A royal upset
Queen battles favorite Moon Um Willie for Americana victory.
Natural Queen’s upset victory in the Americana Appaloosa Futurity demonstrated how a careful breeding program can pay dividends at the finish line. Dr. John V. "Jack" White Jr. has been fine-tuning Natural Queen’s family for five generations, and over the years has produced some very speedy Appaloosas.
"I bought my first Appaloosa when I was in high school back in 1961," says Dr. White, who with his wife, Beth, runs Rim Rock Ranch in Fort Collins, Colorado. "I’ve dabbled in racing since 1965, but we got serious in the ’70s."
RIM ROCK RANCH’S FOUNDATION
Dr. White, who also runs a large-animal veterinary practice, began Natural Queen’s family when he bought her fifth dam, the Thoroughbred mare Silver Dish. From Silver Dish he bred the Appaloosa mare Silver Sass, whose filly Paper Roses became Dr. White’s foundation racing mare.
Paper Roses jump-started Dr. White’s breeding operation, which now consists of nine broodmares and the Appaloosa stallion R Limited Edition.
Dr. White offers nearly all of his horses for sale as yearlings, and as a result they usually win on the racetrack for other owners. For example in 2004, Miss Fancy Layne, bred by Dr. White but campaigned by Tracey Porter of Wagoner, Oklahoma, was named champion 2-year-old sprint filly when she won two of 10 races, finished second in the Americana and earned $18,668.
Natural Queen, a 2003 daughter of Special Leader (AQHA) and out of the Appaloosa mare Won A Queen — a granddaughter of Paper Roses — was slated to follow Miss Fancy Layne into other hands.
A CHANGE IN PLAN
"We offered her for sale at $6,500 as a yearling," Dr. White says, "but no one was interested." Dr. White likes to keep the occasional filly to replenish his broodmare band, so he was happy to put Natural Queen into training. Ken Ramm starts Dr. White’s horses, and he knew she was special.
"Ken has done a wonderful job with our horses the last five or six years," Dr. White says. "Ken loved Natural Queen from the minute he started working with her."
Dr. White’s regular Colorado trainer, Tim Weeder, took over from Ken. "They both deserve a lot of credit for this filly," Dr. White says. But when the time came to ship Natural Queen to Remington Park in Oklahoma for the Americana trials, Tim found that he had too many other horses in training to be able to make the trip. Dr. White asked Remington based Rudy Ramirez Jr. to deputize.
PROVING HER METTLE
Remington held three trials on April 15 to determine the field for the $28,200 Americana final on May 6. Natural Queen, making her racing debut, competed in the first trial, defeating favored Nedsdiamondvalentine by a nose in :18.559 for the 350 yards as the 4-1 third choice. She turned out to be the slowest of the three trial winners, but by less than a tenth of a second. Victoria Ennis runners Pikepass and Moon Um Willie qualified by winning the other two Americana trials in :18.462 and :18.555, respectively.
On finals day, Joe Vega was aboard Natural Queen. "He’d never ridden for us before, " Dr. White says. "but he’s an up-and-coming young rider at Remington."
When the gate opened, La Calceta got the first jump to the lead, but Moon Um Willie and Natural Queen quickly turned it into a two-horse race.
"Our filly kind of got a little green after the break," Dr. White says. "She did a little bit of wiggling, but the jockey touched her twice and she just took off." Natural Queen outfinished Moon Um Willie to win by three-quarters of a length in :18.195, with D D Marble third. She paid $21.80 as the fourth choice.
"She gave me her best and had a good break," jockey Joe Vega says.