08/29/2008 11:00PM

Triple threat in All American

Email

RUIDOSO, N.M. - A lean, 6-foot-6 with his gray hair coming out from under his ever-present cowboy hat, Jerry Windham looks the part of a former Texas A&M basketball player.

Always a staunch Aggie fan and a rancher in College Station, Texas, Windham could have the sports highlight of his life on Monday afternoon with three finalists connected to him set to run in the Grade 1, $1.9 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs.

Windham bred and owns fastest qualifier Stolis Winner. He bred and co-owns second-fastest qualifier Jess Zoomin, and he bred and sold eighth-fastest qualifier Winners Version. He is only the third breeder ever to have three horses in an All American Futurity.

Two-time Grade 1 winner Stolis Winner and Remington Park 350-yard track-record holder Jess Zoomin have the best shots in the 50th running of the All American Futurity, but the consistent Winners Version is the only horse to qualify for the Ruidoso, Rainbow, and All American futurities this summer at Ruidoso Downs.

Windham's three horses are competing in one of the deepest All American fields in memory.

"This is as tough a field as I've seen in a while," said Windham, a past president of the American Quarter Horse Association and frequent Ruidoso Downs patron. "It was a

really fair set of trials and the best horses came through."

The 15 All American Futurity trials on Aug. 14 were run under sunny skies with a head wind varying from six to 15 miles per hour - little variation by Ruidoso Downs's standards.

"If Stolis Winner and Jess Zoomin break well and run well, they each have a shot," Windham said. "Winners Version has been just a step or two away from being a great horse."

Stolis Winner, whom Windham bought back as a yearling for $32,000, is Quarter Horse racing's leading money earner this year with $789,467. He was a 25-1 upset winner of the Grade 1, $1 million Heritage Place Futurity, then won the Grade 1, $625,000 Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso. He extended his streak to five races when he drew out to a three-length trial win in 21.414 seconds for 440 yards, the fastest time among 143 trial entrants.

"He ran an almost perfect race in his trial," said trainer Heath Taylor, who also trains qualifiers Jess Zoomin and Mighty Corona.

Jess Zoomin was sold for $75,000 as a yearling, but Windham retained a

20 percent stake in the son of Shazoom. "He's just a tremendous individual," Windham said.

Jess Zoomin showed immense promise at Remington Park when he set the 350-yard track record of 17.320 while winning his Heritage Place Futurity trial.

"After that race our immediate goal was the Heritage Place Futurity, but our main goal became the All American Futurity," Taylor said.

Jess Zoomin sustained his only career defeat in four starts when he was second, a half-length behind Stolis Winner, in the Heritage Place Futurity as the 7-5 favorite.

Taylor then freshened Jess Zoomin until the All American Futurity trials. The colt responded with a four-length trial win in 21.471 seconds.

Defending national champion rider G.R. Carter Jr. qualified Stolis Winner and Jess Zoomin and elected to ride Stolis Winner after galloping the son of Stoli last Monday morning.

Jet Black Patriot, a $50,000 supplemental nominee, may be the horse with the most raw speed in the All American. The Eric Curtis-trained colt is undefeated from five starts with wins in the Lee Berwick Louisiana-bred Futurity and the Mardis Gras Futurity. After four starts in Louisiana, Curtis brought the colt to Ruidoso Downs and he won his All American Futurity trial impressively, by 2 3/4 lengths, with ground-devouring strides. His time of 21.489 seconds is the third-fastest qualifying time.

Trainer Carl Draper, winner of two of the latest four runnings of the All American, saddles Ruidoso Futurity winner Jess Significant and the lightly raced Calif Fugitive.

Jess Significant has won 5 of 6 starts, highlighted by her three-quarter-length win in the Ruidoso Futurity. She then won her All American trial by three-quarters of a length.

"She may not be the fastest horse in the race, but she's a really smart horse and she doesn't make mistakes," Draper said.

Calif Fugitive was a troubled fourth in his career debut, but came back nearly three months later in his All American trial to draw out to a 1o1/2-length win in 21.572 seconds, the fourth fastest time.

"If he doesn't make a mistake, he's pretty fast," Draper said.