Many good quarter horses from the Northwest have raced successfully in California, most recently BCR Town Jewel, who won the PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity at Los Alamitos on Saturday.
The Idaho-bred and heavily favored BCR Town Jewel easily won the $230,000 race in only his second California start. Under Henry Garcia, BCR Town Jewel ran 350 yards in 17.63 seconds, finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of his nearest rival.
The stakes victory was the first for BCR Town Jewel, but the gelding had distinguished himself in the trials for the futurity, one of the richest at Los Alamitos this year. BCR Town Jewel had posted the fastest qualifying time of 17.55 seconds, winning his trial heat by more than a length in his first start under the lights at Los Alamitos.
BCR Town Jewel joins a distinguished list of horses from the Northwest, including champion 2-year-old filly Jumping Tac Flash, Totally Illegal, Dash Ta Fame, Abadasher, The Plan and Short Dash, that trainer Blane Schvaneveldt has raced successfully in California.
"I've had a lot of good horses come from up there," Schvaneveldt said. "They raise as good (a quality) of horses there as they do anywhere in the country."
Sending a horse to California can be a major gamble, considering the travel expenses and the increased training costs here. But for BCR Town Jewel's owner, Harvey Pickens, the gamble paid off.
"I like the amount of the purses and the fact that we don't have to put up with the weather conditions," said Pickens, who picked up $99,000 for his gelding's victory. "(In Idaho), we have head winds and bad track conditions. It's just a crapshoot."
Pickens, who has been in racing for only about seven years, learned quickly the advantages of racing in California. Nearly every year since he brought his first horse in 1987, Pickens has sent a horse here.
One of them is Streakin Jewel, BCR Town Jewel's sire. When BCR Town Jewel won Saturday, he repeated what his sire had done exactly five years earlier, when the race was run at Fairplex Park in Pomona.
"This is the first time a father and son have won the race," said Pickens, who still owns Streakin Jewel.
Schvaneveldt, an Idaho native who started his training career there before moving to California in the late 1960s, agrees with Pickens about the benefits of racing here.
"(Owners) run for the money, and they run for where the money is," Schvaneveldt said. "What attracts horses is money and purses."
Schvaneveldt has also seen a decrease in the number of horses being shipped here in recent years, despite the larger purses.
"They still send the good horses, but they don't send the cheaper horses anymore because it's too hard to make money. You can't run them enough to make money," he said.
But the good ones still come, as BCR Town Jewel proved with his impressive California debut. Given his immediate success at Los Alamitos, Pickens has decided to keep BCR Town Jewel here, setting his sights on the QHBC Juvenile Classic in December.
The 1995 Los Alamitos schedule remains uncertain.
Last Friday, the California Horse Racing Board approved tentative dates, allocating Dec. 22 through March 25, for the harness meeting, contingent on the successful negotiation of a lease with the owners of Los Alamitos. A quarter horse meeting from April 14 through Dec. 31 also was approved.
According to Dick Feinberg, general manager of Los Alamitos, three non-refundable $50,000 deposits are required from the harness group to negotiate a lease. The first of the three payments is due Saturday and the others by Oct. 15. If the first deadline is met, a signed lease is to accompany the payment, guaranteeing the 1994-95 harness season at Los Alamitos.
If a lease is not successfully negotiated, the CHRB will reconsider both the harness racing and quarter horse dates, taking into consideration a proposed harness track in Riverside County.