Noconi, a maiden just two starts ago, upset champion Heartswideopen in her bid to become quarter horse racing’s all-time leading money earner, in the $1 million All American Derby, on August 31 at Ruidoso Downs.
R.D. Hubbard and Johnny T.L. Jones’ homebred Noconi, trained by Paul Jones, made the lead with 100 yards left in the 440-yard stakes and Heartswideopen made a furious late bid, but came up a neck short at the wire. Ramon Sanchez guided Noconi over the sloppy track to the win in :21.16, equaling the stakes record set by Significant Speed in 2002.
“My horse won last time and kind of built his heart up a little bit,” said Jones. “Sometimes when you win, you get a little confidence. The horse is getting better. He just ran the perfect race and that’s what I knew he needed to do to beat her [Heartswideopen]. It worked out great.”
It was the fourth stakes win in three days at Ruidoso Downs for the Hubbard-Jones connection. On Saturday, Hubbard’s Ketel Won captured the All American Gold Cup and Joan Dale Hubbard’s Tricky Dust won the 870-yard Brigand Handicap. In Friday’s Zip Pocket Overnight Stakes for thoroughbreds, R.D. Hubbard’s Going Wild won.
“From the time we ran the trials I thought we had a good shot,” said Hubbard, following Noconi’s victory. “I really thought we’d run first or second.”
Manny and Javier Rodriguez’s Heartswideopen was sent off as the strong favorite in her quest to surpass world champion Refrigerator as quarter horse racing’s all-time leading money earner. World champion Refrigerator earned $2,126,309. Heartswideopen has earned $1,885,282 and is ranked fourth on the all-time leading money-earning roster.
It was Heartswideopen’s second defeat from 13 career starts and ended a nine-race winning streak.The 2007 champion two-year-old and champion two-year-old filly had made each of her 12 previous starts on a fast track.
“The racetrack kind of got away from her and she couldn’t make her comfortable run when I asked her,” said Heartswideopen’s jockey Bonifacio Perez.
It is likely the final career start for Heartswideopen. Trainer Carl Draper has said that she will be bred in 2009, but left open the option that she could return to racing after the breeding season for a limited campaign. She will only race again unless she is completely sound and happy, according to Draper.
Noconi, a gelded son of Mr Jess Perry, earned $532,824 for his second career win. He won his maiden in his All American Derby trial, when he raced the 440 yards in :20.983, the fastest qualifying time from the five trials.
Noconi, the 5-1 second choice, was winless in his first 10 starts, but was a respected stakes horse, with a second in last year’s Hobbs America Futurity and thirds, each behind Heartswideopen, in the Ruidoso and Rainbow derbies. The All American Derby victory gives Noconi a berth in the $1 million Champion Of Champions at Los Alamitos Race Course on December 13.
The complete order of finish in the All American Derby was Noconi, Heartswideopn, Decati, Wild Six, Possum Fast, First Moonflash, White Or Wrong, First Timber, MBN Finest Hour and Captain Courage.