No one is sure if the Sun Downs era is over or not.
But if it is, Sunday’s final race card of 2012 was a great way to finish things off.
It had some great performances and some intense drama, starting with the meet’s signature race — the $26,750 Pot O'Gold Futurity.
It all started with the break at the gate in the 300-yard race.
Jess Be Hawkin, with jockey Hugo Herrera aboard, broke from the 4 spot in the gate and immediately veered left into Rumors R Flyin and rider Troy Stillwell, coming out of the 3 spot.
In turn, Rumors R Flyin collided with the 2 horse, Rogue County, and jockey Travis Wheeler, who was knocked off his mount just 30 yards into the race.
Herrera was able to regain control of Jess Be Hawkin, who straightened her line out and began to close in on leader One Famous Strawfly and jockey Paul Greene, starting out of the 5 spot at the gate with a clean jump.
Jess Be Hawkin caught and just passed One Famous Strawfly for the victory right near the finish line, setting off a celebration for her camp.
In fact, the entire camp came out to the Winner’s Circle ready for the picture, just waiting for the race to be declared official.
Then the “Inquiry” sign popped up on the toteboard.
A few minutes later, Jess Be Hawkin was disqualified by the racing stewards for interference out of the gate and One Famous Strawfly was named the winner in a time of 15.58 seconds.
It was justification for One Famous Strawfly’s owner, Ruben Magallanes of Boardman, Ore., whose son Hector is the trainer.
“You expect the best out of your horse, and sometimes it doesn’t happen,” Magallanes. “But it did today. The No. 3 horse (Rumors R Flyin) is also my horse and it was pushed pretty bad.”
The winner has a lot of potential with an easy-going demeanor, Magallanes said.
“She’s a really honest horse, really gentle,” he said. “We actually call her Donkey because she’s so easy going. She doesn’t get excited.”
And she’s fast, said Greene, a jockey who mostly rides for trainer Bret Vickery out of Sandy, Utah, but drove up from Boise to ride Sunday.
“She broke good from the gate,” Greene said. “She was good in the warm-up. She’s a filly that kept herself out of trouble. The system starter did a great job inside the gate, trying to keep her straight, because she wanted to go left too at first. I had the front at the start, so I didn’t see what happened. But the 4 had to catch me at the wire.”
It wasn’t until after the race did he see the replay.
“The stewards made the right call,” Greene said.
Herrera was just sick about the call.
“It breaks my heart,” he said. “I know I broke in, but I corrected it right after a few steps.” It just wasn’t enough.
But if Herrera was heartbroken, it didn’t last long.
He rode L Bar D Snow Princes to victory two races later — the final race of the meet — in the $25,020 American Quarter Horse Association’s Merial Distaff Challenge final.
It was his first time on this horse, which last raced at Portland Meadows in January.
The 6-year-old mare was relaxed in the paddock before the race, taking a look at the large crowd studying her demeanor as she was led around by her handler.
Her owner, Gerardo Sanguino from Umatilla, had simple instructions for Herrera.
“I said ‘Just grab the filly and make her go straight,’” Sanguino said. Herrera did that from the start, breaking cleanly from the gate and running the 400 yards to victory.
That was the key, said trainer Don Young.
“She can run,” said Young, who was also the trainer for the earlier disqualified Jess Be Hawkin. “She got a good start, and that’s what this quarter horse racing thing is about.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Herrera was named the meet’s top jockey — getting lifted up in the air in celebration by Sanguino’s team after the announcement — and Young was the meet’s top trainer.
“That was my main goal,” said Herrera of winning the top rider award. “Now I’m headed back to my family in California in the morning before I go riding at Boise.”
Everyone else is dispersing from the Kennewick track after a meet that almost didn’t happen.
A jump in jockey insurance rates this year almost cancelled the meet, but the Tri-City Horse Racing Association decided to forge on, and the meet turned out successful.
Sunday’s total handle was $62,997.
“This year was fabulous,” said Nancy Sorick, the general manager of the meet. “It was better than the 2011 meet. We had a huge crowd every day, and the fans are so supportive. ”
But that may not be enough to continue racing for 2013.
