2 million All American Futurity, to be held on Labor Day, September 4 at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. Nine of the two-year-old Quarter Horse qualifiers for the 440-yard race carry the sire First Down Dash within the first two generations of their pedigrees. The tenth is the offspring of a First Down Dash grandson.

Horses with the 10 fastest times from 162 trial entrants qualified for the All American Futurity where the winner alone will earn $1 million.

In addition to strong family ties, seven of the 10 finalists have won or placed in Grade 1 futurities. Okey Dokey Fantasy, trained by John Boegner for Okey Dokey Fantasy Joint Venture, is the top contender based on his record of eight wins in eight starts and earnings of $440,768.

“I just want the ninth win. That’s all I want,” said Boegner, referring to the All American Futurity. Okey Dokey Fantasy’s eighth win came in his trial for the All American, where he prevailed by 1¼ lengths with the tenth-fastest qualifying time of 21.312 seconds.

“I thought he ran his best race in the All American trials,” Boegner added. “It’s hard to say he’s improving, but I think he is.” Okey Dokey Fantasy leads the nation in races won and ranks second in earnings.

A yearling half-sister to Okey Dokey Fantasy named Fontanas Stoi will sell in the Ruidoso Select Quarter Horse Yearling Sale at Ruidoso Downs on the Sunday evening before Labor Day.

No Secrets Here, owned by leading race breeder Vessels Stallion Station in partnership with Benny Rosset, was the fastest qualifier. The First Down Dash-sired colt, ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Paul Jones, won his trial in 21.044 seconds over a sloppy track.

“Actually, he wasn’t getting a hold of the track,” Jensen noted, after the trial. “I was surprised that he went that fast. I had to keep picking him up and couldn’t let him go.”

Jensen won the 2005 All American Futurity with Teller Cartel, who broke his maiden and paid $37.80 for the win. Also trained by Paul Jones, Teller Cartel was named Champion 2-Year-Old Race Colt for 2005 by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

No Secrets Here, one of three qualifiers bred by Vessels Stallion Station, home of First Down Dash, placed third in the Ed Burke Million at Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California on June 24.

“He was gaining ground in the Ed Burke and would have been second in another jump,” said Jones. “Since the Ed Burke is at 350 yards, we thought he would like the 440 yards of the All American Futurity and decided to bring him.”

The All American Futurity will be telecast on Labor Day through TVG and Fox regional networks Estimated post time is 4:40 p.m. MDT. Coverage of the All American Futurity and Derby will be featured on ESPN2’s recap of the week’s major stakes on September 5 at 2:00 MDT.

CD Lights surpasses $200,000

Monday, August 28th, 2006

CD Lights, who leads the NCHA open world championship standings (as of 8-25-06), passed his $200,000 lifetime earnings mark last weekend. The 7-year-old stallion, ridden from the start by co-owner Winston Hansma, was a finalist in 14 major aged events, including the 2003 Suncoast, which he won with 229 points – a record high for the event.

CD Lights’ other co-owner, Danny Motes, bred the stallion out of Delight Of My Life, who Hansma rode to win the 1997 NCHA Derby. Hansma also showed CD Olena, the sire of CD Lights, to win the 1994 NCHA Futurity and the 1995 NCHA Derby.

With wins in six top circuits, CD Lights has held the world championship lead from the start. But it was the goal of $200,000 in earnings that kept Hansma and Motes on the trail, and they scheduled shows to accommodate the stallion’s full book of mares at Alpha Equine Breeding Center near Weatherford, Texas.

Although Jeremy and Candy Barwick’s gelding Dual Rey Me is currently in second place and closing fast, Hansma and Motes are adamant about their course.

“We are sticking to our plan,” said Motes. “No hauling all over the country – just to where it works out comfortably for him. We need him to last at the breeding barn for many a year to come.”

Recommended reading

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Gail Caldwell’s memoir, A Strong West Wind, is the first title in our new “Recommended Reading” department.

Ranch House Dog: Velvet Brown Ware

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Velvet Brown shares her ranch home in Weatherford, Texas with Ruby, a red and white border collie, and Jim and Carolyn Ware. Jim and his partners Ben Emison and Milt Bradford own and operate Western Bloodstock, the nation’s top performance horse sale company.

Ruby was given to the Wares as a gift by their neighbor Lindy Burch, after their  border collie, Miss Lily, met an untimely death. Velvet Brown, now three, joined the Ware household as a puppy to keep Ruby company. But the Corgi’s sense of self-assurance soon led to a broader job description.

“Velvet has turned out to be the boss of us all,” admitted Carolyn Ware, who was alarmed to learn that ‘Miss Brown’ has a taste for diamonds. Having once loosened a setting in Carolyn’s favorite bracelet with her teeth, Velvet promptly swallowed the jewel.

But chasing squirrels is Velvet Brown’s favorite pasttime. She works so hard at it, in fact, that some days she has to take a break and chill out in the pool.

Its just about $300,000

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Its Just About Me (Charles), a leader among foals of 1999, passed the $300,000 earnings milestone with a win under Matt Gaines at the North Texas Cutting Association Summer Circuit in Fort Worth.

The sorrel stallion, owned by Bob and Nan Kingsley’s Bluestem Ranch, Weatherford, Texas, was retired to DLR Stallion Station last year, where he’s been bred to some industry leaders, including 2002 NCHA Horse of the Year Little Pepto Gal. But it was hard for Kingsley to pass up an opportunity to bring Charles to Will Rogers Coliseum and shoot for one more notch in his record.

Kingsley, the host of Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40, had another motive in bringing Charles out of retirement. For the first time, Kingsley would be able to ride the stallion himself.

“When Matt rode him, he turned so hard a few times that Matt’s rear came out of the saddle,” Kingsley noted on Friday. “I just hope I can stay on him.”

The next day, Kingsley had no problem staying aboard Charles and, despite his “first time” jitters, scored 75 points. It was just the third time Kingsley had shown a horse since he was sidelined following surgery, last fall and again this spring, to repair a detached retina in his right eye. Then on Sunday, he marked 76 to win the Non-Pro.

Bob Kingsley with Its Just About Me.