Bella Estrella, Beach Bum Eddie winners in Greene Derby Trials

A fast closing filly and top Indiana two-year-old from 2015 were victorious in the two trials for the upcoming $75,000 Harley Greene Derby set for Saturday, June 4. Bella Estrella and Cristian Esqueda and Beach Bum Eddie ridden by Cesar Esqueda made it an “Esqueda Double” in the two trials held Friday, May 20 at Indiana Grand.

Bella Estrella drew the outside post seven in the seven-horse lineup for the first division of the Harley Greene Derby trials. The lightly raced three-year-old daughter of Way Down Town broke out of the gate toward the back and trailed the field as heavy hitters Megatron Harry and Rodney Prescott and My Louisiana Rod and Berkley Packer dominated the top two spots during the 350-yard dash. Midway through the race, Bella Estrella found another gear and began surging on the leaders, timing her move just right to secure the win by one-half length at the finish over My Louisiana Rod. Daybreak Dash and Shanley Jackson won the battle for third over Megatron Harry.

“This is the first time I have ridden her in a race,” said Cristian. “I worked her one time at home and she trained really well, but we didn’t think she would be able to go that far. She proved us wrong tonight.”

Owned by Almanza Gustavo Jr., the homebred Bella Estrella was making her first start at Indiana Grand and her fourth overall, starting three times over the winter at Hialeah. The Indiana sired filly is trained by Julio Almanza and was bred by Almanza’s brother, Rolando.

“My brother (Rolando) had her at Hialeah this winter and sent her up to us in February,” said Almanza. “She’s been training well and Cristian (Esqueda) knew her. He wanted the opportunity to ride her so we gave him a shot and she raced well today.”

Almanza trains on a farm in Fennville, Mich. He makes the more than five hour drive down to Indiana Grand to race. The win with Bella Estrella was his first of the year at Indiana Grand in only his third start for 2016.

Bella Estrella was a bit of a surprise, paying $9.80, $3.40, $3.40 across the board. She now has two wins in four career starts and heads into the Harley Greene Derby with the quickest trial time of :17.721 seconds.

In the second trial, Beach Bum Eddie was the overwhelming favorite in the seven-horse field and he did not disappoint, winning his trial with authority. Starting from post three, the son of Escondido Beach controlled the race from nearly the start. In the end, he was a winner by a neck over Coco Beach and Giovani Vazquez-Gomez, who closed on the outside. WRs Kool Bob and Jackson rounded out the trifecta.

Beach Bum Eddie paid $2.60, $2.10, $2.10 as the race favorite. Owned and trained by Tony Cunningham, the three-year-old gelding now has four wins in seven starts and is two for two in 2016.

“He (Beach Bum Eddie) has been rested up and freshened up over the winter and has been training exceptional,” said Cunningham, who also trains from his farm in Michigan. “We haven’t made any changes to him this year. I think he has grown up some. He has put in two good starts so far this year. I couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”

Beach Bum Eddie completed his trial in a time of :17.779 seconds to rank second on the list of qualifiers for the Harley Greene Derby. Other qualifiers, with times and jockeys, include: My Louisiana Rod (Berkley Packer – :17.802); Coco Beach (Giovani Vazquez-Gomez – :17.813); Daybreak Dash (Shanley Jackson – :17.852); Megatron Harry (Rodney Prescott – :17.896); WRs Kool Bob (Shanley Jackson – :18.050); Heisasheis (Rolando D. Pina – :18.050); Dixie Cup Lou (Alex Estrada – :18.212); and Absolut Chilled (Smitty L. Oxendine – :18.440).

Of the 10 finalists, Trainer Randy Smith will saddle four horses in the final. Smith is the trainer of My Louisiana Rod, Megatron Harry, Coco Beach and WRs Kool Bob. He set new records in 2015 at Indiana Grand in the training ranks for most wins in one meet (46) and most earnings in one season ($1,104,209). Smith is the only trainer to ever eclipse $1 million in purse earnings in the Quarter Horse ranks at Indiana Grand in the 14-year-history of the track.

The second running of the $75,000 Harley Greene Derby will be the highlight of the Saturday, June 4 program. The program marks the first of six all-Quarter Horse racing nights for 2016. Also scheduled for June 4 will be trials for the $100,000 Jaguar Rocket Stakes and the $150,000 Gordon Mobley Futurity, both scheduled for finals on June 18.

Other all-Quarter Horse racing nights in 2016 are July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10, Oct. 8 and Oct. 22. All programs are Saturday night events with a first post of 6:05 PM EST.