08/30/2013 11:26AM

Ruidoso Downs: Wicked Courage a big favorite in $2.8 million All American Derby

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Wicked Courage has the highest earnings among Quarter Horses this year, at $825,404. The season will not be complete for owner Andrew Smith of Ardmore, Okla., unless Wicked Courage wins an historic running of the All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs on Sunday.

With a purse of $2,809,784, the All American Derby is the richest race in Quarter Horse history, surpassing the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs, which will be worth $2.6 million on Monday.

Wicked Courage will start as a heavy favorite in the All American Derby at 440 yards after finishing a troubled second in a division of the time trials Aug. 17. Wicked Courage, trained by Luis Villafranco, stumbled at the start and recovered to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind fastest qualifier Bon Accord.

Smith does not expect the same mishap to occur Sunday.

“If he breaks, there is nothing out there that can outrun him,” Smith said Thursday. “But anything can happen in a Quarter Horse race.”

The loss in the trials ended a nine-race winning streak for Wicked Courage.

Wicked Courage’s winning skein included two stakes in Oklahoma last year and one in April, as well as the trials and final of two major stakes at Ruidoso Downs earlier this year – the Ruidoso and Rainbow derbys. In the Rainbow Derby at 440 yards on July 20, Wicked Courage won by a length under regular rider Cody Jensen without being fully extended.

Jensen will ride Wicked Courage from post 3 in the field of 10 on Sunday.

Wicked Courage is by far the most accomplished runner in the All American Derby field. Point Break Dash, winner of an All American Derby trial, was fourth in the Rainbow Derby. Vancouver Moon was second in the Rainbow Futurity in 2012 and was third to Point Break Dash in the All American Derby trials.

Bon Accord starts in his first stakes final in the All American Derby. Owned by Nancy Yearsley, Garvin Kelly, and Vinewood Farm and trained by Juan Aleman, Bon Accord ran 440 yards in 20.97 seconds in the trial. Wicked Courage was timed in 21.16 seconds.

Along with a record purse, the All American Derby offers a record winner’s share of $1,180,784. The winner receives an automatic berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions against older horses at Los Alamitos on Dec. 14.

For Smith, a win would put Wicked Courage closer to the title of 2013 World Champion Running Quarter Horse. A winner of 9 of 15 starts, Wicked Courage has earned $1,041,350 in his career. Smith bought the gelding for $4,000 at the 2011 Heritage Place yearling sale in Oklahoma City.

◗ Monday’s All American Futurity includes two futurity winners – Especially Tres, who won the Sam Houston Futurity in April; and Handsome Jack Flash, who won the Zia Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in July.

◗ Ruidoso Downs will offer a double linking the All American Derby with Monday’s All American Futurity.