08/31/2012 3:50PM

Ruidoso Downs: All American Derby can put Ochoa over the top on all-time earnings list

Ruidoso Downs
After winning the All American Futurity last September, Ochoa was rested until the 3-year-old season began.

In the aftermath of Ochoa’s win in the All American Futurity last September, his connections made a deliberate decision. He would forgo racing the rest of the season in order to be at his best for the rich 3-year-old offerings at Ruidoso Downs.

Mission accomplished.

Ochoa in July won the Grade 1, $903,774 Rainbow Derby, and on Sunday he will start as a the favorite in Quarter Horse racing’s richest race for 3-year-olds, the Grade 1, $2,234,539 All American Derby. And were he to win the 440-yard sprint and its first-place check of $938,506, he would become the sport’s all-time leading earner, surpassing the mark of $2.2 million held by Stolis Winner.

Ochoa positioned himself for the record a year ago, when he cruised to a 1 1/2-length win in the $2.4 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. He was named champion 2-year-old for the effort and not long afterward his trainer, Sleepy Gilbreath, said Ochoa would be rested for a 3-year-old campaign targeting the derbies at Ruidoso.

Ochoa made his first start of the year May 26, and finished second in his trial for the Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby. In the finale, he stumbled badly at the start, lost all chance, and ended up ninth. But since then, it has been smooth sailing. Ochoa has won his last three starts, including his trial for the All American, which this year has a purse level that crushes the sport’s previous high for a 3-year-old or older race, the 2010 running of the $1,548,685 All American Derby. For this year’s finale, lots were drawn to determine the order in which connections of the finalists could select posts, and with the third pick Ochoa’s took gate 10.

“I like it, he can see the finish line,” said Johnny T.L. Jones Jr., who bred and co-owns Ochoa. “I think it’s very good.”

Ochoa also races for Jones’s wife, Brenda, as well as Monte and Katsy Cluck and Doug and Shavon Benson. The horse was a two-length winner of his All American Derby trial Aug. 17, leading throughout in the slop while covering 440 yards in 21.43 seconds. It was the sixth-fastest qualifying time, with those turning in quicker ones all racing over a surface rated fast. Ochoa, who has won all five of his starts at 440 yards, is to be ridden by Roy Baldillez.

A Toss Up was a $50,000 supplement to trials and won his in a dead heat with Hez Our Secret. They have the third-fastest time qualifying time of 21.38 seconds. A Toss Up and Bps Jumpin Frisco, the fastest qualifier in 21.27, are both trained by Eddie Willis.

The winner of the All American Derby earns a berth into the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos in December.