Just as he had nearly a month ago, Easy Austin once again took the measure of heavily-favored Eastex to win the $265,200 El Primero Del Ano Derby for 3-year-old colts and geldings Saturday night at Los Alamitos Race Course.
In December, Easy Austin had stunned Eastex by winning the $706,000 Golden State Futurity, and, once again Saturday night, he outran the 1-5 favorite to collect the $112,180 winner's share in the El Primero.
Eastex got away poorly from the gate, stumbling at the start and then bumping another horse. Meanwhile, Easy Austin, with veteran jockey Kenny Hart aboard, broke out to the lead.
Eastex, with jockey Bruce Pilkenton, was nearly two lengths behind with 200 yards to go in the sprint and then finally kicked it into gear to finish just a neck behind Easy Austin.
Easy Austin ran the 400 yards in a quick 19.78 seconds and pushed his lifetime earnings to $579,173. He paid $7.20, $2.20 and $2.10 for the victory.
Eastex paid $2.20 and $2.10 to place, and Wrangler Sam, another three-quarters of a length back in third, returned $2.10 to show.
Easy Austin, owned by Juliana Winters and trained by Blane Schvaneveldt, has never run worse than second in 14 starts. With Saturday night's victory, his second over the heralded Eastex, Easy Austin has to be considered one of the finest 3-year-olds in the country.
With the second-place Derby finish, Eastex has been defeated four times in 15 career starts. Besides his two losses to Easy Austin, Eastex was defeated in the finals of the $700,000 Kindergarten at Los Alamitos in June when he was slow out of the gate and rallied to save third. His second loss was in a trial for the $2.5 million All American Futurity, where he had trouble on a muddy track (he won in the finals).
Eastex's defeat certainly comes as a blow to those who believed the brown gelding to be one of the best quarter horses of all time. His campaign as a 2-year-old saw Eastex winning 10 out of 13 starts by a combined total of more than 15 lengths.
Eastex has won the Bay Meadows Futurity, the Dash For Cash Futurity and the All American Futurity and set either stakes or track records in all three Futurity victories.