07/30/2012 7:20AM

Los Alamitos : Terrific Synergy wins Governor's Cup Derby

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Hurry up, calendar. Where are you early autumn?

An intended race in two months was firmly on trainer Cody’s Joiner’s mind as he watched Terrific Synergy walk out of the winner’s circle following the $217,500 Governor’s Cup Derby at Los Alamitos on Saturday.

Along with owners, the longtime racing partners Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie, Joiner watched in delight as Terrific Synergy ran arguably the best race of his career to win his first stakes in the Governor’s Cup Derby, his second start of 2012.

The derby win was the start of a campaign that will truly test Terrific Synergy. He is a candidate for the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap at Los Alamitos on Sept. 23. Aside from a couple of quarter-mile seven-figure dashes for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds in New Mexico earlier that month, the Go Man Go Handicap will be one of the most highly anticipated races of September. It is expected to draw reigning World Champion Cold Cash 123 in his California debut.

Facing such an opponent will be a tough assignment for Terrific Synergy. Until this summer, that was something that could have not been envisioned.

But considering the way that Terrific Synergy roared through the time trials on July 14, a race such as the Go Man Go Handicap is worth a try. Terrific Synergy was unchallenged in the Governor’s Cup Derby.

Ridden by G.R. Carter, Jr., Terrific Synergy ran 400 yards in 19.48 seconds, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Breaking from post 6, Terrific Synergy lunged slightly at the start, giving Smith a slight fear.

“It worried me a bit, but when I saw that he was clear, I thought he’d be okay,” Smith said. “He just needed a lane.”

About 50 yards into the race, Terrific Synergy bobbled slightly, but recovered and led by a half-length after 100 yards. The competition was unable to get any closer. Carter had Terrific Synergy in front by more than a length midway through the race.

“G.R. said it’s such an amazing feeling to pull away from those other horses,” Joiner said. “For a big horse, he has a quick turn of foot for the first 50 yards. He does have the quickness.”

Ima Chickie Too, a Chicks Beduino filly, finished second, a head in front of Kindly Fellow. Ima Chickie Too is leased by S-Quarter K. The filly won the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Breeders’ Futurity last October. The Governor’s Cup Derby was only her second start of 2012.

Kindly Fellow, a gelding by Tr Dasher, has become a hard-luck horse.

Owned by Berenisse and Marlyn Gonzalez, Kindly Fellow was fourth in the Kindergarten, second in the Ed Burke and fourth in the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity last year.

Pony Drive, who made his stakes debut, finished fourth, followed by Eye for FDD, New Look, Sompin About First, Chicks Boudro and Shes Prime Time. Curlie Cue was scratched on the morning of the race. New Look is best known for winning the El Primero Del Ano Derby in April.

Terrific Synergy is a gelding by Fdd Dynasty, out of Terrific Energy.

By Mr Jess Perry, Terrific Energy was a multiple stakes winner. Her wins included the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap in 2009. She was bred via embryo transfer to FDD Dynasty later that year, a mating that produced Terrific Synergy. Terrific Energy was put back into training later in 2009 and made her final start in early 2010.

The Governor’s Cup Derby was Terrific Synergy’s fourth appearance in the final of a major race. Last year, he was fourth in the Ed Burke Million, sixth in the Golden State Million and ninth in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Over the winter, he underwent surgery to have a bone chip removed from a knee. The trial for the Governor’s Cup Derby was his first start of 2012.

“This year, he’s trained completely different and he’s gotten better and better,” Joiner said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Terrific Synergy has won four of six starts at 400 yards. All of the major stakes at Los Alamitos in the fall are over 400 and 440 yards.

“The distance will work to his advantage,” Joiner said. “The farther he runs, the better.

We’ll run a 3-year-old against older horses. I think we have that kind of horse. I think he might face Cold Cash (123). It will be fun.”

Joiner, 32, has a 35-horse stable at Los Alamitos and a much smaller division at Ruidoso, where his father, Mike, is based this summer. In 2009, Cody Joiner won the Las Damas Handicap with Forgive Me. He has yet to win a major stakes for older horses.

Guthrie and Smith campaigned Fdd Dynasty with the late Scoop Vessels. A two-time champion and millionaire, Fdd Dynasty was third to Blues Girl Too in the 2007 Champion of Champions. Whether Terrific Synergy can reach that race will be known in coming months.

“When I think of him I start to dream big and I think that’s okay,”

Smith said. “You can dream. I think that’s why we as owners do this.”

The Go Man Go Handicap carries an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions in December.

After the Governor’s Cup Derby, the two partners debated which of Terrific Synergy’s two starts this year most captured their attention.

“The trial might have been,” Guthrie said.

“I don’t know,” Smith said.  “In this race, he beat Kindly Fellow and he was second in the Ed Burke. He beat New Look and he won a Derby. He beat some nice horses.”

They may have a difference of opinion now. They’ll settle for a career-best performance sometime this fall.

*The win by Terrific Synergy overshadowed the first stakes win of the former claimer Twelve Stepper in the $100,000 Spencer Childers Championship for older California-breds.

In January, Twelve Stepper won a $12,500 claimer over 300 yards. He rose through the claiming levels through the spring, racing for $20,000 and $30,000, before finishing second in the Independence Day Handicap on July 1.

A 4-year-old gelding by Walk Thru Fire, Twelve Stepper is the first stakes winner for 42-year-old trainer Arnoldo Pulido, who began training earlier this year. Twelve Stepper was his fifth career winner.

Pulido, a native of Mexico, trains Twelve Stepper for Juan Humberto Moya. Pulido previously worked on Moya’s farm in Sanger, Calif., and sent race ready horses to Los Alamitos trainer Valentin Zamudio.

Pulido said he changed “two or three things” with Twelve Stepper in recent months. One of them was keeping an eye on his feed program, noticing that the gelding has had a more robust appetite of late. “If he’s eating good, he has power,” he said.

In the Spencer Childers, Twelve Stepper was ridden by Gregoria Arriaga.

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Twelve Stepper fought with favorite Creston Goer throughout the race and essentially won by a head-bob, finishing 400 yards in 19.68 seconds. The time was more than a length slower than Terrific Synergy’s clocking in the following race.

Creston Goer, a gelding by Tr Dasher, is owned by Salvador Veliz. Los Alamitos chairman Ed Allred bred the first two finishers.

Shining First Dash, second in the Ed Burke and Golden State Million futurities in 2009, finished third in the field of 10. The Spencer Childers was the first start of 2012 for Shining First Dash, who races for Gary Muller.