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Top spots in Firecracker trials swept by fillies

GRANTS PASS — These three are the fastest of them all: Sneakin Bye, Jess be Hawkin and Rumors R Flyin.

The 2-year-old quarter horses won their heats in the Firecracker Futurity trials on Sunday and will face the next five fastest qualifiers in the $27,000 showdown July 4th.

Sneakin Bye did the incredible. Ridden by Ruben Camacho and trained by Scott Raley, the brown filly stormed from the gate in her first race ever and ran 350 yards in 17.64 seconds, only an eye blink over the track record.

Jess Be Hawkin nearly matched that at 17.98 seconds, but first she had to overcome prolonged adversity. The big sorrel filly entered the paddock already edgy, and her nerves appeared to worsen as post time was delayed by a water-truck spill that required 10 minutes of tractor work on the sodden surface.

"The wait concerned me a little," trainer Don Young said. "She's nervous all the time though. Her mother was like that."

Jockey Tad Skaggs exploded out of the gate and Jess Be Hawkin never let up.

"I just touched her at the end. She had a lot left," said Skaggs, who took himself off his other rides after the race, citing dehydration and exhaustion.

Jess Be Hawkin had the advantage of three previous races, including the Pot of Gold at Sun Downs in Kennewick, Wash. She won them all but was disqualified in one case because of a bump.

"I won't make an excuse," Young said. "Still, it wasn't her fault."

His filly surprised many bettors because of her unremarkable workout times.

"She doesn't like works. Competition is what makes her go," Young said.

Rumors R Flyin won her trial in 18:03 seconds. She was ridden by Troy Stillwell, who missed opening day. He then won the next two races and appears to be a live contender for top jockey.

Trainer Hector Magallanes saddled this filly, which is owned by his partner, Tryn Espelien. Magallanes' name should be familiar to futurity fans — his horse Warlock posted the fastest qualifying time in last year's trials.

Rumors R Flyin also benefited from races at Sun Downs, where she collided with Jess Be Hawkin in the Pot of Gold and finished eighth.

"This is my third year to enter the trials," said Magallanes, who studied for his training license under Don Young, one of his chief competitors come Independence Day.

The fourth fastest 2-year-old, at 18.04 seconds, was Shelby. Yes, it's another filly. She was ridden by Jim Bob Whiteside and trained by Jeanette Garrison. Whiteside was able to bring her off the soft footing by the rail and rally to a win.

The day took a toll on jockeys. Newcomer April Boag began where she left off Saturday by winning the first race, which gave her a total of four firsts. In the seventh race her mount Cryptic River veered on the backstretch toward the fence. Boag attempted to bail off but landed badly. She was taken away by ambulance with what onlookers described as a serious shoulder injury.

Three more jockeys were at least temporarily grounded by mishaps, and several horses were scratched. That left the Daily Courier Inaugural with a meager field of four runners. Trainer Teri Beckner put Jose Guerrero on Oh Wilson in place of the injured Boag, and the 5-year-old gelding won.

Two local trainers enjoyed big victories. Nancy Klapatch ran one of her Golden Gate mystery horses, Sharp Upbeat, in a thoroughbred maiden contest and won with Stillwell in the saddle.

And Mary Boyle's Chocolate Starr dusted the competition in the 10th race, with Whiteside replacing Scaggs as the rider.

Saturday and Sunday seemed like different worlds, not days, at the Downs. The 4 p.m. Saturday start drew a far smaller crowd, which thinned out fast as the sun became more blinding and brutal.

Sunday, however, was packed with people who hung around for the later races despite the occasional delays.

According to assistant racing director Lonnie Craig, the handle was "something over" $28,000 Saturday and $38,000 today. Attendance went from 1,000 to 2,500 over that span. Final figures won't be available until some computer malfunctions are solved.

Maybe the betting public will make peace with that 4 p.m. start next Saturday.

Dan Guthrie can be reached at guthrie23@centurylink.net