Illegal Memories, Taylor's Six Headline $1 Million Texas Classic Futurity on Closing Night at Lone Star Park

(Friday, November 30, 2007) - Illegal Memories landed post No. 5 and was made the mild 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday's $1,069,297 Texas Classic Futurity, but he'll have to contend with nine rivals, including a remarkable six-horse arsenal from the powerful barn of trainer Heath Taylor.

The Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity (Race 11 at 11:05 p.m. CT) headlines a stakes tripleheader on closing night of Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie's 32-date Fall Meeting of Champions for American Quarter Horses. The Grade 1, $395,476 Texas Classic Derby (Race 9 at 10:11 p.m. CT) and $20,000 Rheudasil Handicap (Race 10 at 10:38 p.m. CT) are the others.

The first of 12 live races Saturday is 6:35 p.m. CT. Grandstand admission gates open at 5:30 p.m.

Tim Lange and Charlie Forbes' adventurous Illegal Memories, trained by Doug McMullen and to be ridden by Roy Baldillez, is a deserving favorite after his second place finish in last month's Grade 1 Dash For Cash Futurity and bouncing back to be the fastest of 89 two-year-olds in nine Texas Classic Futurity trials on Nov. 17. The 10 fastest times in 400-yard races that night - led by Illegal Memories' :19.706 - comprise Saturday's lineup.

Illegal Memories, a Texas-bred gelded son of Illegal Runaway out of the Leaving Memories mare Good Ole Memories, was a comfortable 1 ¼-length winner in his trial, which was his third win in eight career starts. He has a history, however, of jumping the photo finish light beam at the wire while racing at night - something he did two weeks ago.

"We've had a lot of problems with him jumping the lights at the finish, but he knows he's a runner - he's a real racehorse," McMullen said. "He doesn't have a strong pedigree and we only gave $5,500 for him, but he can't read or write, so he doesn't know how he's bred. We're real proud of him."

Retama Park and Manor Downs Futurity champ Swingin Jess is the most accomplished of Taylor's contingent, which also includes Grade 3 East Juvenile Challenge winner Separatist Baby, All American Futurity third Captain Courage, undefeated Coronas Leaving You, two-time winner Rebas in the House and All American Juvenile Stakes fourth Red Storm Cat.

"We were looking for [Swingin Jess] to run big [in the trial], but he got side-swiped at the start and it took a lot of his race away from him," said Taylor, who matched the late Steve Van Bebber's Nov. 28, 1999 Fall Meeting of Champions record of five wins on a single Lone Star Park program the night he qualified six to Saturday's final. "He's a super horse, very honest and very game."

Jockey Gilbert Ortiz, who qualified Swingin Jess, Separatist Baby, Rebas in the House and Coronas Leaving You, was named aboard Bob and Jerry Gaston's unbeaten Grade 2 Firecracker Futurity winner Coronas Leaving You.

"This horse has done everything that's ever been asked of him and I don't think you can expect that type of consistency form the beginning of the year to the end," Taylor said. "He always wins easy and never sees other horses to run with."

Taylor began the week ranked second in the national Quarter Horse standings in races won (126), stakes victories (17) and money-earned ($2,721,313) - only behind Los Alamitos-based Paul Jones (231, 34 and $5,376,153).

"I have tremendous owners who give me the opportunity to train good horses," Taylor said. "It's a lot of work, but that's what you're in it for, and that's what gets you up every morning, and these are the kind of races that a trainer lives for. When they send you nice horses you just hope that it all works out."

The Texas Classic Futurity final also includes Legacy Partnership's Grade 2 TQHA Sires' Cup Futurity and Grade 3 Texas Juvenile Challenge winner Pool, trained by Ricardo Hinojosa, and Jesus Huitron's Grade 2 Harrah's Entertainment Futurity and Dash For Cash Juvenile Stakes winner Eyesa Jumpn, conditioned by Jose Ramos.

"He's a nice colt," Hinojosa said of Pool. "All we have to do is saddle him and let him go. He got into some trouble [in his trial], but he still ran well, and he can go the distance. We decided to pass on the Dash for Cash earlier in the meet to have him fresh for this."

Said Ramos of Eyesa Jumpn, one of two fillies in the field (the other is Rebas in the House): "We have a very good team working with her and we just try to treat her well and keep her moving forward."

Here's the complete field for the 15th Texas Classic Futurity - the richest annual horse race in Texas - from the rail out (with trial time, jockey, trainer, owner and morning line odds):

  1. Always Cumminatcha (:19 830, Juan Vazquez, Sammy Martinez, Johnny & Sammy Martinez, 15-1)
  2. Swingin Jess (:19.774, Ramon Sanchez, Heath Taylor, Keilani Farms, 6-1)
  3. Separatist Baby (:19.772, Rodrigo Vallejo, Heath Taylor, Ramiro Lopez, 10-1)
  4. Rebas in the House (:19.838, J.R. Ramirez, Heath Taylor, new owner Neal Cormier, 15-1)
  5. Illegal Memories (:19.706, Baldillez, McMullen, Lange & Forbes, 3-1)
  6. Pool (:19.744, Manuel Garcia, Hinojosa, Legacy Partnership, 7-2)
  7. Coronas Leaving You (:19.857, Ortiz, Taylor, Gastons, 15-1)
  8. Captain Courage (:19.838, G.R. Carter Jr., Taylor, Burnett Ranches Ltd. & Chad Hart, 12-1)
  9. Eyesa Jumpn (:19.749, Santos Carrizales, Ramos, Huitron, 4-1)
  10. Red Storm Cat (:19.826, Larry Payne, Taylor, The G A Connection, 15-1)

First prize for the Texas Classic Futurity is $475,837. Eyesa Special, the 2000 winner and AQHA World Champion that year, holds the stakes and track record for 440 yards with a clocking of :19.48.

