Breaking well from the 10-hole, the gelding found a clear path and Roy Baldillez just hung on for the ride to win the $2.3 million race by one-and-a-quarter lengths.
“I just let him get rolling after the first 50 yards, and he turned it on and ran it by himself,” Baldillez said. “I knew had it 50 yards from the gate. He just gets better on this end, and the further he goes, the more powerful he gets.”
Besides earning major credentials for winning yet another Grade 1 race, Ochoa won more than $900,000 to become the all-time money-earning quarter horse, surpassing Stolis Winner by $300,000.
Ochoa has now won more than $2.5 million in his career, and breeder/owner Johnny Jones said his horse hasn’t reached the end of the line yet.
“He’s a sound horse, and we’re not going to abuse him. We won’t run him just to run him,” Jones said. “Maybe the Champion of Champions next year.”
“Bill collectors love me now, I have enough money to feed my cows for another year,” quipped Jones, whose J Bar 7 Ranch owns Ochoa in a partnership with Monte and Katsy Cluck and Doug Benson.
“Probably the Lone Star Derby, the Texas Classic,” said trainer Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath of Ochoa’s next race. “We’d like to run him some more.”
The $750,000 Champion of Champions will be run this December at Los Alamitos Race Course in California.
Ochoa’s win was his sixth in six starts at 440 yards, having also won last year’s All American Futurity and this year’s Rainbow Derby, a race in which his late-charging style led to an impressive come-from-behind victory.
“Being on the outside is a lot better, because you don’t get in any kind of trouble,” Baldillez said. “He actually broke good in the Rainbow Derby, but the horses on each side had him beat pretty good, and he just needed a hole to run through. But being on the outside today, he couldn’t get cut off. I just had to get him around and let him go on. He’s a very powerful horse.”
Jones, who earlier in the day saw his horse Noconi run his last race in the All American Gold Cup, was very aware of how fortunate a horse breeder and owner he’s been.
“We won about $1.3 million with Noconi before retiring him, and now this,” Jones said of Ochoa’s victory. “I’ve had a lot of luck in my life.”