GRANTS PASS — Hill Billee Deluxe defied conventional wisdom at Grants Pass Downs Saturday.
The small 2-year-old gelding, owned and trained by Ron Raley, won the first of five 350-yard quarter horse trials for the Firecracker Futurity. When the final heat was completed two hours later, Hill Billee Deluxe's time of 17.63 seconds proved to be the fastest among 26 hopefuls for the $39,000 futurity finals to be run on the Fourth of July.
"Typically the first trial is not the one you want to be in," said Raley, whose One Fast Trick won the 2004 Firecracker finals. "It gets a little faster as time goes on because they're watering and working the track and it usually tightens up."
Jockey Luis Torres had to make a quick adjustment when Hill Billee Deluxe veered out a little leaving the gate. The 25-year-old jockey straightened him out and the betting favorite sped down the track to defeat runner-up Roberts Running Boat by an impressive 11/2-lengths.
"He's getting better and better," said Torres, who rode the horse in both his previous starts. "He tries always."
Roberts Running Boot, owned by veteran horseman Carl Alleman of Selma, got into the finals with the fourth-fastest time (17.82).
Earlier this year, Torres finished third aboard Hill Billee Deluxe in the Pot Of Gold futurity at Sun Downs in Kennewick, Wash., after qualifying him second in the trials.
Once Hill Billee Deluxe got to the front in the opening trial, Torres was confident.
"I didn't think anyone would catch me," said Torres, the 2007 Firecracker winning jockey aboard Catlow Gulch. "I knew I would win the race."
Raley purchased Hill Billee Deluxe as a yearling at the Heritage Place sale in Oklahoma City for the bargain price of $1,400.
About a week before the auction, Raley got a close-up look of the horse at the Hayden brothers ranch in Pilot Rock.
"I usually don't buy a horse that small," said Raley about the 141/2-hand, 900-pound equine. "He has a good disposition and is easy to be around. When I bought him I thought if this sucker can't run a jump, I'll put the grandkids on him. But now the grandkids aren't going to get him for a while. You need to get lucky in this business."
While Ron Raley ended up with the fastest qualifier, trainer Scott Raley, Ron's son, got four of his eight trials horses into the finals.
The day was a mixed bag for Scott Raley, a two-time winning trainer in the Fourth of July futurity.
What was believed to be his top prospect going in, Two Times Adasher failed to make the futurity finals. Two Times Adasher broke his maiden winning his first race in the Pot Of Gold trials, then finished second in the finals. Two Times Adasher has the top time (18.04) for the eight-horse futurity consolation.
But Raley got the second-fastest qualifier, Fast Intention (17.65), for the futurity finals along with Cupids Dash (fifth), Mountain Road (sixth) and Sissis Little Nipper (seventh).
"All in all, everything went really well," said Scott Raley. "They're babies, things are a little unpredictable."
Firecracker newcomer Ariel Lozano of Wenatchee, Wash., got two horses into the finals. The 48-year-old owner-trainer received an impressive performance from Get Runnin, winner of the third trial. Lavidaloca also qualified with a third-place finish in the fifth trial — the only one placing three horses into the final field.
This is the 18th running of the rich Fourth of July futurity at Grants Pass Downs. The race began as the Far West Futurity in 1991. The name was changed to the Firecracker in 2002. The 1992 race was rained out.
TB Mdn Clm, 51/2 F. 1, So Cal Star (T. Dangerfield), 3.40, 3.00, 2.60; 2, Blue Slew Stakes (F. Williams), 9.80, 6.00; 3, Haint Calling (D. Braden), 4.40. Q — 1-4 $27.20; TRI — 4-1-2 $144.20. Time — 1:06.0
QH Fut Trial, 350 yd. 1, Hill Billee Deluxe (J. Torres), 3.60, 2.60, 2.40; 2, Roberts Running Boot (E. Gomez), 3.00, 2.40; 3, Caughtyacheckinmeout (T. Alberto), 3.00. Q — 3-6 $11.60; TRI — 3-6-1 $23.20. Time — :17.63.
QH Fut Trial, 350 yd. 1, Ez Little Dasher (R. Camacho), 3.60, 2.60, 2.40; 2, Casitas (E. Gomez), 3.80, 2.80; 3, Bcr Beat the Traffic (J. Martinez), 2.60. Q — 1-2 $7.20; TRI — 1-2-4 $25.20. Time — :18.63.
QH Fut Trial, 350 yd. 1, Fast Intention (R. Camacho), 4.60, 2.60, 3.20; 2, Cr Lipstick Jungle (J. Martinez), 3.60, 3.60; Seis Royale (J. Torres), 4.00. Q — 3-5 $13.60; TRI — 5-3-2 $29.00. Time — :17.65
QH Fut Trial, 350 yd. 1, Get Runnin (N. Black), 22.40, 5.00, 2.20; 2, Sissis Little Nipper (J. Martinez), 4.80, 2.20; 3, Two Times Adasher (R. Camacho), 2.10. Q — 2-4 $23.20; TRI — 4-2-3 $33.40. Times — :17.72.
