If Euroears wins the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), Jim Helzer will have championship contenders in two breeds. Feature Mr Bojangles, owned in partnership, already has a good shot at the Quarter Horse champion 2-year-old colt title with victories in the grade I Hobbs America Futurity and Rainbow Futurity. And with a Breeders’ Cup win, Euroears could snag an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.
Everything is relative. Euroears is considered very much a sprinter by Thoroughbred standards, especially this year, when he has competed solely at six furlongs, the distance of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. In the world of Helzer’s Quarter Horses, however, Euroears would be a marathon runner. Feature Mr Bojangles’ two major victories came at 400 yards, a distance at which even the quickest Thoroughbreds are just warming up.
“Everybody asks me, ‘If you had to pick one (breed), which one would you pick?’ ” Helzer said. “I always say if I’ve got to pick one or the other, I’m just going to have to get out because I like them both.”
Helzer and his wife, Marilyn, watched Euroears gallop at Churchill Downs the morning of Nov. 3 with trainer Bob Baffert. The Helzers, who live in Arlington, Texas, will be bringing their entire family to watch the race. That worked at Del Mar, when Euroears won the July 31 Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I), so luck may be with them again.
A 7-year-old son of Langfuhr —Unky and Ally, by Heff, Euroears won the Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita and finished second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) before the Bing Crosby. His one misstep occurred in the Oct. 1 Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (gr. I) in the mud. He was squeezed back at the start and had to check sharply, never getting a chance to run his race and finishing last.
But while preparing for the Breeders’ Cup in California, Euroears turned in a sparkling bullet work of :56 3/5 for five furlongs at Santa Anita.
“That’s the fastest work I’ve ever seen,” said Baffert. “He’s really doing well right now.”
Euroears drew the rail for the BC Sprint. With his quick early speed, he will likely be setting the pace.
“If he breaks at all, that’s the perfect spot for him,” said Helzer.
Helzer’s ability to appreciate both breeds has enabled him to incorporate Thoroughbred bloodlines into his Quarter Horse operation. His JEH Stallion Station stands 30-plus stallions at locations throughout the Southwest.
While most of the stallions are Quarter Horses, JEH stands such Thoroughbreds as graded stakes winners Preachinatthebar, Mr. Nightlinger, and Dance Master. JEH stood 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick before his death. Quarter Horse mares can still be bred to Favorite Trick through the use of frozen semen, allowable in the Quarter Horse breed, though not in Thoroughbreds.
Helzer bought his first horse in 1961. The vast majority have been Quarter Horses, including world champion Refrigerator, and Helzer said he probably hasn’t started more than 15 Thoroughbreds. But they’ve been good ones, and the owner now finds himself with an excellent chance of winning a Breeders’ Cup race.