09/02/2008 11:00PM

Curtis getting big results with small stable


Trainer Eric Curtis, who sent out Jet Black Patriot to finish second in Monday's Grade 1, $1.9 million All American Futurity, looks to continue his breakout year when he saddles Grade 1 Firecracker Futurity winner Swingin N Ease in Friday's Grade 1, $335,200 Sam Houston Futurity at Sam Houston Race Park.

The Louisiana-based Curtis has only eight horses in his stable, but has become a national presence. Jet Black Patriot won his first five starts, including the Grade 1 Lee Berwick Futurity for Louisiana-breds and the Grade 2 Mardi Gras Futurity, before finishing second in Monday's All American Futurity as the second choice. He battled with favorite Stolis Winner in a virtual match race for the last half of the 440-yard futurity. Stolis Winner then pulled away for a half-length win.

Swingin N Ease also has produced for the Curtis barn. After finishing fourth in his career debut, he reeled off three straight wins. The highlight of that streak was the gelding's half-length win in the Grade 1 Firecracker Futurity. He raced the 350 yards in 17.53 seconds, a fast time over the Delta Downs surface.

In his Sam Houston Futurity trial, Swingin N Ease finished a neck behind second-fastest qualifier Mon Ti Stoli while racing to a qualifying time of 20.005 seconds for the 400 yards.

Mon Ti Stoli, who was fourth behind Swingin N Ease in the Firecracker Futurity, won his maiden in the trial by a neck in 19.973 seconds. He raced to two second-place finishes before his fourth-place finish in the Firecracker Futurity.

Topping the Sam Houston Futurity qualifiers list is Grade 1 TQHA Sale Futurity runner-up Show Me Your Toole. The gelding finished just a head behind Jodys Money Pop in the Sale Futurity before rolling to a two-length Sam Houston Futurity trial win in 19.926 seconds.

In Saturday's Grade 2, $121,100 Sam Houston Derby, trainer Heath Taylor looks to continue his sensational week. He sent out All American Futurity winner Stolis Winner and third-place finisher Jess Zoomin.

He is well represented in the Sam Houston Derby by fastest-qualifier Swingin Jess, one of the premier juveniles in Texas last year. In 2007, the gelding won the Grade 1 Manor Downs Futurity and the Grade 1 Retama Park Futurity and concluded his freshman campaign with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity.

Swingin Jess has only one win from four starts this year, but that win was a nose victory over Romancing Mary in their Sam Houston Derby trial. Swingin Jess raced to the fastest qualifying time of 21.421 seconds for the 440 yards, while Romancing Mary was timed in the second-fastest time of 21.431 seconds.

Romancing Mary's consistency has been her strength, with 10 on-the-board finishes from 11 starts, highlighted by 4 wins. She is still chasing a stakes win that would enhance her breeding value, however she has a second in the 2007 Sam Houston Futurity and thirds in the Grade 2 Longhorn Futurity and the Grade 2 Manor Downs Derby.

Leading Spirit heads challenge

Champion Leading Spirit will be the solid choice in the Grade 2, $76,000 Bank of America California Challenge on Friday night at Los Alamitos.

Leading Spirit earned the 2005 champion 2-year-old gelding title on the strength of wins in the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity and the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs. He has not raced to a Grade 1 win since the Rainbow Futurity more than three years ago but was a close second in last fall's Grade 1 Go Man Go Invitational and comes off a solid conditioned allowance win.

Not a Full Moon also looks like he is peaking as he comes into the California Challenge. He was third in the Grade 3 Independence Day Handicap and then was second by a neck in the Grade 1 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship.