Juan Sanguino stood on the dirt at Sun Downs Race track Sunday afternoon in Kennewick and pondered the question: Have you ever had a better weekend in horse racing?
“I have had some good weekends before,” said Sanguino. “But nothing like this weekend.”
Sanguino, the Hermiston trainer whose horses won the two major races at Sun Downs on Saturday — the $17,112 Sun Downs/AQHA Maiden Challenge Finals and the $15,030 Sun Downs/Zoetis Starter Allowance Challenge Finals — pulled off the weekend sweep when two more of his horses won Sunday’s major races.
First, Cops R Zoomin — with jockey Hugo Herrera aboard — came from the outside to beat the rest of the field in the $27,149 Abigail Kawanakoa Pot O’Gold Futurity.
Two races later, in the $28,170 Sun Downs/AQHA Merial Distaff Challenge Finals, Herrera was aboard another of Sanguino’s horses in Chicks Special Angel.
The 6-year-old mare blew away the field in the 400-yard race with the easy victory and a berth in the national finals after this year.
It also gave Sanguino the perfect weekend, as he took all four major races in the final weekend of Sun Downs’ meet.
Sanguino said he felt good about his horses’ chances after seeing them work out Sunday morning.
“In the morning session, I could tell,” he said. “It feels good. They’re both great horses.”
In a day that saw a number of horses get antsy in the starting gate – a couple of them flipped – Sanguino’s horses were calm.
“They have good heads in the gate,” he said. “And sometimes you have to trust the people in the gate.”
For Sanguino, that meant Herrera on Sunday.
The rider wasn’t even supposed to be on either winner.
“I had tried to get Cesar Gomez to fly in,” said Sanguino. “He’s a great jockey. But he had problems getting here.”
So Sanguino called Herrera.
“I’ve been working the California fairs,” said Herrera. “Places like Placerville, Sacramento. I wasn’t supposed to ride these horses. But when the kid couldn’t get here, I got the call. This is good for me.”
Both winners gave Herrera smooth rides.
In the Pot O’Gold, Cops R Zoomin was all business in the paddock. The filly wasn’t nervous, and she wasn’t relaxed. Nor was she interested in the crowd that was watching her.
She was just concentrating on walking with her handler and preparing for the 300-yard race.
And when the gates opened, she got a clean break and never wavered on a straight line.
Meanwhile, Foose Flying, the San Gregorio Racing Stable horse that had a lot of money bet on it, stumbled out of the 5 gate before getting her feet underneath her. By then, it was too late.
Lil Touch of Dixie, starting in the 10 spot, came flying hard at the end to finish second, and Eye Opening Attitude took third.
But this was all Cops R Zoomin for the victory.
In the Distaff Challenge, Chicks Special Agent was even more impressive. The mare shot straight and clean out of the 6 spot in the gate and was never threatened.
Another large crowd came out and wagered a total handle of $52,025.
Coupled with Saturday’s handle of $103,000 – including $35,000 for the Kentucky Derby – it was a strong finish for the meet.
“I thought the meet went really well, other than the middle weekend with the lack of horses and bad weather,” said Nancy Sorick of the Tri-City Horse Racing Association. “We sure picked it up this last weekend. I’m going to look at something for next year. We’re looking at next year with a positive attitude if we can work things out with the fair board and the county.”
Official results were not available Sunday night and will be in Tuesday’s paper.