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.