05/25/2004 11:00PM

Futurity trials get Ruidoso meet going


The 62-day summer season at Ruidoso Downs opens on Friday in the southern New Mexico mountains, with 21 trials for the Grade 1, $550,000 Ruidoso Futurity set to start at 11:30 a.m. The final trial is schedule to run at 7:10 p.m.

First post time for the remainder of the season (except for Grade 1 futurity trial days) will be 1 p.m. Racing this weekend runs through Monday, Memorial Day, and then starts a summer-long Thursday-through-Sunday schedule until Labor Day weekend, with the traditional closing on Labor Day. The Grade 1, $2 million All American Futurity, Quarter Horse racing's richest race, will be held on closing day.

The average daily purse distribution, without stakes, is $75,000, and when the stakes are factored in the daily purse distribution jumps to $170,000.

Many All American hopefuls will be competing in Friday's Ruidoso Futurity trials. A total of 208 2-year-olds are entered in the trials, including Grade 1 West Texas Futurity winner A Stone Runaway; Grade 1 Remington Park Futurity winner Eye Yin You; and Grade 2 Lazy E Futurity winner Conner Can.

The Ruidoso Futurity on June 13 is the first leg of the Ruidoso Triple, which pays a $4 million bonus to the connections of a horse who can win the Ruidoso Futurity, Rainbow Futurity, and All American Futurity.

Last year's leading Quarter Horse trainer, Dwayne Gilbreath, and leading Quarter Horse jockey, James Gonzales II are back. Last summer, Gilbreath won the Grade 1 All American Derby, and Gonzales won the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity.

Deep field in Town Policy

The field of six 3-year-olds in the Grade 3, $26,000 Town Policy Handicap over 350 yards on Friday night at Los Alamitos includes five stakes winners, headed by Seal Beach Handicap winner Contend.

Contend was purchased for $40,000 by Yanet Rodriguez and Federico Ruesga last winter, and that is proving to be a bargain. He has since won an allowance race and the Seal Beach Handicap in his most recent start.

Reed has two Remington hopes

Fastest qualifier Phoebes Otoole and Blue Ribbon Futurity third-place finisher Jess a Feature will try to give trainer Rodney Reed his third Heritage Place Futurity win in nine years in Saturday's running of the Grade 1, $378,299 race at Remington Park.

Reed won the Heritage Place, the richest race of the Remington Park season with Rakin in the Cash in 1996 and Fast First Prize in 2002.

Phoebes Otoole finished eighth in the Grade 2 Blue Ribbon Futurity on March 21 and then returned to win his maiden emphatically in his Heritage Place Futurity trial on May 8. He won by three lengths with the fastest qualifying time of 17.883 seconds.

Jess a Feature came off his third-place effort in the Blue Ribbon Futurity to win his Heritage Place Futurity trial in 18.083 seconds, good for the third-fastest qualifying time.

Also on Saturday, Wild Bill Mae will try to affirm his position as the best 3-year-old at Remington Park in the Grade 1, $106,350 Heritage Place Derby. He won only 2 of 7 starts last year, but has won all three of his 2004 starts, including the Grade 1, Remington Park Derby. He topped the qualifiers' list to the Heritage Place Derby with a trial win in 20.179 seconds for 400 yards.

Challenging weekend all over

It is a busy weekend for horses in the Challenge racing program with the MBNA America California Challenge on Saturday night at Los Alamitos and five Challenge races at Sam Houston Race Park this weekend.

The Grade 2, $64,000 California Challenge will bring together Grade 1, $200,000 Los Alamitos Winter Championship winner Buccaneer Beach, and Kaweah Bar Handicap winner Sky Lane Pie.

Topping the Sam Houston races is the $89,910 MBNA America Texas Challenge on Saturday, with Gone Celebrating, winner of the Grade 1, $400,000 The Championship at Sunland Park on Dec. 27.

Rounding out the Sam Houston races are:

* Brimmerton winner of 4 of 6 lifetime starts, tries for his first stakes win in the $59,940 Bayer Legend Texas Challenge for 3-year-olds on Saturday. He was the fastest qualifier with a 20.035 time for the 400 yards.

* Tomorrows Headlines, a top-three finisher in 10 of 17 career starts, goes for her first stakes win when she faces females in the $26,820 John Deere Texas Challenge on Saturday. She won her trial by a head in 20.053 seconds for 400 yards over second-fastest qualifier Sing and Pray.

* Seek and Destroy tops the 870-yard horses in the $24,570 MD Barns Texas Challenge on Monday after winning his three 870-yard starts, including the Grand Prairie Handicap and his MD Barns Texas Challenge trial.

* Lazy E Futurity third-place finisher Hesa Special Corona leads the juveniles in the $98,550 Ford Texas Challenge on Monday. He led the Ford qualifiers with a one-length trial win in 17.768 seconds for 350 yards.

Vals Fortune headlines derby

Vals Fortune, the 2003 champion 2-year-old, will be favored to gain his first 2004 stakes win in the $141,750 Delta Downs Derby on Saturday night.

Vals Fortune earned his championship after winning 10 races (six of them stakes) and setting three track records from 11 starts. This year, Vals Fortune was second in a minor stakes after stumbling at the start and then rebounded to set the fastest qualifying time of 19.761 seconds for 400 yards in his derby trial.

Vals Fortune has earned $721,964.