02/17/2010 12:00AM

Flores well armed in Winter Derby


Four years ago, Starlet Hawk gave Quarter Horse trainer Jose Antonio Flores milestone wins in races such as the Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Golden State Derby.

This year, Flores is back in Friday's $201,750 Los Alamitos Winter Derby, with a much deeper team. Flores saddles four of the 10 finalists for the 400-yard race, including fastest qualifier Princelike and Mamas Justice, a gelding by the Thoroughbred Lit de Justice, winner of the 1996 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Woodbine.

Add Headturner, who was second in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Futurity in October, and Mollys Cartel, who qualified for two major futurities last year, and Flores has an excellent chance for his first Grade 1 win since the 2006 season.

"All four of my horses ran great in the trials," Flores said. "Princelike is a special horse."

The betting is likely to reflect Flores's opinion. Owned by Los Alamitos track owner Ed Allred, Princelike ran 400 yards in 19.42 seconds in the Jan. 29 trials. Princelike has won 4 of 5 starts, with his only loss a third-place finish, by a neck, in the PCQHRA Futurity.

Mamas Justice, who had the second-fastest qualifying time of 19.55 seconds, has won 3 of 5 starts for owner-breeder Eladin Flores. The Winter Derby will be Mamas Justice's first start in a major stakes final.

Jose Flores told Eladin Flores before the trials that he was anxious to see how Mamas Justice would run with a clean break. The trainer found out at the end of the 400 yards when Mamas Justice won by a half-length in a 40-1 upset.

"I told him that if Mamas Justice had a great break that the Thoroughbred blood would help him make things interesting at the end of the race," Jose Flores said. "What he did was end up winning the trial."

The field also includes Hoist Mission, who won the Challenge Juvenile Championship in October and was third in the Jan. 29 trials; and Harems Last Dash, a half-brother to 1991 All American Futurity winner Royal Quick Dash who was second to Princelike in the trials.

The Flores-trained Mollys Cartel is the lone filly in the field and is appearing in her third Grade 1 race. Last year, she was fifth in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and seventh in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, failing to overcome poor starts in each.