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Guerrero brothers take Firecracker Futurity win

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GRANTS PASS — Following the Firecracker Futurity trials on Father’s Day, jockey Jose Guerrero was faced with a choice.

After riding two of the fastest qualifiers, which one would he ride with the money on the line?

It turned out that Guerrero’s choice was right on the money.

In a dominant display, Guerrero rode Aj Run for Cash to victory in Monday afternoon’s Firecracker with a winning time of 17.44 seconds, celebrating the $88,000 purse alongside his brother Emilio, the horse’s trainer.

And make no mistake about it: Both of the Guerrero brothers described their Firecracker win as the biggest victory of their respective careers.

“It means a lot. It was on my bucket list, and I did it,” said a beaming Emilio. “Doing it with my brother, it’s great. We’re family and everything and we have our disagreements like everybody else, but it’s part of the job. We’re doing a job.”

“We’ve been working hard and it’s great,” added Jose through his interpreter, Emilio. “We’re going to keep moving forward. We do a lot of hard work and it’s paying off.”

Monday’s Firecracker, the 350-yard sprint that featured 2-year-old quarter horses, proved to be a family affair for multiple reasons.

Emilio Guerrero just so happened to also be the one who trained the second-place finisher, Ima Sixy Man, which was ridden by Ramon Sanchez, who had just flown back into Grants Pass Monday morning after running at Los Alamitos in Southern California the night before.

The owner of both of the Guerrero-trained horses? Travis Boersma and Boardshorts Stables.

“Without Emilio, none of this is possible,” Boersma said afterward. “His passion for quarter horses is second to none. Emilio has been racing here for forever and he’s one of those guys that is as loyal as the day is long, he’s honest and he’s true to himself. He has been nothing but the greatest person we could ever have helping us with these horses.

“He’s just a big heart, a sound mind and a determined individual.”

Boersma, the Grants Pass native and co-founder of Dutch Bros, was also quick to credit his oldest son, Payton, the COO at Boardshorts Stables and the one in charge of analytics and breeding.

The younger Boersma, a 19-year-old student at San Diego State, was part of a group of four that did all the background research on the two Guerrero-trained horses.

“Aj Run for Cash is out of a Apollitical Jess,” he began, “and Apollitical Jess is hands down the best quarter horse sire in America right now, winning almost 2 ½ times more than any other sire. … These two horses, they just checked all of the boxes.”

That kind of winning lineage was on display for all of the estimated crowd of 4,205 in attendance at Grants Pass Downs to see.

It just took a bit of time for the actual Firecracker to happen.

Not once, but twice did the No. 4 horse, Piece of Calico, get loose along the track, including right as they were trying to load her into the starting gate. That meant that all of the other eight horses had to wait. And wait. And wait some more after being loaded into their starting positions.

“The horse started moving around and was sweating a lot,” said Jose. “I was thinking the worst because the horse came back and everything. I was worried because it was the biggest race in our career.”

From there, though, with all the horses in the gate, it was nothing but speed.

Living up to its top qualifying time, Aj Run for Cash was out in front by the time the midway point of the race arrived, and won by nearly two-tenths of a second ahead of Ima Sixy Man.

Both Guerreros had no issue with the rest of the field chasing them entering the race, with Aj Run for Cash going off as almost an even-money favorite.

And as it turned out, nobody was able to catch them.

“They qualified that way, they finished that way. They showed it,” said Emilio Guerrero of his two horses in the Firecracker field. “It’s a lot of pressure being the favorite, but I’m used to the pressure. I like to work under the pressure and I think it makes me be a better man.”

The winning time Monday was nearly identical to the qualifying time recorded on Father’s Day two weeks ago, with just a tenth of a second separating the two.

“I think the consistency is that nobody was there and they don’t need to push her any more,” said Emilio Guerrero. “When you don’t need it, you don’t need it. She comes to do a job, she does a job, she doesn’t need to be whipped — that’s it.”

Trainer Hector Magallanes placed horses 1-2 in Sunday’s Rogue River Derby to take the $25,000 purse and cap a three-win day. Magallanes also picked up victories in the first and third races, with the second of those wins also coming with two of his horses going 1-2.

The Guerrero brothers won the $11,200 SOHRA (Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association) Stakes, with Jose riding Year of the Ox to victory.

Sunday and Monday, the final two days of racing at GPD this summer, had a larger combined handle than the first five days of racing. Monday’s handle was $ 74,330 alone.

Taylor Smith finished the seven-day fair meet as the top jockey with 13 wins. Jose Figueroa was second with 12 wins, while Jose Guerrero and his 10 victories were third.

Emilio Guerrero and Teri Beckner finished in a tie with 10 wins amongst trainers. But Guerrero took home top trainer honors thanks to his four second-place finishes compared to Beckner’s two.

Beckner was the leading owner with nine wins, as Boersma and Boardshorts Stables came in second with seven wins.

And when it came to which one of those seven wins that meant the most, there was nobody disagreeing trying to disagree with him there.

“It’s magical,” said Travis Boersma of being part of such a big day with the Guerreros. “To have your horses come in 1-2 in the Firecracker Futurity, I think it deserves a party. I think we should go have a party.”

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jockey Jose Guerrero pushes 'Aj Run for Cash' (#3 far right) to the win the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jockey Jose Guerrero celebrates on 'Aj Run for Cash' after winning the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jockey Jose Guerrero crosses the finis line riding 'Aj Run for Cash' to the win in the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Stable owner Travis Boersma is congratulated after his horses finished first and second in the Firecracker Futurity at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune 'Dizzy Dancer' ridden by Jose Figueroa wins the Charles Angin Memorial race at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Jockey Oracio Isidro Muro looks over his shoulder while riding 'Bete Rogue' to the win in the Glen Edwards Memorial race at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune 'Bethel Ridge '(1) ridden by Jose Figueroa makes the move to pass 'Xtrafine Xtina' ridden by Taylor Smith to win the Stars and Stripe Stakes race at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJockey Oracio Isidro Muro riding 'Bete Rogue' makes the move near the finish to win the Glen Edwards Memorial race at Grants Pass Downs Monday afternoon.