Rocker, Zeus headline Spring Breeders’ Festival

The $50,000 Gene Fleming Breeders’ Derby was settled by inches with favored J P Rocker just holding off the late surge of G Faikir, one of the longest-priced horses in the nine-horse field.

Deadly Black Eagle bounded to an early lead in the mile and a sixteenth event and led the field until giving way to the eventual winner near the eighth pole. The top two drew away from the rest to finish in 1:45.57. It was the third victory from seven starts for J P Rocker, a half-brother by Rocky Bar to newly minted Arizona-bred champion Tribal Gal. John Pendergast bred and owns both, who are out of the 2013 Broodmare of the Year, Famous Gal.

Last year’s winner of the Gene Fleming Breeders’ Derby, Red Zeus, was back as the hottest favorite of Spring Breeders’ Festival, and he did not let down those who sent him off the 1-5 favorite of the Dwight D. Patterson Handicap. After settling off the early pace of last year’s Patterson winner, F D Icy, Red Zeus blasted away to a wide lead, eventually winning by a geared-down five and a quarter lengths. The final time for the mile and a sixteenth on the turf was 1:43.56.

Red Zeus, just named the champion Arizona-bred 3-year-old of 2013, runs for Peggy Hopwood, who also bred the son of Red Sky’s with her late husband, Dick.

The Ann Owens Distaff Handicap drew a star-studded field that included Tribal Gal and Lady Jila, champion 3-year-old filly and champion older female of 2013 respectively, as well as the returning 2013 victress, Hindu Kush. Shrugging off all comers, however, was Tempe, who took the lead and never looked back while thundering to a five and a quarter-length victory over Tribal Gal with Lady Jila back in third. It was the first stakes victory for the Dennis Weir-bred daughter of Rocky Bar, and she ran six furlongs in 1:09.62.

The Joanne Dye was marred by a disastrous start for odds-on Lazy Daisy May, who spotted the field nearly 20 lengths at the break. Away smartly was second choice Aware, who turned in a front-running victory, holding Idling at bay by a length and three-quarters. Three lengths behind the top two was a tight three-horse finish that remarkably included Lazy Daisy May, who raced into contention despite the terrible start but flattened out to finish fifth. The winner, a Dennis Weir-bred El Roblar filly, was winning her first stakes.

Tackling the Sandra Hall Grand Canyon Handicap for the fifth straight year, 8-year-old Frisky Ricky came away with a length and a quarter victory over Rockin Home, a 3-year-old taking on elders in the six-furlong event. Second in 2011 and 2013 and unplaced in 2012 and 2010, Frisky Ricky was the first of three Spring Festival winners for sire Rocky Bar. The Arrowhead racing homebred was timed in 1:09.23.

All five 2013 Spring Festival event winners returned in 2014 and five of the six 2013 equine champions were in action on the sparkling Spring Festival card.

For further detail about these races, please check under the Racing option on the left panel.