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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cal Expo Notes

Rios homebred continues to add to resume

By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

El Azteca made a successful return to the races last weekend, capturing the Open Trot for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios with James Kennedy at the helm, but there’s more to the story.

The 5-year-old trotting son of Panama Hanover hadn’t seen evening action since June 5, when he won a conditioned affair at Hoosier Park as the 4-5 choice while lowering his lifetime mark to 1:54 3/5 in the process.

“He came out of the race with an injury and the vet told me there was only about a 20 percent chance he would make it back to the races,” Rios related. “Three months later, when he checked him out again, he was very surprised and told me it was about 95 percent that everything would be fine.”

El Azteca is the pride and joy of the Rios barn, with several Sire Stakes trophies on his mantle and earnings approaching the $120,000 mark. From his last 24 starts, 14 have ended up with smiles all around in the winner’s circle.

“I gave him a qualifier at Hoosier (September 24) before we left,” Rios explained. “Then I trained him pretty hard when we got here, which is why I didn’t put him in another qualifier. One thing about this horse, he always gives you 100 percent.”

Kennedy was guiding El Azteca for the first time from the outside slot in last week’s gathering for the top trotters on the grounds and ignited when it counted in the stretch to hang a head decision on another local favorite in Franks Best.

“James told me he drives just like a Cadillac,” Rios said. His mentor added that plans call for El Azteca to stay here through the meet, meaning fans and his Open Trot foes alike figure to see quite a bit of this determined performer.

El Azteca gets top billing in headliner

El Azteca, who has posed for pictures following 14 of his last 24 trips to the post for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios, heads the cast for Saturday night’s featured $5,000 Open II Trot at Cal Expo.

A 15-race card is on tap with a first post of 5:40 p.m. Racing will be conducted Saturday this week, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs beginning next week. Plans then call for a three-night-a-week schedule starting on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix.

El Azteca is a 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover out of the Jonathan Lobell mare Jonathan’s Girl who comes into this weekend’s assignment with $118,000 in his bank account and a 1:54 3/5 mark that was established on May 29 at Hoosier Park.

Making his first start since that victory in last week’s Open over this layout with James Kennedy at the controls, El Azteca did the track-and-attack to perfection and was up by a head over Frank’s Best in a game performance.

Like El Azteca, Frank’s Best is also owned and was bred by his trainer Bob Johnson and will once again have Mooney Svendsen in the sulky. The 7-year-old son of Armbro Scribe is just shy of the $200,000 earnings plateau and set his 1:56 2/5 career standard here two years ago.

Sharpshootennorris has to be given a long look after checking in second and third in the last two top dances for the trotting set at this meeting. Steve Wiseman reins and trains the $472,000 earner for Bette Jean Calice and the 11-year-old sports a 1:54 lifetime mark on his resume.

Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Silverlode with Steve Desomer guiding; Its Not Over and Chip Lackey; Sharpshotennorris, to be handled by Steve Wiseman; and Silence Son, who has the services of David Siegel.