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Quinonez, Capestro, Howey have first Del Mar fall meet wins

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The final weekend of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club fall meet Friday to Sunday, Dec. 2-4, included San Luis Rey Training Center trainer Peter Miller winning his sixth race of the meet December 4 with Midnight Majesty. Three other San Luis Rey trainers – Rolando Quinonez, Paula Capestro, and Quinn Howey – had their first-ever Del Mar fall meet wins that weekend.

Quinonez had two first-place horses, winning the first race, Dec. 2, with Lily Poo and the eighth race, Dec. 4, with Tisquantum. Capestro trains Army Star, who won the sixth race, Dec. 3. Howey saddled fourth race winner Blackened, Dec. 4.

“What a week,” Quinonez said.

“It was very nice,” Capestro said.

“It’s always tough to win at Del Mar whether it’s summer or fall, so it’s great to get a win there,” Howey said.

Del Mar has had a fall meet since 2014. Capestro’s first two Del Mar summer meet wins were in 2006 with one of those being a stakes race won by River’s Prayer. The win by Army Star was Capestro’s 248th career victory for all tracks. Capestro often trains young horses who are then sold and have another trainer for races, so many of her horses either do not run at Del Mar or run at less competitive tracks.

Del Mar is still Capestro’s local track.

“We try our best to run as much as we can,” she said.

A trip to Portugal and Italy limited Capestro’s action at Del Mar this fall.

“I was in Europe for three weeks. I didn’t get back until Nov. 21,” she said.

Army Star had not previously raced under Capestro. The two-year-old colt was foaled in Kentucky Jan. 22, 2020, and made his racing debut, Sept. 17, at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville. He finished seventh in that race and ran in a maiden claiming race, Oct. 14, at the Keeneland track in Lexington, Kentucky. A horse in that race could be claimed for $50,000 before the start of the race.

“He has a lot of class. I thought he was going to run second when I claimed him, but he won it,” Capestro said.

The win in that race eliminated Army Star’s eligibility to run in future maiden races for horses who have not yet won.

“That worked out to our advantage, so I’m very glad it turned out the way it did,” Capestro said.

The sixth race, Dec. 3 ,was for two-year-olds who have started for a claiming price of $50,000 or less and had never won two races. The 6 1/2-furlong race was on Del Mar’s dirt track. Army Star was one of six horses and was ridden by Diego Herrera.

“When you run a horse for the first time you really don’t know how you’re doing to do, but he seems to have a lot of ability and I’m pretty excited about it,” Capestro said.

Herrera and Army Star broke first, dropped back to third during the first two furlongs, held a two-length lead entering the stretch, and won the race in 1:18.07 with second-place Crowning Gold finishing 3 1/4 lengths behind.

“I’m happy with his disposition,” Capestro said. “He has class, and he showed it in the race.”

Capestro has not yet decided when Army Star will next run.

“I’m not going to push him. He’s a two-year-old,” Capestro said. “We’re just going to take good care of him and look for our next opportunity.”

Howey won his 415th career race, Dec. 4. Most of those have been at Northern California tracks. He had some horses at Del Mar in previous years.

“This is the first year we’ve really made it a focus,” Howey said.

Many of Howey’s horses were relocated from Golden Gate Fields to San Luis Rey for the Del Mar meets. Howey won three Del Mar summer meet races this year: two with Cowboy Charlie and one with Morning Addiction.

“We had some success in the summer, and it was nice to get a win in the fall also,” Howey said.

Blackened, who is a filly, has the same Jan. 22, 2020, foaling date as Army Star and was also foaled in Kentucky. Blackened had not raced before Dec. 4 and had six timed workouts at San Luis Rey between Oct. 22 and Nov. 26. Boardshorts Stables LLC, which owns Blackened, purchased her in fall 2021 at a yearling sale.

“She’s done everything right,” Howey said. “I thought she’d run well. Luckily she did.”

The fourth race Dec. 4 was for two-year-old fillies with no previous wins. Nine horses contested the six-furlong dirt race.

“We knew she’d break a little bit slow,” Howey said.

Blackened and jockey Abel Cedillo broke sixth but gained the lead by the completion of the first quarter of a mile. They had a winning time of 1 minutes, 12 seconds and 33 tenths and finished three-quarters of a length in front of second-place Sweet Hello.

“It was a good effort all the way around,” Howey said.

Boardshorts Stables also owns Morning Addition, but only some of the ownership group members watched that Aug. 26 race in person. All of the owners and their families were present for Blackened’s Dec. 4 win.

“The great thing with Blackened was just to get a win with the owners there,” Howey said. “It was nice to have everybody in the house.”

Howey doesn’t expect Cowboy Charlie, Midnight Addiction or Blackened to race for the remainder of calendar year 2022.

“They all benefit from a little time off,” Howey said.

Quinonez worked for San Luis Rey trainer Clifford Sise and also rode horses for San Luis Rey trainer Richard Baltas before becoming a trainer himself in 2021.

“I always had horses,” Quinonez said. “I always wanted to become a trainer.”

Both of his 2021 trainer wins were at Los Alamitos Race Course. Quinonez also had a June 2022 win at Los Alamitos before winning three times during the Del Mar summer meet with Tisquantum, Amigo G A and Double Fantasy.

Lily Poo finished second in her first two races, Sept. 11 and Nov. 12, at Del Mar. The first race Dec. 2 was a maiden race for two-year-old fillies. Ramon Vazquez rode Lily Poo in that 6 1/2-furlong dirt contest with six horses.

The second-place horse, Wudi, is trained by Bob Baffert. Phil D’Amato trains Sweet Trouble, who finished third.

“To beat those guys is not easy,” Quinonez said.

Vazquez and Lily Poo broke third and dropped back to fourth. They were second, a length behind Wudi, entering the stretch. Their margin of victory was 4 1/2 lengths and their winning time was 1:17.10.

“We did it,” Quinonez said of his first Del Mar fall meet victory.

Lily Poo was foaled in Kentucky March 1, 2020.

“It’s always been a pleasure working with her,” Quinonez said.

Tisquantum is a five-year-old gelding who was foaled in Kentucky Feb. 8, 2017. All five of his races have been with Quinonez. Tisquantum made his racing debut as a four-year-old in May 2021 at Santa Anita Park and did not race again until the 2022 Del Mar summer meet.

Quinonez has run Tisquantum on both the turf surface and the dirt track. The Aug. 25 win was in a one-mile turf race while the December 4 victory was in a one-mile dirt race for horses three years old and upward. Kent Desormeaux was Tisquantum’s jockey Dec. 4.

Desormeaux and Tisquantum broke fifth among the nine entries. They were in seventh for most of the race before taking the lead before the stretch and finishing 2 3/4 lengths ahead of second-place Bright Leaf. Tisquantum and Desormeaux won the race in 1:37.12.

“He showed us a big improvement,” Quinonez said of Tisquantum. “I’m so happy the way he ran.”

Quinonez had three horses on the final weekend of the Del Mar fall meet. Vagabond Prayer went off at 31.5:1 odds Dec. 2 and finished second.

“Everything is coming out the right way,” Quinonez said. “I’m just so thankful for the way we’re going at the moment. I just want to thank everybody for all their support.”

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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