Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez’s Rylees Boy is not only the oldest horse to ever win the prestigious Champion of Champions, but now he’s also the oldest horse to capture the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship after the three-time AQHA champion raced past a gritty Bills Last in the final 100 yards of the 400-yard event on Sunday evening.
Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Rylees Boy won the 2012 Champion of Champions as a 7-year-old and now he’s won the Winter Championship at the age of eight. Whosleavingwho had the previous distinction of being the oldest Winter Championship winner as he won the 2005 running as a 7-year-old. Winning the Winter Championship gives Rylees Boy a guaranteed berth to this year’s Champion of Champions and the opportunity to break his own record as the race’s oldest winner. The son of Heza Motor Scooter could also become the first back-to-back winner of the Champion of Champions since two-time World Champion SLM Big Daddy in 1997-98.
AQHA Champion trainer Paul Jones saddled Rylees Boy to victory and he also saddled the great Whosleavingwho in both of his Winter Championship wins in 2005 and also 2003. Jones has won the Winter Championship a record five times.
“I won this race with Good Reason SA (in 2011) and we went on to win the Champion of Champions. Whosleavingwho also won it, but we kept campaigning him through the year and he didn’t do as well once we got to the Champion of Champions. I think Rylees Boy might need a break now. He’s ran some great races and done a lot of traveling in the process. We’ll give him some time off. I don’t know how much time off yet. We’ll look at the schedule and come up with a plan.”
Jones also saddled Bills Last, a 4-year-old owned by Paul Blanchard, who ran an outstanding race on the way to finishing second in the Winter Championship. Bills Last finished a half-length behind Rylees Boy.
“Bills Last ran a very good race,” Jones added. “He stumbled a little bit, but he was right there the whole way. We’ll keep campaigning him. He’s came into the trials after a break and I think he’ll get better and better. Maybe he can carry the banner for the barn.”
Jones admitted that he wasn’t sure if Rylees Boy could win the 400-yard dash.
“I thought he would need another 40 yards because he was going against a lot of quick horses,” he said. “But he got it done. Once he picks up his stride he can just run past the other horses. He can gain so much ground on the horses once he gets going. We were concerned going into the race because he also picked up a bruised quarter. He was running at the back of the horses’ heels in the (Winter Championship) trials. It was a tough race. He’s an awesome horse. Just give him a spot to run and he’ll come on running.”
Breaking from post number seven with Sanchez in the irons, Rylees Boy covered the distance in :19.636. The Gary Nesbitt-bred runner earned $71,946 for the win to take his career earnings to $1,393,862. This was his 22nd victory in 45 starts. A winner in last year’s Bank of America Challenge Championship, he’s finished in the top three in 37 of his outings.
Ridden by Cesar De Alba, Bills Last earned $29,121 for running second. A finalist in all three of Ruidoso Downs’ major derbies in 2012, the Jerry Windham-bred runner by Shazoom has now made $345,683. Johnny Trotter’s Hez Our Secret, the 2012 AQHA champion 3-year-old, ran evenly the entire way to finish in third place. Ridden by Ricky Ramirez for trainer Trey Wood, Hez Our Secret earned $20,556 to take his career bankroll to $827,051. Fastest qualifier Last To Fire finished fourth while two-time Grade 1 derby winner Check My Thoughts had a tough trip on the way to running in fifth place.
The complete order of finish is as follows: Rylees Boy, Bills Last, Hez Our Secret, Last To Fire, Check My Thoughts, Cold Cash 123, Jess You And I, New Look and Bovet. This may have been Jess You And I’s final race according to Jones, who also trains the 9-year-old owned by Double Bar S Ranch.
“He’s very sound, healthy and maybe it’s time to retire him,” Jones said. “I had to convince the ladies at Double Bar S Ranch to let me bring him back for this race.”
If this was Jess You And I’s last race, the gelded son of Feature Mr Jess will leave the sport with 19 wins in 42 starts, three AQHA titles, eight stakes wins and earnings of $1,851,691. He won the 2006 Golden State Million Futurity, the 2008 Champion of Champions, the 2009 Winter Championship, the 2010 Remington Park Championship and the 2011 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship just to mention some of his major wins.
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