From TRACK magazine Publisher/Editor
If you think that Valiant Lil Lady is the best filly to ever win the Texas Classic Futiruty G1, you are absolutely right.
Because in the 20-year history of this race, the Valiant Hero filly is the only filly to have her picture made after winning the race that is annually the biggest race run by any horse of any breed in Texas.
The brown filly foaled February 28, 2010, covered 400 yards :19.616 to take $432,533 from the $1 million purse from this race created so many years ago by a bunch of dreamers at the Texas Quarter Horse Association.
A $23,000 purchase in the September 2011 Heritage Place Yearling Sale from Todd Antonuk's consignment for breeders Bob & Jerry Gaston, Valiant Lil Lady now has earned $485,163 for owner Bryon Gardner.
It was the biggest win ever in the career of trainer Judd Kearl, who with 77 wins this year ranks second nationally only to Paul Jones in that category. At $1,325,761, Kearl ranks seventh in the money-earning statistics.
The Madisonville, Texas based trainer, whose training center once was occupied by Arnold Simmons and then briefly by John Bassett, is just a short distance from the New Waverly, Texas, home of Bryon and Angie Gardner.
The story of this year's Texas Classic Futurity actually begins a couple of years ago when barrel racer Angie Gardner stopped by the Kearl barn and asked Judd about a barrel filly. That led to a couple of wins on the track for the Gardners. And the rest is history.
"Bryon sent me to the Heritage Place Yearling Sale (in September 2011) and told me to pick out a bargain for $10,000 or $15,000," Kearl told TRACK.
"I ended up spending $23,000 for this one (Valiant Lil Lady). He ribbed me about is for quite a while when I told him I blew the budget. But I think he's okay with it now."
Born: February 27, 1975
Quarter Horse trainer Judd Kearl grew up in Tremonton, Utah, and learned the ropes from his dad, Steve.
"I remember ponying a horse when I was six," Kearl recalled. "My dad had a construction company, but growing up, I knew that was not what I wanted to do."
So with a deeply rooted instinct for horses, Kearl began his training career in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. He won his first stakes in 1996 with a chestnut gelding named Fatherhood. Bred in California by Ed Allred, Fatherhood made 19 starts and set a new track record at Pocatello Downs on June 9, 1996. He ran his last race in June, 1998, and still remains with Kearl.
Kearl has won titles at Manor Downs, Lone Star Park and has done exceptionally well at Sam Houston Race Park, clinching his sixth trainer crown in 2013.
From claimers to futurity stars including Valiant Lil Lady, Wagon Tales, Just Wanna Corona and Krash Cartel, the Kearl Racing horses are extremely well-cared for.
"Having a happy horse is really important to us," said Kearl. "You're only as good as your horses, your help and your owners."
And many of his owners have been with Kearl for close to a decade. He is deeply appreciate of their support.
"They put their trust in you to do what the horses need to do," said Kearl. "So far we have done well and they have confidence in us."
Rodrigo Vallejo is the first call rider for Kearl; the native of Jalisco, Mexico, is one of the most underrated jockeys in the game today.
"He doesn't speak Spanish; I don't speak English, but it works," states Vallejo. "We make a pretty good team."
Kearl also heavily relies on his two assistant trainers, Jimmy Padgett and Adan Guzeman, for the day-to-day duties at each of the tracks in the Lone Star State, as well as Hialeah Park, Ruidoso Downs and Remington Park.
In the AQHA standings for trainers by wins, Kearl was the 40th leading trainer in 2008; advanced to the 24th spot in 2009 and completed 2012 as the 11th-leading conditioner in the country. Winning titles and moving up in the national AQHA rankings are positive signs for the hard-working Kearl. No doubt that winning the All American Futurity will also make the list of his accomplishments in the near future!