06/11/2010 12:00AM

Jones qualifiers look tough in futurity


Trainer Paul Jones on Sunday can pick up right where he left off last season at Ruidoso Downs − with a Grade 1 futurity win for Quarter Horses. He will send out the two fastest qualifiers for the Ruidoso Futurity, a $500,000 race that is the first of two major stakes on the road to the All American Futurity.

Jones won last year's All American with Runnning Brook Gal. After the Ruidoso Futurity on Sunday, he might have this year's early favorite for the race. American Runaway put on a show during trials for the Ruidoso Futurity on May 28. He won his race by 4 3/4 lengths while covering 350 yards in a blazing 17.13 seconds. It was the fastest qualifying time for the Ruidoso Futurity.

"I knew he was good, but I didn't know that he could run 17.13," said Cody Jensen, who rode the horse for the first time in the trials and has the mount again Sunday.

American Runaway won his maiden in his trial, one start after finishing second by a nose in the Grade 1 Remington Park Futurity on April 17. He has raced two other times, finishing third in a maiden special weight and third in a trial at Remington. American Runaway will be joined in the gate Sunday by his stablemate Royally Sandra, the second-fastest qualifier for the Ruidoso Futurity.

There were 19 trials held for the race, all on May 28. A rainstorm in the middle of the card led to the surface being downgraded from fast to sloppy after the eighth race. American Runaway won his trial on a fast strip, and Royally Sandra ran in the slop. Making her debut, she covered 350 yards in 17.45 seconds.

Royally Sandra won off like American Runaway, with her three-length score giving the Jones qualifiers a combined winning trial margin of 7 3/4 lengths. The chief threat to the pair could be No Dice Special, the most accomplished member of the field for his win in the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity at Sunland Park on April 18.

The Ruidoso Futurity winner will be the lone horse eligible this year for a $4 million bonus tied to the three major futurities at Ruidoso. A horse will cash if he or she also goes on to win the Grade 1, $625,000 Rainbow in July and the Grade 1, $2 million All American Futurity in September. The three races make up the All American Triple Crown.