QH Fut Trial, 350 yd. 1, Cupids Dash (J. Martinez), 11.00, 4.20, 2.80; 2, Mountain Road (R. Camacho), 3.00, 2.40; 3, Lavidaloca (J. Torres), 2.80. Q — 1-2 $8.40; TRI — 1-2-4 $46.80. Time — :17.86.
TB Clm, 5 F. 1, La Grizz (J. Torres), 29.80, 8.60, 3.80; 2, Walter's Process (R. Camacho), 6.60, 3.40; 3, Red Seattle (T. Dangerfield), 3.40. Q — 4-7 $48.60; TRI — 4-7-3 $398.40. Time — 1:00.80.
TB Clm, 51/2 F. 1, Sparkling Tapestry (T. Birdrattler), 20.60, 15.40, 6.00; 2, X Pensive Impulse (N. Black), 4.40, 3.80; 3, River Genius (J. Martinez), 5.20. Q — 5-8 $89.40; TRI — 8-5-3 $1,216.80. Time — 1:06.2.
TB Clm, 61/2 F. 1, Whenthewindblows (N. Black), 13.80, 4.40, 3.20; 2, Face of Fortune (T. Dangerfield), 3.00, 2.60; 3, Iced Champagne (B. Endres), 2.80. Q — 3-6 $8.60, TRI — 3-6-4 $72.20. Time — 1:19.20.
TB Stks, 51/2 F. 1, Lucky to Be a Riot (J. Martinez), 7.60, 3.20, 2.40; 2, Selina's Mask (D. Braden), 5.40, 3.20; 3, Jojo's Justice (N. Black), 5-7-4 $151.80. Q — 5-7 $15.00; TRI — 5-7-4 $151.80. Time — 1:04.20.
TB Clm, 51/2 F. 1, Cool Red (R. Camacho), 10.20, 5.00, 2.40; 2, Lucky Thirteen (T. Dangerfield), 4.20, 2.80; 3, Collateral Maker (T. Birdrattler), 3.20. Q — 1-2 $18.20; TRI — 1-2-3 $206.80; DD — 5-1 $27.00. Time — 1:05.20.
TB Clm, 51/2 F. 1, Rabatash (N. Black), 3.80, 3.00, 3.00; 2, Relieve (R. Camacho), 4.00, 3.40; 3, Admirals Revenge (B. Endres), 3.40. Q — 2-3 $17.80; TRI — 3-2-1 $113.20. Time — 1:04.60.
Attendance — 2,165; Handle — $52,477.
Scott Raley-trained horses won three of the five Firecracker trials, while jockey Ruben Camacho had two winners in the trials. Camacho, Jaime Martinez and Luis Torres qualified two horses each into the finals.
Scott Raley got two additional horses into the futurity consolation and his dad, Ron, put the second of his two entries into the consolation. In all, the Raleys have a hand in eight of the 16 horses that will come back and run in the Firecracker Futurity and consolation futurity on the Fourth of July.
Ez Little Dasher won the second trial but her time of 18.63 was not fast enough to even make the consolations.
Lucky to Be a Riot, ridden by Martinez and trained by Jason Homer, went wire-to-wire in the $3,500 feature Southern Belle Stakes Saturday. Lucky to Be a Riot just missed the track record with time of 1:04.20 in the 61/2-furlong race. The record is 1:04.14 set by Tickles Prince in 1999.
Homer claimed Lucky to Be a Riot for owner Tammy White for $3,200 before the 4-year-old filly won her last race by 10 lengths in Waitsburg, Wash., on May 17. The winner's share of the purse in the Southern Belle was $1,966. Lucky to Be a Riot has three wins and one second in four career starts.
- Jockeys Nikeela Black and Camacho had three wins each Saturday. Black, 2007 GP Downs leading rider, rode at the Union fair meet last weekend.
- Successful northern California-trainer John Martin had winners in three of Saturday's seven thoroughbred races here. Martin also had a horse win the last race Saturday at the Stockton, Calif., fair meet.
- Jockey Terrance Birdrattler, who is riding at GP Downs for the first time, was part of the largest quinella and trifecta payoff on the card. In the eighth race, Birdrattler won on Sparkling Tapestry, which returned $20.60. The $2 quinella paid $89.40 and the trifecta returned $1,216.80.
- Today all fathers receive free admission to the track. Post time is 12:30 p.m. for the 12-race card.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 776-4480, or e-mail email@example.com