John and Kathy Lee win 2021 All American Futurity
Admitting it’s been a lengthy journey to a long-sought winner’s circle, John Lee graciously accepted congratulations on his horse’s victory.
In addition to Lee’s Cattle Company in Brush, Colo., Lee and wife Kathy own a flourishing Quarter Horse breeding/racing operation in Chandler, Ariz. This past Labor Day, Sept. 6, 2-year-old KJ Desparado (co-owned by the Lees and Ruben Mares) won the All American Futurity in Ruidoso, N.M.
A handsome gelding sired by Apollitical Jess and out of Tres Veses, Desparado was entered to qualify for four futurities this year, including the Rainbow, All American, and Turf Paradise. Of those three, the All American offered the largest purse. Capturing the winning share of its $3 million purse brought Desparado’s 2021 earnings up to a highly impressive $1,602,000.
TRYING TO WIN THIS THING
Jubilantly sharing the credit for this amazing achievement were the young horse’s jockey, Adrian Ramos, and trainer Wes Giles. Through two days of trials that had been open to registered Quarter Horse fillies, colts and geldings, the speed of the 300 fastest nominees was tested. Of that number, 290 would be eliminated.
When all the dust cleared, the Lee team’s entry had successfully raced his way into the small, elite group that remained. Ultimately, of 2,500 initial hopefuls whose owners had paid substantial fees just for the right to try to qualify to run in the race, only the 10 fastest horses had made it to the 2021All American — the coveted futurity that Desparado won. If the process sounds complex, that’s because it is.
“I’ve been trying to win this thing for 16 years,” excitedly declared Lee. “I’ve been in second and fourth (places) twice each. This is something you dream about but don’t expect to win, it’s that hard,” he added.
But Desparado did win it for him in 2021. After breaking third, it was a nail biter all the way to the finish line.
Certainly celebrations were in order. Lee unabashedly admitted that, to commemorate the big event, “I drank a few Crowns!”
More horses at Lee’s Chandler, Ariz., home base await their turn on the track, or the opportunity to produce a winner. These include 4-year-old KJ Mucho Macho Man. Although he’s still racing, the Lees have bred the stallion to many outside mares, as well as their own (who produced six foals this year). There are currently 17 broodmares at the ranch, all carrying 2022 foals. Eight other Lee horses are still on the track.
BEFORE THE GATE OPENED
John and Kathy Lee are both Arizona natives but, unlike many folks who proudly tout being third or fourth generation ranchers, neither were ranch-raised kids. His family “always had a few cows around” but nothing that could be considered a commercial venture. Kathy calls herself a longtime “farm girl.” Although born in Munich, Germany, Kathy has lived in Arizona since she was a toddler.
The Lees married 53 years ago and have four children (none of whom have followed in their parents’ busy Western bootsteps). For the past 42 years, John has been showing cattle, initially Maine Anjou and then Simmentals.
John and Kathy have owned Lee’s Cattle Company for 25 years, producing the Simmentals as well as Angus and Red Angus.
Of course, there’s a lot to do behind the scenes of any ranch or farm. Since the Lees’ primary residence is in Arizona, a manager is employed to run the 1,200-head Brush cow operation for them.
Meanwhile, down in Chandler, John Lee said he spends a good deal of his time raising foals, teaching the babies basics such as leading. When they’re about 18-months-old they, as racing prospects, are sent to the trainer for schooling under saddle and associated disciplines required of race horses (i.e. starting gate manners, rating, trailering, etc.).
Kathy also takes care of and works with the horses, especially when John heads north to Colorado for the Lees’ cattle company business.
Additionally, the couple owns two Arizona-based construction companies, Lee’s Pipeline and Arrow Masonry.
Is there any time left for leisure activities? John hunts. No, not for time; he actually hunts. His preferred quarry includes elk, deer, bear and more. The active pastime takes the 71-year-old all over the United States, to states as far distant as Alaska, and overseas to countries including New Zealand and Africa.
When asked if she has any hobbies, and before Kathy can answer, John jumped in with, “taking care of me!” Laughter followed as she clarified that, yes, that’s pretty much her full-time “hobby.” (Perhaps a hubby-hobby?)
FUTURE LEE EVENTS
Desparado still has another 2021 futurity to vie for. If he fares well in its trials, the colt will run in the Texas Classic Futurity to be held Nov. 27 in Dallas, Texas. The estimated purse is $1 million.
John also noted an exciting upcoming 2022 event, the Lees’ Annual Bull Sale. Approximately 150 2-year-old bulls — Simmentals, Angus, and Red Angus — will sell at the auction scheduled for the first week of March. Watch Facebook for details about this fine offering of breeding stock.
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lees.cattle
Phone: (602) 541-8826
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