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Monday, September 2
AB What A Runner scores in $2 million Futurity

RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. -- Give the young lady credit, she sure is photogenic.

All-American Futurity
Jockey Jay Conklin, left, Stacy Vickery, middle, and her husband, trainer Bret Vickery, celebrate on the track at Ruidoso.
AB What A Runner, the filly that has made more hearts race in three starts than most horses stir in a lifetime, won Monday's $2 million All American Futurity in a three-way photo finish. The once unknown filly from Idaho splashed to victory to secure Quarter Horse racing's holy grail before a Ruidoso Downs record crowd of 17,009.

AB What A Runner rocketed from the gate in the 44th All American Futurity, narrowly leading every jump of the 440-yard contest. The final yards proved tenuous as longshot Eye Opening Episode and fellow Idaho invader Meteoric closed the gap. Just a nose separated AB What A Runner from each of her chief pursuers. It marked the second straight year that the All American Futurity finish came down to a pair of noses between the top three runners.

"I was praying for that mirror (on the finish line) to come as fast as it can," relieved jockey Jay Conklin said afterward.

Final time over a sloppy race track was :21.30, the third-fastest renewal in All American history. AB What A Runner registered her third career victory in as many starts, becoming only the second undefeated All American Futurity winner all-time. She joined racing great Special Effort, the 1981 winner, on the short list of unblemished All American champions.

But big efforts have been the rule for AB What A Runner. She cruised to a five-length win in her career debut at Les Bois Park in May. The super filly then opened eyes with a track record-setting score in the Aug. 15 All American Futurity trials. In that romp, she became the first two-year-old Quarter Horse ever to run a sub-21 second time for 440 yards (:20.993).

Owned by Dennie and Kris Hill of Blackfoot, Idaho, AB What A Runner was ridden to victory by another Idahoan, jockey Jay Conklin. The 27-year-old rider hails from Shoshone, a town with a population hovering around 1,200 depending on the bus schedule. Trainer Brett Vickery, a native of Idaho who now resides in St. George, Utah, earned the biggest victory of his 15-year career. He brought home the lions share -- $1 million in his first All American final.

"There are so many tough horses in this part of the country," Vickery said. "I know it's especially tough to bring them from the Northwest, but we got this filly down here so early (45 days ago), and she looked so good in her trial heat that I thought she had a good shot."

"The track was deep and muddy and the filly had to put it all out to win this," ecstatic owner Dennie Hill said. "We're just thrilled to death. We were just thrilled to be in it; to win it is unbelievable."

AB What A Runner became the first Arizona-bred to win the All American. In doing so, she also became the 13th filly to win the sports biggest race. Her sire, Royal Quick Dash, won the All American in 1991 and obviously passed his remarkable speed to his daughter.

Runner-up Eye Opening Episode ran a huge race on the outside, closing ground stoutly over the final 100 yards. Trainer Jose Dominguez exuded confidence during the week, and his son of Mr Eye Opener just missed winning his fifth race in six career starts.

Meteoric finished with a flourish near the rail, suffering his first defeat in seven lifetime starts. The hard-luck gelding flipped in the saddling paddock and rolled in the mud before heading to the track for the post parade. Owners Dutch Masters III earned back the $50,000 they paid to supplement Meteoric to the trials field. Meteorics jockey, Clark Jones, joined his wife Cammie Papineau in the ranks of jockeys to ride the All American final. Papineau finished fifth in the 1997 renewal.

First To Flash, the Rainbow Futurity winner and close second choice in the wagering, never fired and finished sixth. His trainer, John Bassett, was trying to become the first conditioner in history to win three All American renewals in a four-year span.

AB What A Runner, sent off at 2-to-1 odds, paid $6.20 to win as the picture-perfect favorite. Her connections indicated that AB What A Runner could resurface next in trials for the Los Alamitos Million.

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