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LOS ALAMITOS : $400 Deal Turns Into Pot of Gold

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jim Schlagel wanted a horse to ride, something cheap and sweet. He paid $400 and ended up with a well-bred quarter horse mare who took him into the rarely sweet and always expensive world of quarter horse breeding and racing.

And now, years later, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Silique, the mare he bought and eventually bred, gave him Rainbow Sun, the fastest qualifier and a likely favorite in Friday’s $134,000 Los Alamitos Derby.

“It was a freak deal,” Schlagel said. “It was a dispersal sale but not through a sales company. The owner just hired an auctioneer and I happened to see the ad in the paper.”

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Schlagel bought Silique to ride and then discovered that her breeding--she is by the successful sire Fast Jet--made her valuable as a broodmare. After a couple of false starts, one of his homebreds made it to the races in 1988.

Rainbow Sun, Silique’s 1991 foal, earned $49,212 as a 2-year-old. In three races this year, the colt won the Anaheim Stake, finished fourth in the El Primero Derby trials and won the finals, earning $46,662.

“We’re now in our sixth year of getting foals to the races, so it was really the make-or-break year for us,” Schlagel said. “And so far it’s been great.”

As a 2-year-old, Rainbow Sun showed promise but did not always break well. He ran 11 races and the three times he pounced from the gates, he won. The colt was turned out for a couple of months in the winter and, Schlagel said, returned a more mature horse.

“He used to be looking around in the gate. Now he just looks straight down the track,” Schlagel said.

Bettors have been harder to convince. Ignoring Rainbow Sun’s half-length victory over Moo Vin First in the El Primero Derby, fans selected Moo Vin First as the favorite in the Los Alamitos Derby trial. Rainbow Sun left the gate at 9-1, the sixth choice of eight.

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But then again, the field for that trial, the second of four trial heats, looked like a derby final to many in the stands. Six runners qualified.

Rainbow Sun, trained by Dennis Givens, was the fastest over 400 yards at 20.02 seconds. The slowest to qualify, Ima Reb Hot, finished in 20.13, a difference of only 0.11 seconds.

Sticky N Picky, tied with Be Real Now as the second-fastest qualifier, won the fourth trial heat. Her trainer, Bob Gilbert started five in the trials and has two in the final.

“I thought Sticky N Picky would run well,” he said. “With her, the whole thing is the break because she’s so fast if she breaks well. The last one, she didn’t break well and we just figured it was her first time under the lights.”

Gilbert’s second derby qualifier, Pecuniary Perks, ran a strong race in the trials, finishing second to Sheza First Down at 30-1.

The field for the Los Alamitos Derby: Rainbow Sun, Sticky N Picky, Be Real Now, Sheza First Down, Moo Vin First, Artesias Special Gal, Movados, Totally Illegal, Pecuniary Perks and Ima Reb Hot.

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Jockey Jose Badilla Jr. overcame the rail and a speeding The Fling King to pick up his first major stakes victory with Cool Papa Bell in the $100,000 Kindergarten Futurity on Friday.

“He broke really well tonight,” the 20-year-old Badilla said. “I had to keep after him because I could see the horse on the outside closing in. I didn’t want to waste such a good break.”

James Kelly, who owns the Arizona-bred gelding in partnership with Charles Grannon, also wanted to see Cool Papa Bell take advantage of his great start.

“That’s the way I like to see him break,” Kelly said, referring to his disappointment in the colt’s trial run. “Last time he ran, he was scared to death because of the lights.”

Cool Papa Bell is not eligible for any races until the Breeders Classics on Dec. 17, so he probably won’t see the lights again until then. Kelly shipped him back to Arizona.

The Fling King, the 6-5 favorite as part of a three-horse entry, broke from the fifth spot and never let up under jockey Henry Garcia. He finished a neck short. The Blane Schvaneveldt-trained Toll Tracer was third.

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In the Miss Kindergarten Futurity, Ah Sigh beat the 1-2 favorite, Dicey Secret, running the 350 yards in 17.71 seconds. For the third time in as many races since the fillies were awarded their own division in the Kindergarten, the fillies ran faster. Cool Papa Bell’s time in the Kindergarten was 17.87, almost a length slower.

Owner Frank Nakamura began racing quarter horses nearly 20 years ago, but Ah Sigh gave him his first homebred stakes victory. He named the First Down Dash filly after his wife, Asaye.

“She said no one would know how to pronounce it if I spelled it the same way,” Nakamura said.

Los Alamitos Notes

First post on Sunday will be 3 p.m. to permit a simulcast of the Rainbow Derby from Ruidoso Downs in Ruidoso, N.M. The field for that race: Special Phoebe, Ducky Fred, I Hear A Symphony, The Runaway Roan, Nita Kays Cash, Chicks Rich N Rare, Treacherously and Coup De Main. The race will be the third on the Los Alamitos card with an expected post time of 4:15 p.m.

Pretty Sensation and Her First Cin, the first- and third-place finishers in the La Primera Derby, will compete in the California Sires Cup Derby, a $75,000 400-yard race on Saturday night.

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