November 11, 2011
Sometimes a little racing saves a lot of work.
From The Q-Racing Journal
Twenty-two wins and three seconds out of 26 starts.
Nine stakes victories at eight tracks in five states.
World champion laurels.
That would be quite a record for a stallion retiring from years of successful competition before heading to further glories at stud. Except he wasn’t.
That was Easy Jet as a 2-year-old. Forty-two years ago this month, the most precocious Quarter Horse ever wrapped up a freshman season unlike any other in history.
“He was so fast, it was almost scary,” said the horseman who bred, trained and raced the legendary stallion, the equally legendary Walter Merrick. Walter – beginning in the 1930s with Midnight Jr – in his own name bred 40 stakes winners and the earners of more than $6.5 million. Easy Jet – beginning with Our Jet in the 1973 R.M. Benavides Memorial Futurity at Laredo, Texas –sired the earners of more than $26 million.
By world champion Jet Deck, Easy Jet was out of Lena’s Bar (TB), a daughter of Three Bars who won 24 of 76 races against Quarter Horses. Foaled January 12, 1967, on a ranch that Merrick leased just east of Quanah, Texas, Easy Jet was a full brother to that year’s Kansas Futurity winner, Jet Smooth, a colt who earned points at halter to be an AQHA Champion.
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“I thought Easy Jet was outstanding,” Walter said. “He wasn’t as pretty a colt as Jet Smooth was, but he was a big, rugged individual, straight and correct everywhere. The bone structure was very good. He looked like a good prospect the way he was built. He was a runner from the word go. And he improved every day of his (racing) life.”
Easy Jet also made quite an impression on Walter’s foals.
“He was the king of the roost,” Walter said. “Easy Jet was the type of colt that was always doing something. You’d never see him standing still. I had him running in a paddock with five or six other colts, and he had so much energy – he was always jumping around, worrying those other colts. They’d be wanting to graze or eat, and he’d never be still, just pickin’ at them, pesterin’ them and going all the time.”
Then the colt made an impression on Walter’s cowboys.
“After we broke him, he was the same way. He never was a mean colt at all, but he was on his toes all the time, looking for something to do. He never did have any buck in him, but he was just a hyper kind of horse. He’d jump around and do things, just playing. He’d dump his riders while just exercising – not really buck them off, but he could move so quick, so fast, it was hard to stay with him. It took a good hand to ride him.”
Walter thought Easy Jet was special. Pretty soon, everyone else did, too.
Shortly after turning 2, Easy Jet outworked his big brother at home. But even before that (in December 1978), the colt won a yearling race at Sallisaw, Oklahoma. From his first official race, the January 5 trials to the Blue Ribbon Futurity, until his last as a freshman on November 30 at Sunland Park, Easy Jet carved up his competition in ways never matched before or since.
Earning a record $409,157, Easy Jet loped his way through the Blue Ribbon, Columbus Triple Crown, Lubbock, Kansas (where he set a track record), All American, Laddie, Rocky Mountain QHA, All American Congress and Sunland Fall Futurities. The colt’s only unplaced finish was in the Rainbow Futurity, when he false broke before being bumped badly in the race – he finished sixth to Miss Three Wars, but was moved up to fifth. Easy Jet won his 22 races by a combined 35-plus lengths.
And though ridden by Willie Lovell, Elbert Minchey and Ray Spencer, Easy Jet did it all pretty much on his own.
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“We never worked him on the gate,” Walter said. “We run him too regular. I haven’t seen even ever heard of a 2-year-old running as much as Easy Jet did, but I was with him every minute and watched him real close. And my son Joe slept on a cot in front of his stall at night.
“Easy Jet was a real sound horse, and he wanted to run – every week. If he’d ever showed any signs of being tired or sore or anything, well, I’d have backed off on him. But he was so hyper, had so much heart, so much desire to run, was so eager to go all the time, I thought that I’d just as well run him.
“Besides, if I didn’t run him, I was going to have to work him.”