Updated on 02/07/2016 5:56PM

Favored Fire tops qualifiers for South Florida Quarter Horse Derby

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Favored Fire, ridden by Francisco Ramirez, wins his trial in 21.279 seconds for 440 yards.

Favored Fire, making his first start since finishing a troubled seventh in trials for the Hialeah Derby on Dec. 27, posted the fastest qualifying time during four heats Sunday for the South Florida Quarter Horse Derby at Hialeah Park.

Ridden by Francisco Ramirez, Favored Fire got up by a neck over 40-1 outsider Genovese, completing 440 yards in 21.279 seconds. It was his first win since his career debut at Sam Houston last April. A son of world champion sire Walk Thru Fire, Favored Fire followed up by finishing second in the Grade 3 Sam Houston Juvenile Challenge in May at 350 yards, but had raced only twice since then prior to Sunday.

Eight of the  top 10 qualifiers advancing to the $204,265 finals on Feb. 28 came out of the first heat.

Judd Kearl, the leading trainer at the meet, qualified three horses to the finals, including Ec Jet One, winner of the $390,955 Hialeah Derby on Jan. 17. Ec Jet One surged in deep stretch to win the fourth and final heat in 21.414 seconds, the fifth-fastest time, and his third straight win of the meet.

The fastest of Kearl’s qualifiers was Carters Sixty Six, who despite getting bumped at the start, finished with the fourth-best qualifying time of 21.391 as the 6-5 favorite in the first heat.

Habits Secret upsets Daytona B

Habits Secret, who spent the 2015 season as a stallion in Indiana, won his second straight race following a 15-month layoff in Sunday's $26,500 Sawgrass Stakes for older horses going 440 yards.

Ridden by Cristian Esqueda for trainer Sergio Concepcion, the 6-year-old Habits Secret ($13.60), a son of No Secrets Here, ran the distance in 21.596 seconds to score by a neck over Eyesa Famous Eagle. Daytona B, the 2-5 favorite, hopped at the start and finished in a dead heat for third with Parti Favor.