Only jockeys G.R. Carter Jr. and Rodrigo Vallejo have won the Texas Classic Futurity in the past. Vallejo piloted 2000 champ Azoom, while Carter, the six-time AQHA Champion Jockey, was aboard Valiant Hero last year. All trainers and owners are seeking their first Texas Classic Futurity victory.

In the 440-yard Texas Classic Derby, the formidable entry of Speed Transformed and Gus the Greek are 2-1 morning line favorites. Both 3-year-olds - one-two in Nov. 16 time trials - are owned by John Lee and Lincoln Sherwood and trained by Wes Giles. Ruidoso Derby champ Remember Me Rose is the 5-2 second choice in the field of 10.

The Rheudasil Handicap, a 350-yard sprint for 3-year-olds and up, features stakes winners Snowy Alibi, Ronas Wind Dancer, Hesa Lil Bit High, Toole N Round, Ima Ramblin Girl, Check On Chico, Wassup T Doc, Furyofthewind and My First Passion.

ONLY TWO DATES REMAIN - Only two dates remain at Lone Star Park's 32-date Fall Meeting of Championships. Twelve-race programs on both Friday and Saturday night commence at 6:35 p.m. CT and will conclude around 11:32 p.m. CT. Friday's program includes a pair of $15,000 stakes events for 2-year-olds: the Hipòdromo de las Américas for colts and geldings and Joe B. Turner Memorial for fillies. Both races are at 400 yards.

TIGHT RACE FOR JOCKEY'S TITLE - With only two night left at the meet, two-time defending champ "Diamond" Jim Brooks needs two victories to tie Arturo Puga, who began Friday with a 30-28 lead in the race to be Lone Star Park's leading rider (Puga will not ride this weekend). As for the trainers, Judd Kearl, who shared last year's title with John Buchanan, had a comfortable 24-18 lead over Bobby Touchet. A.D. Maddox, leading owner in 2005-06, had seven wins, two more than C. Lynn Anderson Jr.

WFAA SANTA'S HELPERS NIGHT ON FRIDAY - Friday is "WFAA Santa's Helpers Night" and all customers who bring an unwrapped toy to the racetrack that evening will receive free general admission. The promotion will assist WFAA-TV provide holiday toys to needy children in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Toy drop-off bins will be located at East and West Grandstand gates when admission gates open at 5:30 p.m. CT.

LONE STAR TRAINING WHEELS FUTURITY FRIDAY AT 5:50 P.M. IN PADDOCK - Those attending Friday's penultimate program for the Fall Meeting of Champions will want to be on hand early as members of the Lone Star Park jockey's colony compete in the second annual "Lone Star Training Wheels Futurity." The race aboard small bicycles - complete with training wheels - will take place around the fountain in the Saddling Paddock at 5:50 p.m. After the race, the jockeys will donate about 30 bicycles to WFAA-TV's Santa's Helpers fundraiser, which collects holiday toys for children throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth counties of Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton.

ELVIS IMPERSONATOR KRAIG PARKER PERFORMS FRIDAY BETWEEN RACES - Between live races from 7-9 p.m., Elvis impersonator Kraig Parker will perform Friday night in the Courtyard of Champions. Also, 98.7 KLUV "The Greatest Hits of the Sixties and Seventies" will be on hand for a special promotional appearance.

CLOSING NIGHT DOUBLES AS FAN APPRECIATION & SOUVENIR NIGHT - All patrons with a paid $3 general admission for Saturday's closing night program will get their choice of a free commemorative Lone Star Park giveaway and an entry into prize drawings between races. Freebies include a 10th Anniversary sports bag, 12-pack cooler, Lone Star Derby glassware set, Lone Star Park Hall of Fame t-shirt or Stars of Texas tumbler. Prizes to be given away between Races 4-6 include iPods, cash vouchers and tickets to an upcoming Robert Earl Keen contest. The deadline to enter the prize drawings is 7 p.m.

FREE ADMISSION, PROGRAM FOR "STAR PLAYER REWARDS" MEMBERS SATURDAY - Members of Lone Star Park's "Star Player Rewards" program will receive free general admission and an official program on Saturday. Participants can scan their card at admission gates to get the free entrance then head to a "Star Player Rewards" kiosk in the Grandstand or Post Time Pavilion to print out a coupon for the complimentary program. Also, "Bonus Points Week" continues through Saturday. Those who use their membership card to place a wager will receive 1,000 bonus points every day through Dec. 1.

WEEKEND SIMULCASTS - This Saturday's feature simulcast events include Hollywood Park's Grade II, $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles), Grand Slam I at Calder Race Course and Texas Champions Night at Sam Houston. The featured event Sunday is the Grade III, $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood (3-year-olds & up at six furlongs) at Hollywood Park.

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