Local News

Un Ojo at Copper Crowne


Contributing Writer

It is quickly becoming apparent that no one in the horse industry should underestimate a one-eyed, Acadiana-owned thoroughbred who’s defied the betting odds and become a Kentucky Derby contender.

Un Ojo, a three-year-old gelding currently stabled at the Copper Crowne Equine Training facility south of Opelousas, gained significant qualifying points Feb. 26 for the annual Derby at Churchill Downs with a muddy, come-from-behind win in the $1 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Race Track and Casino.

Un Ojo

Blinded accidentally at an early age in his left eye, Un Ojo, which means one-eye in Spanish, wasn’t given much of a chance by the betters at the Hot Springs, Ark., track Feb. 26, before he bolted from the gate with a 75-to-1 chance at winning.

Jockey Ramon Vasquez moved Un Ojo along the fence for all of the 1 1/16-mile Rebel and after maneuvering through the rain, sloppy turf and traffic, guided the horse to what trainer Ricky Courville called a career defining victory.

An available video of the Rebel Stakes shows Vaquez patiently leaving Un Ojo, bred by Southern Equine Stables, in the middle of the 11-horse field.

As the horses moved around the last turn, Vaquez positioned the gelding inside a widening gap along the rail and with a final surge, Un Ojo moved past the leaders for the narrow win.

It was also the second career win in six starts for the New York-bred, Cypress Creek Equine-owned horse alternately trained by Courville, who describes Un Ojo as a late bloomer that is just beginning to develop.

Courville, a former jockey who has trained horses since 2008, said Un Ojo now has acquired $776,000 in career earnings for principal owner Kevin Moody of Lafayette and compiled enough qualifying points for the May 7 Derby feature race in Louisville, KY.

On a chilly morning this week, Clay Courville, Un Ojo’s assistant trainer and son of Ricky Courville, had the horse on the track for his normal galloping routine around the 6 ½ furlong Copper Crowne track.

The 1,200-pound thoroughbred usually undergoes speed work once weekly, Clay Courville said,  after leaving one of the stalls that cover the 210-acre complex between La. 182 and Interstate 49.

Ricky Courville, who broke Un Ojo in November with a win at Delta Downs and trained him for the Rebel Stakes, said the dark brown gelding is seemingly improving as a horse who effectively handles longer distances.

“I think what you are seeing now is a well-bred horse that has been developing and improving. As it becomes time for the Derby, the national media is going to more and more catch on and feature his story,” Courville said.

Un Ojo, trained then by Courville as a two-year-old, got a second career start Nov. 5 at Delta Downs and 15 days later finished fourth in the Jean Laffite Stakes.

After that race Un Ojo was moved to New York where he was trained by Tony Dutrow and on Feb. 5 now racing as a three-year-old, Un Ojo earned Derby points by closing fast and finishing second in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

Before the Withers, Un Ojo was second by a neck in the $500,000 Stallion Series Stakes, his final race as a two-year-old.