Easy Jet, si 100, by Jet
Deck, out of Lena's Bar (by Three
Bars TB), is one of the most influential speed sires of Quarter
Horses. Perhaps no other racing American Quarter Horse has had a greater
or more controversial racing career than Easy Jet.
During his 2-year-old campaign, he was loaded into the gates
26 times, a feat that some think would have crippled most juveniles.
Despite the criticism, he won 22 races that year, including the All
American, Kansas, Sunland Fall, Columbus Triple Crown and the
All-American Quarter Horse Congress Futurities. He was named World
Champion Quarter Running Horse, Champion Stallion and Champion
2-Year-Old Colt. He hit the track again as a 3-year-old and was just as
successful, attaining the titles of World Champion Racing American
Quarter Horse and Champion Quarter Running 3-Year-Old Colt. He
with 38 career starts that included 27 firsts, seven seconds and two
As a sire, Easy Jet was equally impressive. By the end of 1993,
his direct offspring had earned more than $25 million on the track.
Additionally, he had sired more than 1,500 horses who had gained their
Registers of Merit.
The Quarter Racing Record,
January 15, 1987:
getting to the point where Easy Jet's coveted position as the
all-time leading sire of money earners is just one of the stallion's
Sure, it takes an extraordinary horse to
remain on top of the heap for so long, but what's beginning to look even
more remarkable is the fact that Easy Jet's sons and daughters are
carrying on the tradition without missing a beat.
Based on a painstaking analysis of
official AQHA records obtained on December 24, 1986, Easy Jet appears in
the first or second generation of Quarter Horses that have run out more
than $72.7 million. The old guy himself joins forces with his sons and
daughters to take credit for 6,180 Register of Merit runners, 455 stakes
winners and 520 stakes-placed horses.
These are records not easily broken. Yet
Easy Jet and his offspring will continue to add to those totals for
years to come. □
The Quarter Racing Record,
January 1988, by Lyn Jank:
"When it comes to limitations, Easy Jet doesn't have any. He never did."
5, 1969: A chestnut colt shot out of the ten hole at Blue Ribbon Downs
in Sallisaw, spent :17.64 seconds on 330 yards to qualify for the Blue
Ribbon Futurity. A week later he collected his first stakes win in the
finals at a reduced cost of :16.92.
So began the
legend of Easy Jet.
Volatile chapters of the legend were
written in 1969 during one of the hardest hauls ever imposed on a
two-year-old colt. The intensity of it caused more than a few in the
running horse set to wonder whether Easy Jet's breeder, owner and
trainer, Walter Merrick, was out to prove the colt or kill him. Walt's
opinion of those opinions is typically Merrick:
"They didn't know
him or his kinfolks like I did."
Among the "kinfolks" are
four individuals now sojourning in Valhalla that, over a period of three
decades, had turned Walter Merrick into a legend himself before Easy Jet
was foaled in 1967.
Midnight Jr, the sire
of Belle Of Midnight, second dam of Easy Jet's sire,
Jet Deck, won sixteen consecutive
races for Walt in days when stall and motel accommodations were on the
low side of nothing. They camped by straightaways more than once.
"Junior" was one of the first horses Walt registered in AQHA, and with
the kind assistance of some Joe Hancock mares, "the little horse" laid
the foundation of the Merrick stud.
Jet Deck's dam,
Miss Night Bar, was by
Three Bars, the Thoroughbred that. in
defiance of an anti-Thoroughbred association, Walt leased and stood to
Quarter mares in the early 1950s.
Walt bred, raised,
trained and winningly raced Easy Jet's Thoroughbred dam,
Lena's Bar by Three Bars. Her habit
was to trounce Quarter Horses at their own distances. Lena's Bar was out
of the sprinting mare Lena Valenti, which Walt had purchased off the
track and continued racing successfully until adding her to his
After cleaning up
at Blue Ribbon Downs, Easy Jet, Walt and jockey Elbert Minchey
went to Columbus in mid-March. They won their Columbus Triple-Crown
Futurity trial heat and picked up a second stakes win in the finals.
Moving on to La Bahia Downs in Goliad,
the trio won in the Texas Futurity trials on March 30, but suffered
their first defeat in the finals April 6 when Easy Jet ran second to the
Top Moon gelding Mighty Moon.
11: Easy Jet led by five lengths in the Lubbock Downs Futurity trials
and picked up another stakes in in the finals a week later.
During a short stay at Ruidoso Downs in
early June, Minchey and Easy Jet presented the coveted Kansas Futurity
win to Walt. Easy Jet's only challenger in the finals was the
Three Chicks daughter, Miss Three
June 27: Easy Jet won in Oklahoma
Futurity trials at La Mesa Park in Raton but was relegated to second in
the July 6 finals. The victor by three-quarters length was a Jet Deck
daughter that was appropriately named. They called her Hell's To Betsy.
Along about that time Elbert Minchey,
who still rides for Walt today [article written in 1988], got tired and
July 25: Easy Jet left the gates
without Minchey for the first time and went the distance of 400 yards
for the first time to qualify for the Raton Futurity in :19.83. Ray
Spencer was in the irons.
August 1: A week after Easy Jet secured
a berth in the Raton Futurity, Willie Lovell rode him to a win in the
Rainbow Futurity trials at Ruidoso Downs. Two days later, August
3, Easy Jet returned to La Mesa Park, and with Spencer aboard, was
second in the Raton Futurity, a scan nose behind Jet Deep.
