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Field gets set for Firecracker Futurity

Trainers Guerrero and Magallanes make presence known in qualifiers on opening day at Grants Pass Downs

GRANTS PASS — Coming out of opening day at Grants Pass Downs, it’s easy to remember the trainers for the top Firecracker Futurity qualifiers.

That’s mainly because it’s a lot of the same names.

Trainer Hector Guerrero fielded two horses in Sunday’s Firecracker qualifying races and they went out and finished in the top two qualifying spots for the headliner of the Fourth of July field that will wrap up the summer fair meet at the Josephine County Fairgrounds.

“These horses, they have a lot of class,” said Guerrero of AJ Run For Cash and Ima Sixy Man, Sunday’s top performers. “They’ve been training good and I think that’s why I think they qualified so fast. They’re really nice and it was a really, really big surprise to me that they were that fast, but we know they had already run in L.A. and had been training good. I was really happy, surprised, but I’m very excited about it.”

An added bonus was the fact that Guerrero’s younger brother, Jose, was the jockey who rode both horses to victory Sunday.

“He was really excited,” said Guerrero of his younger brother. “He’s a little confused about which one he’s going to take (into the Firecracker Futurity), but I guess he’s going to take the fastest qualifier.”

Sunday’s eight-race field featured nothing but quarter horses and served as the trials for both the Firecracker Futurity and the Rogue River Derby, the latter being run on the penultimate day of the summer meet, Sunday, July 3.

The Rogue River Derby will feature 3-year-old quarter horses, while the Firecracker Futurity is a field full of 2-year-olds.

That fastest qualifier that Jose Guerrero will likely ride on the Fourth of July for the $88,000 purse is AJ Run for Cash, which ran the 350-yard track in a top time of 17.43 seconds.

Ima Sixy Man, the second of Guerrero’s two horses to qualify for the Firecracker, came in not far behind of the leading qualifier with a time of 17.61 to win Sunday’s sixth race.

“They’re very professional, both of them,” said Guerrero of his horses. “They acclimate very well here and they’ve shown it.”

While the elder Guerrero has the top two qualifiers, fellow trainer Hector Magallanes can stake claim to having four of his horses in the 10-horse Firecracker field.

Magallanes’ fastest qualifier, DC Ladys Dashn Eagle, was third-fastest behind Guerrero’s two horses at 17.85 seconds. Magallanes also trains the sixth- and seventh-fastest qualifiers (Fancy Lyke at 17.94 and Piece Of Calico at 17.97) and the 10th and final qualifier in Check the Cartel at 18.08.

“A few of the horses already had a couple of starts, but for the most part I was real pleased with all of mine,” said Magallanes. “To have four out of the top 10, that’s a pretty good number. I was real pleased with them and now we have to make sure they come back and good and happy and see if they go on to do their job on the Fourth of July.”

One of the people who wasn’t surprised to see Guerrero’s two horses run so fast during Sunday’s trials?

That would be Magallanes.

“What I saw in his two babies that ran — I knew them well because I was there when they got purchased back in October — they’re quite a bit more experienced than the other horses in the trials,” said Magallanes. “They had three starts apiece, so that really means a lot for a 2-year-old racing. They went in there knowing their job and they showed it. And on top of being experienced, the babies are fast, they’re very, very fast.”

That’s especially true for AJ Run for Cash.

“In my opinion, something has to seriously go wrong for the fastest qualifier for her to get beat,” said Magallanes. “She just looked that much better than the rest of the field. But I’ve also seen the last qualifier jump up and win. You just don’t know. That’s why it’s horse racing.”

Either way, Guerrero couldn’t hide his excitement for what’s to come on the final day of racing at Grants Pass Downs for the summer.

“It’s the biggest race of my life and I’m really happy with and proud of my horses,” said Guerrero. “I have a lot of respect for Hector and I know we are going to have a very good race. I wish him the best and for the best horse to win.”

Also qualifying for the Firecracker Futurity were a pair of horses ridden by Jaime Lopez in Dash for Five T (17.88) and Dash To The Flash T (17.94), as well as Corona Wagon Train (18.00) ridden by Jose Figueroa and Kiss The Prize (18.05) jockeyed by Cesar Moreno.

Magallanes also finished with the top two qualifiers for the Rogue River Derby, which has a purse of $25,000, with Leaving Angelz and L Bar D Mistr Cartel winning Sunday’s second and third races, respectively.

On Monday night, Figueroa claimed four wins, including capturing the biggest purse of the day in the seventh race while riding Strike It Lucky. That was the second of three straight wins for Figueroa to close out the day in the sixth, seventh and eighth races.

After his big opening day in the trials, Jose Guerrero claimed a pair of victories Monday.

Racing resumes next Monday night with a 5 p.m. post time. Livestreaming is now available for the remainder of the summer meet via the Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association’s website at racingontherogue.org.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Firecraker Futurity Trials race at Grants Pass Downs Sunday afternoon.