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Willis Keeps Winning in the Family

The Willis family from Oklahoma is having an admirable season training racing American Quarter Horses.

Eddie Willis currently is second to Paul Jones on the list of the year's leading trainers by earnings with $2,746,600 and is fifth by wins, with 85. His eldest son, Kevin, 33, has won 14 races and saddled the earners of $150,286. Son Kasey, 30, has 19 wins and earnings of $348,360. Son Eddie L. “Bubba,” 25, also trains racehorses.

“Dad always said he didn't want to pay help so he had sons,” joked Kasey Willis, who is currently in New Orleans to send out Feature My Lover B in the $150,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G1), part of the Bank of America Racing Challenge Championships, on Friday at Fair Grounds Race Course.

Feature My Lover B, who races for Marty and Shalia Powers of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, is a 2-year-old daughter of Feature Mr Jess. Her second dam, Grade 1 qualifier Genuine Knockout, produced four stakes winners, including All American Futurity (G1) winner Falling In Loveagain and the dam of All American Derby (G1) winner Genuine Strawfly.

Raced exclusively in Oklahoma, Feature My Lover B has three wins in six starts and was a finalist in the Speedhorse Gold and Silver Cup Futurity (RG1) at Fair Meadows at Tulsa. She qualified to the Fair Grounds race by winning the John Deere Will Rogers Downs Juvenile Challenge on October 9 in her most recent race. Willis said the victory marked the first stakes win for her 20-year-old jockey, Augustin Silva, who later broke a hand, causing him to miss the trip to Fair Grounds.

Stormy Smith, who rides first call for Willis, will be aboard Feature My Lover B in the Juvenile Challenge Championship. Willis is confident in the filly, who will break from Post 5 in the field of 10.

“If she has a clean first 50 yards, they better be running because they're not going to outrun her,” Willis said. “She's really fast.”

Willis, who has been training on his own for two years, lives in Coleman, Oklahoma, where she currently has some 30 horses under his care.

“I've got (successful trainer) Rodney Reed seven miles from me; I've got Dad seven miles from me the other way, so I'm right in the middle of a lot of horses. I just wake up every day and try to beat them.”