A week later, Easy Jet and Willie
Lovell were reunited in Ruidoso for the running of the Rainbow Futurity,
which turned into Heartbreak lane for Easy Jet. He was fifth under the
wire, running out of the money for the first time. Ahead of him, in
order of their finish were the filly that chased him in the Kansas, Miss
Three Wars and Go Together who was
destined to become Easy Jet's nemesis in 1970.
Walt's comment on the Rainbow was,
again, typically Merrick: "I may have been hauling him a little bit too
Revenge was Easy Jet's on Labor Day
with an All American Futurity neck win over Miss Three Wars.
Securing a win in the All American is
often a cut-off point for two-year-olds that have been raced hard in
preceding months. But by Labor Day of 1969, the pattern Walt had set was
clear to all.
There would be no stopping.
September 28 through November 30: Easy
Jet and Lovell left starting gates eight times without a loss. Four outs
were in stakes races: The Laddie and Rocky Mountain Futurity in
All American Congress Futurity in Ohio; and the Sunland
Park Fall Futurity. Walt believes the Sunland trials and finals were
Easy Jet's finest efforts.
"He just flew."
In the trials Easy Jet won by a length
and a half over Go
Together, going 400 yards in :19.76 on a fast track. In the finals, on a
sloppy track, his time was :20.26, which put two lengths between him and
In 1969 Easy Jet became the fourth
two-year-old in AQHA history to be named World Champion. Only
Go Man Go, Laico Bird and Kaweah Bar
preceded him. He bankrolled $409,155, a record for a single year. From
26 starts, racing at distances of 300, 350 and 400 yards, Easy Jet
scored nine major stakes wins, 13 additional wins, and three stakes
After standing to a full book of mares
in 1970, Easy Jet returned to the straightaway wars, and Walt's first
objective was to give him another chance to capture the Rainbow.
In the Rainbow Derby trials, three
noses were only inches apart at the wire. The winner was the filly,
Royal Doulton. Second by a nose was Velox Bar. Easy Jet ran third.
July 6: Easy Jet was at even odds when
Lovell rode him into the three hole for the Rainbow Derby finals where
Lady Luck, in a lethal mood, waited. Easy Jet's hind foot landed behind
the bracing bar. The track vet looked at that, thought about that, then
gave the foot a nudge. Startled, Easy Jet broke too soon, hit his head
on the cute and damaged several teeth. Lovell would have taken him to
the barn then and there, but the gates clanged open, Easy Jet - still
dazed and with a bleeding mouth - was off to chase the rainbow.
Easy Jet crossed last under the wire
that day. With the exception of one horse he had not before, he had
headed every individual preceding him to the wire, most of them more
than once. The winner by a neck was Go Together.
Walt's pony horse ride from gate to
wire after the Rainbow felt like the longest he had ever made, and he
rode with his head down.
"What I hated is that the people in the
stands didn't know what happened in the gate. A lot of them thought Easy
Jet was through as a race horse. I knew he wasn't."
From 12 starts June 27 through November
15, 1970, Easy Jet gathered five wins, four seconds and two thirds. He
took stakes wins in the Raton Derby, the Rocky Mountain Derby and the
Wonderland Stakes, was second in the Sunland Fall
Derby and third in the
World's Championship Classic.
Harriet Peckham's filly, Go Together,
haunted Easy Jet throughout 1970. After her Rainbow Derby win, she
headed him in the 440-yard Championship Classic trials at Ruidoso, then
blistered dirt to the wire in the finals in 0:19.70. Cinder Leo, only a
nose ahead of Easy Jet, was breathing hard on her neck.
Go Together ran third to Easy Jet in
the Raton Derby, a neck behind Reller.
Easy Jet and Go Together met again
November 6 and turned their quarter-mile Sunland Fall Derby trial into
an outfront duel a length and a half ahead of the nearest
challenger, Red Chigger Man. Go Together, a nose ahead of Easy Jet,
scooted under the wire in :21.69.
Easy Jet said goodbye to straightaways
in the Sunland Derby on November 15, and it was a riproaring farewell in
which the colt was trailed by three familiar fillies: Go Together, Royal
Doulton, and Miss Three Wars. But another individual was out to win that
day. Go Moon took the derby in :21.64, a neck ahead of Easy Jet.
The Champion Stallion and Champion
Three-Year-Old Colt titles went to Easy Jet in 1970. His wages, $35,566,
upped his bank account to $445,721, making him the leading Quarter Horse
money earner of all time.
The legend of Easy Jet has not been
written without bruises. In the early 1980s, his $30 million syndication
fell apart. A stack of legal paper growing taller usually requires
keeping a horse where he is until the mess is settled, but Walt was not
happy with the situation.
"He didn't deserve having his
reputation hurt that way. We went to Buena Suerte and got him. We didn't
have any trouble. If we had, he'd have come home anyway."
The only circumstance that could ever
separate Easy Jet from the Merrick family occurred last September
. Shen in times of financial trouble you know on every door and
get no answer, you sell the best you have, or fold.
Today the ongoing legend of Easy Jet
continues under the ownership of Roi Young and the management of Jerry
Young at Gateway Farms, in Hemet, California. The legend of Easy Jet
will never end, but -- eventually -- his tour of stud duty will. When
the time comes, Roi Young would willingly retire him to the proverbial
clover with generous orders of bran mash
on the side. But sale terms and conditions locked in arrangements for
the horse's sunset year.
When Easy Jet retires, he will go home.