07/22/2010 4:10PM

Love Samba fastest qualifier at Ruidoso - again


Having the role of fastest qualifier for a major Quarter Horse race at Ruidoso Downs is commonplace for Love Samba. Winning a lucrative final is not.

Last year, Love Samba was fourth in the Rainbow Futurity and fifth in the All American Futurity as the favorite. She was the fastest qualifier for both races. This year, the theme continues. Love Samba is the fastest qualifier for Saturday’s $873,441 Rainbow Derby, and trainer Blane Wood is begging for a breakthrough.

“We just need to break the ice and win one of these things,” Wood said. “I hate to jinx it, but maybe we can win it.”

Owned by Jim Pitts, Love Samba, a filly by Corona Cartel, has won 3 of 7 starts and $138,725. In the 2009 Rainbow Futurity, she became upset before the start and was beaten 1 3/4 lengths. A slow start cost her in the All American Futurity, in which she finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Runnning Brook Gal.

“She’s set the fastest qualifying time, but they don’t pay you for that,” Wood said.

Love Samba underwent surgery in the winter to have a bone chip removed from a knee. After extensive therapy, she returned to Ruidoso in the spring, finishing fifth in a division of the Ruidoso Derby trials in May before winning a division of the 440-yard Rainbow Derby trials in 20.996 seconds by a neck over another qualifier, Smokey Stone, on July 9. Love Samba was the only trial runner to crack 21 seconds.

“She’s never really been bad in the gate, she just needs a little luck,” Wood said. “She just needs to get away from there.”

In the Rainbow Derby, Love Samba breaks from post 9 and will be ridden by her regular jockey, Ricky Ramirez. Love Samba is part of a strong field that includes three other runners from the 2009 All American Futurity: Favorite Cartel, who was fourth; Swingin Daddyo, who was sixth; and Jess So Sixy, who was ninth.

The field also includes Streakin Down, who won the Heritage Place Derby at Remington Park in May; and Hoponthewagon, whose trainer, Chip Woolley, won the 2009 Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird.

Wood has two runners. Sir Seth, third in the Ruidoso Derby on June  12, will attempt to win his first stakes. Sir Seth has never been worse than third in eight starts.

“[Love Samba] has actually been faster than Sir Seth, but I don’t know if she’s been as consistent,” Wood said.

As the fastest qualifier, the pressure is once again on Love Samba. Her big day may be Saturday at Ruidoso.