09/03/2011 1:39PM

Ruidoso Downs: Ochoa fastest going in to All American Futurity

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Ochoa has been managed for an All American moment. His connections bypassed the rich Rainbow Futurity series for Quarter Horses this past summer at Ruidoso Downs to focus on securing a spot in the starting gate for the Grade 1, $2.4 million All American Futurity.

Ochoa executed the plan to perfection. He was the fastest qualifier among 246 horses seeking 10 berths into the All American, which will be the richest race ever run for Quarter Horses when it closes out the Ruidoso meet on Monday.

The purse is miles from the $129,686 on offer when the first All American was run in 1959. Monday’s renewal brings together horses from some of the best barns in the business, chief among them Ochoa’s trainer, Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath. A two-time winner of the All American Futurity, he last took the race in 1990 with eventual world champion Refrigerator.

Gilbreath said in Ochoa he sees a class horse that he wanted to be careful not to over-race in the push to the All American. The Labor Day classic is the final leg of a 2-year-old series that began in May with trials for the Ruidoso Futurity. Ochoa won his trial for that race, and was a fast-closing third in the 350-yard finale June 12. But he passed up the Rainbow series in July, and did not race again until the All American trials Aug. 18.

“We skipped the Rainbow mainly just shooting at this one race,” Gilbreath said of the horse he trains for a partnership that includes longtime Walmac Farm master Johnny T.L. Jones Jr. “I try not to run these 2-year-olds more than I have to. It seems like we just get along if you skip something here at Ruidoso.”

Ochoa closed from sixth to win his All American trial by a half-length, covering 440 yards on a track rated good in 21.07 seconds. He won the 14th of 26 trial races run that afternoon at Ruidoso. Gilbreath said he feels the 440 yards of the All American on Monday will suit Ochoa better than the 350-yard distance of the Ruidoso Futurity. He also believes the horse has reason to move forward in what will be his second start since June.

“I think he was needing a race,” Gilbreath said of the trials. “I really think that race will improve him some.

“He’s in good health, and the horse has got a mind that’s unreal. He’s quiet, and just kind of whatever you want to do, he’s there to do it.”

Jacky Martin had been named to ride Ochoa, but he sustained neck injuries in a spill on Friday and will be off his mounts. Gilbreath said Saturday morning that Roy Baldillez, who was named to ride his other All American starter, Mr Ease 123, will be on Ochoa. He rode the horse in the Ruidoso Futurity. Larry Payne, meanwhile, will be on Mr Ease 123, said Gilbreath, noting the matter was worked out through the Ruidoso stewards Saturday.

Others set to start in the All American, which features a record first-place check of $1.2 million, include Lotta Love for Robyn, the second-fastest qualifier for trainer John Bassett, and Big Daddy Cartel and Tee Cos, who will attempt to give trainer Paul Jones a fourth win in the All American.