Keeton Wins Texas Classic Futurity with Mitowilard

(Saturday, November 29,2003) - Trainer Toby Keeton outdid himself Saturday night at Lone Star Park in front of 5,875 fans. On the same evening the 39-year-old was honored with his second training title at the Grand Prairie, Texas racetrack, he capped the successful season with a victory in the richest horse race ever run in Texas, the $1,088,856 Texas Classic Futurity (Gr. I).

Mitowilard, a 10-1 outsider making his stakes debut, dashed 400 yards in a swift :19.63 and defeated the filly Lett Her Zoom by a half-length to grab the lucrative $470,858 first prize. The final time equaled the third-fastest clocking in 11 runnings of the prestigious race.

Jess Rock On finished another nose back in third, a neck in front of 3-2 favorite Sixes Royal. Brimmerton, the highly regarded 5-2 second choice, finished eighth after being bumped at the start.

Nicky Wilson, toting 120 pounds, rode the winner for Keeton and owner J. Nub Neighbors of Denton, Texas.

“He left good [from the starting gate] tonight,” Wilson said. “He left on the lead and stayed there the whole race.”

Mitowilard, a Willie Wanta Dash gelding out of the Mito Isle mare Mito Suzy, finished powerfully to win from post position No. 7 in the field of 10 two-year-olds. Each of the juveniles earned a spot in the final by recording one of the 10 fastest times in 15 trials races two weeks ago. Mitowilard was the fifth fastest of 139 who attempted to qualify.

His victory Saturday – closing night of Lone Star Park’s 33-night season – was his third straight. Mitowilard began his career with four consecutive defeats, which led Keeton to drop him into the claiming ranks on Oct. 16 for his first victory.

“This horse had gotten run over every time I started him,” Keeton said. “His form looked so terrible, so I dropped him in for a ($15,000) tag to get away from some of the tougher horses and build up his heart a bit.”

It worked as the California-bred cruised to a 2 ¼-length triumph that night. Next was a victory in the Texas Classic Futurity trials.

“The colt had been training good all week long,” Keeton said. “He was a little quiet this morning and I was kind of worried about him. But he’s alright.”

That’s an understatement. The winner’s share of the purse bumped Mitowilard’s career earnings from $5,282 to $476,140. His record now stands at 7-3-0-0.

Lett Her Zoom, at odds of 14-1, was a good second after veering inward at the start from post No. 5. The Ross Hardy trainee was attempting to become the first female Texas Classic Futurity winner.

“She was out in front pretty good and Nicky just came and got her, the last fifty or a hundred yards,” said Lett Her Zoom’s rider Tad Leggett. “She ran pretty strong. Take nothing away from the winner, that’s a nice horse. We thought he was the best horse when we worked him earlier this year, the one of Toby’s. That’s a nice horse.”

Third-place finisher Jess Rock On overcame trouble that also affected None As Easy and Brimmerton.

“They kind of sandwiched me a little bit and I couldn’t get through some of them quick enough,” said Tim Williams, Jess Rock On’s pilot. “When we did, my horse ran a big race. My horse broke really, really good and [None As Easy] kind of came into me.”

“I know everybody wants to go for the money, but I never had a shot,” echoed Brimmerton’s jockey Juan Vazquez. ”You don’t see many Quarter Horses that can come back from a break like that. He’ll try again, I hope.”

The complete order of finish (with earnings) was Mitowilard ($470,858), Lett Her Zoom ($235,429), Jess Rock On ($117,714), Sixes Royal ($58,857), None As Easy ($47,086), Spit Curl Jess ($35,314), JLS Streak Of Snow ($32,371), Brimmerton ($32,371), Nine Orchids ($29,428) and fastest qualifier Razzabedazz ($29,428), who was never a factor.

For Keeton, a native of Uvalde, Texas, he saddled two winners on the closing night program at Lone Star Park to finish the season with 23 victories, seven more than 2002 training champ Janet Van Bebber.

“This is a team deal and I couldn’t do it without them,” Keeton said. “I had really good boys and they worked hard and we won some races and had some good luck. I love training horses. I love to win. There isn’t anything better.”

Keeton also was the racetrack’s leading conditioner in 2001 with 20 victories. His personal best for number of wins during a Lone Star Park season occurred in 2000 when he snatched 27 victories, but it was nine back of the late Steve Van Bebber. Keeton unseated Steve Van Bebber as the racetrack’s all-time Quarter Horse win leader earlier this year, and has 124 local victories since 1997.

Elsewhere, Rockin J Running Horses’ Can Straw Fly defeated Fredricksburg by a neck to win the $88,285 Texas Classic Futurity Consolation. The 2-year-old Strawfly Special gelding ran 400 yards in :19.93 under Tim Williams, who rode the winner for trainer Michael Wakefield.

“He just didn’t get away good in the trials, but he came running tonight,” Wakefield said.

Live racing at Lone Star Park will resume April 15 for the eighth annual Thoroughbred season. It will continue for 61 days through Sunday, July 11. Next year, there will be no American Quarter Horse racing at Lone Star Park because the racing dates were transferred to Sam Houston Race Park so Lone Star Park could host a fall Thoroughbred meeting, including the 21st running of the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. That season will be 19 days, from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31, and the Breeders’ Cup is set for Oct. 30. Until then, Lone Star Park is open seven days a week for simulcasting in the Post Time Pavilion, the racetrack’s state-of-the-art Las Vegas-style simulcast center located next door to the grandstand.

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