07/02/2012 4:04PM

Ruidoso Downs: Champions meet in Rainbow Derby trials

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The champion Quarter Horse runners Ochoa and Feature Mr Bojangles will meet in the same trial race Wednesday at Ruidoso Downs, when both attempt to qualify for the Grade 1, $903,687 Rainbow Derby. The horses start in the fourth race, which is one of seven 440-yard time trials that feature a total of 69 runners vying for 10 spots in the July 21 finale.

Ochoa, the champion 2-year-old of 2011, is seeking his first win since taking the Grade 1 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs last September. He was freshened following the classic and returned to action May 26 at Ruidoso. Ochoa finished second by a half-length in a trial for the Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby, advanced to the finale, and finished ninth as the favorite after a tumultuous start in the 400-yard race run June 9.

“He fell on his head, and it was all over,” said Sleepy Gilbreath, who trains Ochoa for J Bar 7 Ranch, Monte and Katsy Cluck, and Doug Benson.

Gilbreath has been pleased with how Ochoa has trained since and hopes the horse now is on top of his game mentally for what will be his third start off the layoff Wednesday.

“He’s doing really good right now,” Gilbreath said. “He got mad in the gate [last time]. He was coming off a long layoff, and I’m just going to say his mind hadn’t got quite back right. But since then, the horse seems to be doing good. I’m happy with him.”

Roy Baldillez again has the mount on Ochoa, who will break from post 10.

Feature Mr Bojangles, the champion 2-year-old colt of 2011, comes off a fifth-place finish in the Ruidoso Derby. He had won seven straight races up to that point, including last year’s Grade 1 Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso and the Grade 2 Hobbs America Futurity at Zia Park. G.R. Carter Jr. has the mount for trainer Roberto Sanchez. Feature Mr Bojangles races for the partnership of R.D. Hubbard, Jim Helzer, S/M Cattle Export Company, and Jaime Dominguez.

◗ Cold Cash 123, the reigning world champion, is now based at Ruidoso. In his last start, he took the Remington Park Invitational and its berth into the Grade 1 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. “We’ve got him here at Ruidoso, just kind of giving him a little bit of a break,” Gilbreath said. “We’ll probably send him to California. He’s doing good.”

◗ Jockeys Martin Bourdieu and Oscar Ceballos are nearing the mark of 1,000 Thoroughbred wins, with Bourdieu at 995 through Sunday and Ceballos, 992. Another rider with New Mexico ties, Ken Tohill, is nearing 3,000 Thoroughbred wins, with 2,994 through Monday.