11/09/2017 4:06PM

Hotstepper solid for Texas Classic Futurity

Gay Harris/Ruidoso Downs
Hotstepper could be the favorite in Saturday's Texas Classic Futurity.

When the famed Quarter Horse trainer Sleepy Gilbreath did not show up at Ruidoso Downs with a stable for the first time in 38 years in 2016, the track’s owner at the time, R.D. Hubbard, took notice.

“Mr. Hubbard said, ‘What’s it going to take to get you back out here?’ ” Gilbreath recalled. “I said, ‘Send me a good horse, and I’ll be there.’ And he did. His name is Hotstepper.”

Hotstepper could go favored in the richest race in Texas on Saturday night when he breaks from post 9 in the Grade 1, $873,616 Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park. The 400-yard race closes the track’s Quarter Horse meet, along with the Grade 1, $384,355 Texas Classic Derby.

Gilbreath, who has trained such top-class horses as Refrigerator and Ochoa, is now 72. He said he bypassed the 2016 meet at Ruidoso because he needed a little time off. But this year was different. Gilbreath was back at the New Mexico track full force, sending out Hotstepper to qualify for both the $1 million Rainbow and the $3 million All American Futurity.

“This is pretty special to me,” said Gilbreath, who trains Hotstepper for Hubbard, Johnny Cope, Henry Southway, and Rafter W Stables.

Hotstepper has won three of six starts, including a 1 1/2-length romp in his trial for the Texas Classic. He set the second-fastest time for the series when he won in 19.70 seconds Oct. 21. Hotstepper could go favored for that effort and his third-place finish in the All American on Sept. 4. He closed fast to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind dominant winner Fly Baby Fly.

“He ran a nice race,” Gilbreath said. “I think he’s a little more mature mentally and physically since the All American.”

Cody Jensen has the mount on Hotstepper.

Also in the 10-horse field are This Is an Eagle, winner of the Grade 2 Sam Houston Futurity in April, and Legacy Eagle, the fastest qualifier with a trial time of 19.69.

Dash Quick Perry will be going for his fifth straight win when he starts in the Texas Classic Derby, which also drew Grade 1 winners Duponte and High Plains Perry, the winner of last year’s Texas Classic Futurity.

Rick Lee of Lone Star will be joined by turf publicist Martha Claussen for a special handicapping seminar before the races.

Will Rogers closes with rich stakes

Will Rogers Downs near Tulsa closes out its Quarter Horse meet Saturday with two six-figure races: the $282,552 Black Gold 440 Championship and the $186,892 Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Futurity.

The Black Gold brings together 10 juveniles over 440 yards. Cloud Ridge is the most accomplished member of the field as a winner of four of six starts, including the Easy Jet Stakes for Oklahoma-breds in June at Remington Park. In more recent times, he ran third in the Dash For Cash Futurity on Sept. 30 at Lone Star.

The Mystery Futurity is for Oklahoma-breds at 350 yards. The stakes-winning filly Pv Queen Bee Candy will get good support off a 2 3/4-length trial win Oct. 29 at Will Rogers.