RUIDOSO DOWNS, NM—SEPTEMBER 7, 2021—John and Kathy Lee, co-owners of All American Futurity champion KJ Despardo, were on their way home to their ranch in Chandler, Arizona today. That’s a long-enough drive to think about what happened this summer at the races and also time to talk about the immediate and long-term future for their new racing star.
"Right now the horse deserves rest after a long summer," John said while making the drive. "As long as he feels up to the task he’ll continue his racing career at Lone Star Park in the Texas Classic in the fall."
The Apollitical Jess gelding’s victory on Labor Day by a head over Fdd Scout was his sixth start of the season at Ruidoso Downs, plus add two more starts to his record at Turf Paradise in the spring. That’s plenty of starts including a post position in all three triple crown races here where he finished sixth in the Ruidoso and seventh in the Rainbow Futurities before his big victory yesterday.
"Our horse had so much bad racing luck in the previous races that it was about time we had some good fortune," John said. "He’s been t-boned on the race track a couple of times before, and we were starting to wonder whether the horse would start shying away from the break expecting to get t-boned again."
Trouble started for KJ Desparado in a spring stakes event at Turf Paradise where another horse came over on him and was disqualified for interference. Then in the Ruidoso Futurity, "KJ" traded two strong bumps with another horse in the finals. The gelding’s Rainbow Futurity misfortune might have been the most difficult of all to overcome on a sloppy race track that day.
"Our horse bobbled coming out and then the one-horse came over looking for track position and we got swallowed up again," John said. Still no one on the gelding’s team lost confidence that he could eventually win the All American.
"Our rider, Adrian Ramos, told me and Wes (trainer Giles) in the spring that he wanted the mount on this horse no matter what all summer," John said. "He told us that there was something special about KJ and he could feel it underneath him. He’ll tell you that he knew what this horse was capable of doing all the way back to when we were breaking him."
John said he never lost confidence in the gelding’s chances even with another two-year-old, Jess Savin Candy, attempting to win the triple crown on Labor Day.
"I knew that my horse had never gotten a clean-enough trip to have a chance," Lee said. "I believed that we could outrun that horse if we only had the opportunity."
Which sets the stage for one day in the future when the two horses could meet again. That meeting could come as early as opening weekend of the 2022 Ruidoso Downs racing season in trials for the Ruidoso Derby.
That’s a budding rivalry between two soon-to-be three-year-olds that racing fans can all look forward to down the road. "That’s part of the fun," John said. "It’s what this game is all about."