Jim Glenn Jr. has fond memories of Grants Pass Downs.

Jim Glenn Jr. has fond memories of Grants Pass Downs.

The 45-year-old Yoncalla-based trainer was a fixture at the local track for many years. But Glenn hasn't been around too much in the recent past as he's moved on to the "big leagues" of quarter horse racing at Los Alamitos race track in Southern California.

Glenn will be present at GP Downs today as he has three horses entered in the Firecracker Futurity trials, including one of the favorites to make it into the finals of the estimated $40,000 futurity run on the Fourth of July.

The trials have drawn 36 2-year-old quarter horses vying for the final eight spots. The next eight fastest will be in the consolation finals. There will be five consecutive 350-yard trials beginning with today's second race.

"I don't think we've had this many entered in the trials for quite a while," says Leah Nelson, Oregon Quarter Horse Racing Association executive director. "It's encouraging to see 36 horses in the trials. This is one of the three big futurities our association sponsors."

The other two are the Portland Meadows Futurity run this past spring and the Far West Futurity, which takes place in the fall at Portland Meadows.

Glenn has a colorful history at GP Downs. The former jockey began his riding career on the 1/2-mile dirt oval at the Josephine County Fairgrounds and horses he has trained have won five of the 18 rich futurities run on July 4. The futurity began as the Far West in 1991 and the name was changed to the Firecracker in 2002. The 1992 race was rained out.

Glenn is tied for the most wins in the futurity with the 83-year-old Baxter Andruss, who has four horses in this year's field. Glenn's last victory in the futurity was in 2003 with Fly Margarita, while Andruss' last win was by Phils Dash Ta Fame one year earlier.

"I can remember when I was a kid sleeping up at the top of the horse arena," says Glenn. "I rode my first race at Grant Pass on a quarter horse, too. Then I broke my collarbone the next day galloping in the morning when a horse I was riding went over the fence."

One of Glenn's three futurity horses — Chick N Dales Dasher — posted the fastest qualifying time for the Portland Meadows Futurity on April 12 but ran a disappointing fourth in the finals three weeks later.

Glenn says the brown gelding by the stallion Okey Dokey Dale had been training real well since but his status for today's trials is questionable.

"He has an abscess in his foot," says Glenn. "If it breaks and drains in time, he's good to go. Otherwise he's out."

Another of Glenn's entries, Runaway Galpin, is owned by Southern Oregon developer Chris Galpin.

Runaway Galpin showed promise with a second-place finish in a maiden race at Los Alamitos on June 4.

"He ought to be tough," says Glenn.

The trainer's final trials horse is Minam, who finished fourth at Los Alamitos in his only start.

"I have some nice horses," says Glenn. "They're not superstars but they try hard and have some quickness."

Last year's winner, trainer Patti Harris, has six horses in the trials — the most of any trainer.

Harris was successful with Selma owner Carl Alleman's Roberts Running Boot, who broke the futurity record in 2009.

The best of Harris' group appears to be Misterious Lady, who won her trials heat and finished second in the 2010 Portland Meadows Futurity.

Three of Harris' entries are first-time starters.

Trainer Scott Raley, a two-time winner of the Fourth of July futurity, will saddle five horses in the trials. Raley's top hopeful is Portland Meadows Futurity winner EZ Gamer, who is owned by Gary Chumbley of Battleground, Wash.

Chumbley's EZ Speedy Leader scored a victory in the 2006 futurity.

"She (EZ Gamer) has been training real good after getting some time off after the futurity," says the 44-year-old Raley. "She's pretty easy going. She handles everything in stride."

Other Raley horses that should be solid contenders for the final eight are Chitchatin Okie, second at the Pot Of Gold Futurity; So Many Memories, third in the Portland Meadows Futurity; and Stel Christina, a full sister to 2008 Firecracker fastest qualifier Stel Katrina.

"This crop is some of the nicest babies we've seen for the last few years in the Firecracker," says Raley. "It will be an accomplishment if you make the top 16 with this bunch."

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or e-mail fsilow@mailtribune.com