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Star-studded field heads to gate for Ruidoso Futurity

Trusty Jess, with Eduardo Nicasio on aboard, shown here winning his trial heat for the $1 million Ruidoso Futurity on Friday May 26, 2023.
Field of 10 quarter horses compete in opening leg of Triple Crown series

RUIDOSO – One of the strongest fields in recent memory head to the starting gate Sunday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs for the Grade 1, $1 million Ruidoso Futurity, the opening leg of quarter horse racing’s Triple Crown.

A field of 10 that qualified during trials here over Memorial Day weekend, will race 350 yards for a winner’s share of more than $400,000 and a chance at racing immortality.

Trusty Jess, the fastest qualifier for the Ruidoso Futurity, drew the rail and has been installed as the 2-to-1 morning line favorite in the Futurity. Trained by Christopher O’Dell and owned by B. Ray Willis, Cherri Michelet Snyder and Clifton Eldridge, Trusty Jess made a strong first impression when winning his trial heat on Friday, May 26, in a final time of 17.35 seconds under Eduardo Nicasio, who will be back aboard in the Futurity.

The New Mexico-bred son of Jess Good Candy will face nine rivals, including the runner-up from that trial heat in the Futurity, which has a scheduled post time of 5:05 p.m.

Relentless Eagle, who finished a half-length behind Trusty Jess in that trial heat, will be ridden by Christian Ramos, who is coming off a spectacular season as the coleading quarter horse rider last month at SunRay Park and Casino.

Owned by K. Lance Bland and trained by Marc Jungers, Relentless Eagle will break from post seven in the 10-horse field.

Perhaps the most accomplished runner in Sunday’s Futurity is KJ Little Duce Coup, who drew post two for trainer Wes Giles and owners John & W. Kathy Lee and I. Ruben Mares.

KJ Little Duce Coup, with Adrian Ramos in the irons, easily beats his competition on Saturday, May 27, 2023 in a trial heat for Sunday's $1 million Ruidoso Futurity.

The Arizona-bred son of Apollitical Jess won his trial race on Saturday, May 27, by two lengths. Before that, KJ Little Duce Coup won the $285,000 West Texas Futurity last April at Sunland Park.

Unbeaten after three career starts, KJ Little Duce Coup has amassed earnings of more than $145,000. He will be ridden by his regular pilot Adrian Ramos and has been established as the 4-to-1 fourth choice on the morning line.

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The Ruidoso Futurity is followed by the Rainbow Futurity held July 16 and the All American Futurity on Sept. 4. To win the Triple Crown, a horse must win all three races.

Unlike the thoroughbred version of the Triple Crown, which has been accomplished 13 times, it is much more difficult to win the quarter horse series. A horse must not only win the three futurity races, but first must qualify for each race in trials typically held two weeks beforehand.

Cyber Attack (outside) narrowly scores a victory in a Sunday, May 28, trial heat for the $895,000 Ruidoso Derby.

Qualifiying is no easy task. More than 300 horses competed in trial races for the Ruidoso Futiurity two weekends ago, with 32 trial races held over the course of two days. Only the five fastest qualifiers from each day’s trials were eligible to run in Sunday’s Futurity.

Special Effort is the only horse to win all three legs of the quarter horse Triple Crown, having achieved that distinction in 1981.

Sunday’s Ruidoso Futurity is scheduled as the ninth race of a 10-race program with a first post time of 1 p.m. Locally, fans can watch and wager on races from Ruidoso Downs at SunRay Park and Casino.

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Saturday, nine of the nation’s top 3-year-old quarter horses go to the gate for the $895,000 Rainbow Derby, which will be run at a distance of 400 yards.

Cyber Attack, a five-time winner and earner of more than $1.1 million in his eight-race career, has been established as the 5-to-2 morning line choice for owners Rosenthal Ranch LLC. O’Dell, who will be looking to sweep both the Ruidoso Derby and Futurity is the trainer of Cyber Attack, who won last year’s Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity and ran second in the Rainbow Futurity as a 2-year-old.

Cyber Attack was the fastest qualifier for the Ruidoso Derby when trials were held on Sunday, May 28, narrowly beating his competition when making his first start in more than five months.

Cyber Attack will break from post two in the Derby with Nicasio, his regular pilot, back in the irons.