04/05/2013 1:26PM

Los Alamitos: Freedom Choice sharp for El Primero Del Ano Derby

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Freedom Choice was the sort of 2-year-old Quarter Horse who improved with each start in 2012. By December, he was the 2-1 favorite in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, but finished third, losing by a head to the filly Matabari.

Freedom Choice’s 3-year-old season began on a brighter note, with a win in a March 17 time trial for Sunday’s $205,900 El Primero Del Ano Derby at Los Alamitos. He may not be favored in the final, but has an excellent chance to win the 400-yard race.

In the trial, Freedom Choice won by a half-length in 19.81 seconds, his third win in his fifth start. He has earned $271,128.

“We gave him some time off after he finished with some very good races last year,” trainer and co-owner Jose De La Torre said after the trials. “We gave him some light training just to get him fit enough for these races. We feel that he’s headed for some good things this year.”

Co-owned by the trainer’s brother, Gustavo, Freedom Choice has an enormous role to fill in the barn in 2013. The stable’s leading runner of 2012 was One Dashing Eagle, the Quarter Horse World Champion who won three seven-figure futurities – the Ed Burke Million in June and Golden State Million in November at Los Alamitos, and the All American Futurity at Los Alamitos in September.

One Dashing Eagle was retired to stud in January.

Sunday, Freedom Choice must contend with two other impressive trial winners from March 17, Henoshersecret and Mr Ease Cartel.

Henoshersecret, fourth in the Golden State Million, set the fastest qualifying time of 19.68 seconds in the trials. Trained and co-owned by Paul Jones, Henoshersecret has won 4 of 10 starts, but has yet to win a major stakes.

Mr Ease Cartel qualified for the Ed Burke Million Futurity last June but was not allowed to run after he was part of a group of horses seized by the Department of Justice whoe were determined to be owned by members of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel.

Mr Ease Cartel was sold to a partnership at the Heritage Place Mixed Sale in Oklahoma City for $127,000 in November as part of a government dispersal, and rejoined former trainer Jose Antonio Flores in late 2012.

In the time trials, Mr Ease Cartel won by a half-length win in 19.82 seconds. It was his second win this year.