08/13/2013 4:21PM

Ruidoso Downs: All American Futurity trials to cover two days

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Dustin Orona Photography
Big Biz Perry is the top-ranked 2-year-old Quarter Horse in the nation.

Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico will put on two programs of trials for the Grade 1, $2.6 million All American Futurity on Thursday and Friday in a first for the 54-year-old race. A single marathon card had long determined the 10 finalists to the track’s Labor Day Classic.

But this year, Ruidoso will take the five fastest qualifiers from each date to determine which of the 280 horses entered in the record 28 trials will make the gate. There will be 14 races conducted each day, with first post for each of the cards 11 a.m. Mountain. Into the card Thursday, there is a $52,053 TriSuper carryover that links the fourth and sixth races. The wager requires bettors to select the fourth race’s top three finishers, in correct order, and the sixth race’s top four finishers, in correct order.

Trainers Blane Wood and Eddie Willis will be the busiest trainers during the trials, with starters in all 28 races. Wood likes the idea of two dates of trials, having had success under such circumstances already this meet at Ruidoso, when he finished one-two in last month’s Grade 1, $1 million Rainbow Futurity that had trials spanning two cards.

“I love it because the weather is less of a factor,” Wood said. “When you run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., you hope you draw when the weather won’t bother you.”

A shorter program of trials also is less taxing on jockeys, gate crew members, stable workers, and racing officials.

“I think there are a lot more assets than there are liabilities,” Wood said.

Wood, 54, and his son, trainer Trey Wood, develop about 80 to 90 young horses a year at their Texas facilities, with the goal for each individual the All American Futurity. The race was first run in 1959, with a purse of $129,686. Wood’s father, Leo Wood, won it in 1979, with Pie in the Sky.

“The All American to us is the race,” Wood said. “Anybody in the Quarter Horse industry who runs 2-year-olds, it’s not a race. It’s the race.”

Wood said he typically starts between 12 and 15 horses in trials. But this year he has 28 and said the crop of 2-year-olds he has is his strongest ever. He also said he’s tweaked his approach to development of those young horses.

“This year we slowed down. We wanted the babies to peak right now,” he said.

Wood trainee Big Biz Perry is the top-ranked 2-year-old in the nation. She goes in the 12th race on Thursday. It will be her first appearance since her head win in the Grade 1, $1 million Heritage Place Futurity at Remington Park on June 1.

“We wanted to save her, we wanted her pretty fresh,” Wood said. “She had experience, stakes experience. Obviously, she’s a stakes winner.”

Wood said Big Biz Perry was given some time at his son’s farm at the direction of owner Jose Espinosa, and in her preparations for the All American has “adapted to Ruidoso very well. She’s ready to run. She’s ready to go.”

Big Biz Perry, who will break from post 8, led throughout in the Heritage Place.

“She ran an outstanding race that day,” Wood said. “She didn’t make any mistakes. She beat the doors that day. She’s a good gate mare.

“The test for her is 440.”

Rainbow winner Ms First Prize Rose will miss the All American trials because of a quarter injury that has healed and will instead point for Los Alamitos in December, Wood said. Belle Helene, second by a nose in the Rainbow, goes in the 13th race Thursday.

“The distance won’t bother her,” Wood said. “She’ll love the 440.”