If so, Sunday was a great way to end things.
Trey finished with a bang when he correctly picked a trifecta in the third race that paid $391.40.
For the season, Trey finished with $583.80 of imaginary money, well up from the original $300 he started with.
FIRST — Mel White and Clarence ‘Tootie’ White Memorial special, TB clm $5,000, 3YO&Up which have never won 2 races, Purse $1,500, 4 furlongs: 4. Once 27.80, 10.00, 5.20; 6. Justbrown 3.20, 3.00; 1. Sir Sayonara 12.80. EX (4-6) 39.80, QU 73.50, TRI (4-6-1) 324.00. T — 46.80.
SECOND — TB clm $3,200, Fillies and mares 3YO&Up, Purse $1,700, 4 furlongs: 2. Fly Pole 4.60, 3.20, 2.80; 1. Doozyburg 3.00, 2.60; 4. Same On Rosie 3.00. DD (4-2) 41.20, EX (2-1) 6.60, QU 7.80, TRI (2-1-4) 21.80. T — 45.80.
THIRD — Sundowns Futurity Consolation, QH stakes consolation, 2YO nominated or ran in Sundowns Futurity trials, fastest times preferred, Purse $2,000, 300 yards: 4. Wild Beach 10.40, 5.00, 5.60; 3. First Daisy 8.20, 5.60; 9. Miss Kitty Zoom 5.60. EX (4-3) 22.60, QU 24.00, Super (4-3-9-5) 74.50, TRI 391.40. T — 15.61.
FOURTH — TB clm $3,200, 3YO&Up, Purse $1,700, 6 furlongs: 3. Ezinmotion 6.80, 3.80, 3.20; 2. On the Hill 3.80, 2.60; 1. Enterprise Zone 2.60. EX (3-2) 31.00, QU 35.70, TRI (3-2-1) 68.40. T — 1:14.40.
FIFTH — Horse Heaven Gallery - Ginny Harding special, QH allowance, 3YO&Up, Purse $1,800, 350 yards: 7. Lil Orange Scooter 5.80, 4.20, 2.60; 3. Runnin for the Boys 7.40, 3.80; 1. Kimz Hucklebery Hank 3.00. EX (7-3) 75.60, QU 55.20, TRI (7-3-1) 265.40. T — 17.91.
SIXTH — Buckey and Beverly Stockwell Training Stable special, QH allowance, 3YO&Up, Purse $1,800, 770 yards: 1. Swiss Ace (TB) 6.00, 3.80, 4.00; 2. Algutis (QH) 10.20, 8.20; 5. Carry On Cappy (QH) 4.40. EX (1-2) 44.40, QU 47.70, TRI (1-2-5) 330.20, Super (1-2-All-All) 18.70. T — 40.47.
SEVENTH — Pot O’ Gold Futurity, QH futurity, 2YO that qualified first through tenth in time trials, Purse $26,750, 300 yards: 5. One Famous Strawfly 61.80, 23.20, 10.20; 9. Cartel Madam 7.00, 5.20; 10. Fannies Corona 6.20. EX (5-9) 180.00, QU 198.60, TRI (5-9-all) 861.40. T — 15.58.
EIGHTH — Western States Equipment Au Revoir special, TB clm $2,000, 3YO&Up which have not won a race in 2012, Purse $1,600, 6 furlongs: 2. Want the Facts 6.20, 3.80, 3.80; 6. Reason to Reckon 3.00, 3.40; 1. Go Buster Go 3.80. EX (2-6) 38.40, QU 25.80, TRI (2-6-1) 384.40. T — 1:15.20.
NINTH — AQHA Merial Distaff Challenge Finals special, QH finals, Fillies and Mares 3YO&Up that qualified in time trials, Purse $25,020, 400 yards: 3. L Bar D Snow Princes 17.60, 10.20, 6.00; 1. Just a Rumor 12.40, 5.40; 2. Ez Gamer 5.40. DD (2-all) 3.80, DD (All-3) 15.20, EX (3-1) 782.80, QU 138.00, Super (3-all-all-all) 16.20, TRI (3-1-2) 1,489.80. T — 19.58.
Total handle — $62,997.