07/19/2012 3:38PM

Ruidoso Downs: Ochoa going his perfect distance in Rainbow Derby


Ochoa, last year’s champion 2-year-old Quarter Horse, has never been beaten at 440 yards and will seek his fourth win at the distance Saturday in the Grade 1, $903,774 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

The purse for this year’s race is a record, surpassing the previous high of $899,523 in 2011. Saturday’s field of 10 also includes champion Feature Mr Bojangles; Heritage Place Derby winner Priceless Feature, who is looking for his fourth straight win; and fastest qualifier Feature Mr Who.

Ochoa first raced at 440 yards last August, winning a trial for the Grade 1 All American Futurity at Ruidoso. He came back in his next start to win the finale by 1 1/2 lengths to close out his championship season. Ochoa returned to the 440-yard distance last out, when he set the fourth-fastest qualifying time for the Rainbow Derby during trials July 4. The race was Ochoa’s first win from three starts this year, and it took a few outs for the horse to get back on the ball mentally this season, according to his trainer, Sleepy Gilbreath.

“There for a while, he didn’t act like a happy horse for some reason,” said Gilbreath. “But he’s really acting good right now. He’s just training big, just kind of acting like his old self.”

Ochoa broke outward in his Rainbow trial, quickly straightened up, and rolled home to cover the distance in 21.63 seconds. In the process, he defeated Feature Mr Bojangles.

“The trial, he ran a very nice race,” said Gilbreath. “He seems to be doing very well, and I look for a big race.”

Roy Baldillez has the mount on Ochoa, who is owned by the partnership of J Bar 7 Ranch, Monte and Katsy Cluck, and Douglas Benson. Ochoa will break from post 5.

“I’d rather be on the outside with him, [but] if we just get a good trip, it will be all right,” said Gilbreath.

Cold Cash 123 set to work

Cold Cash 123, the reigning world champion Quarter Horse who has been freshened since winning the Grade 1 Remington Park Invitational on May 27, was scheduled to work this week, Gilbreath said Wednesday. From there, the horse will likely soon ship to California, where he has a berth into the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions in December.

“There’s a handicap in early October I’d like to have him there for, kind of get him settled into a new place,” said Gilbreath. “We want to try to get a race or two in him before the Champion of Champions.”