Owner Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez will be represented not only by Rylees Boy in this year’s Champion of Champions, but also by the talented 5-year-old mare Check N Fetch after she won the Grade 1 $150,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sunday at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Ridden by Ramon Sanchez for trainer Paul Jones, the gray daughter of Check Him Out won Quarter Horse racing’s premier race for mares by a nose, holding off the fast closing Zoomdasher in the 400-yard dash. The victory earns Check N Fetch the fifth automatic starting berth to this year’s $750,000 Champion of Champions and it makes her the first mare to qualify to the race. The others already with berths in the Champion of Champions are her stablemate Rylees Boy, the defending winner of the Champion of Champions, Remington Park Invitational Championship winner Priceless Feature, Vessels Maturity winner Last To Fire and All American Derby winner Feature Hero. Five more berths to the Champion of Champions are still to be decided with the next one being up for grabs in the October 13 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship.
Check N Fetch won the Mildred Vessels in a time of :19.553 and over a quality field that included last year’s winner Flame N Flash, the champion 3-year-old filly and runner-up in last year’s Champion of Champions. Among the other top distaffers in the race were Charger Bar Handicap winner Tres Of Linda and Merial Distaff Challenge Championship finalists Shez Jess Toxic and Thisfeatureisspecial. Shez Jess Toxic finished third in this race. Check N Fetch earned $75,000 for the win to take her lifetime earnings to $189,812. She’s earned $142,889 and won five of nine starts this year.
Now one of the leading contenders for the title of champion aged mare, Check N Fetch has won four stakes races at Los Alamitos this season at three different distances. She won the Miss Princess Handicap in the meet’s fastest time at 350 yards on May 12 and the Independence Day Handicap in the meet’s fastest 300-yard time on June 30. The Mildred Vessels is her second stakes win at 400 yards this year, as she also won the Matron Stakes on California Breeders Champions Night on July 27. She also owns the meet’s two fastest 300-yard clockings.
“She owns two horses and they’re both in the Champion of Champions,” trainer Paul Jones said. “It’s not often that one person has multiple horses in the Champion of Champions. Between Rylees Boy and Check N Fetch, they’ve won a lot of stakes races between them.”
At the age of seven, Rylees Boy became the oldest horse ever to win the Champion of Champions last year. He earned his return trip to the race thanks to his victory in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February, but now he’ll have to deal with the ultra quick Check N Fetch in the December 14 Champion of Champions at 440 yards.
“I didn’t know if Check N Fetch could be a 400-yard horse, but she’s gotten it done,” Jones added. “The 440-yard distance is more difficult, but it’s also not that much farther. If she breaks like she’s capable of doing she will be on the lead. The TV angle made it look like she was a length behind Shez Jess Toxic in the Millie Vessels, but that angle can be deceiving. When I watched the head on shot of the race I could see that they weren’t that far apart.”
“I wanted her to keep on going because it was a tight race,” owner Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez added. “It got to the last jump and I just thought that it had to be her as the winner. The hope was to get the two horses in the Champion of Champions. Paul is the best there is. Our horses could not be in better hands.”
The development of the Mr. or Mrs. L. Judd Morse-bred Check N Fetch this season has impressed the perennial champion trainer.
“She wasn’t cutting it in her first couple of starts here,” Jones admitted. “She was running a little green and it took her a couple of races to get going. She’s been outstanding since then. She’s a very ornery mare. Today she was feeling really good in the paddock. She was kicking and bucking. I thought she was more ready to run than ever.”
Check N Fetch came into this race after running third to the Paul Jones trained and Mauro Eli Zaborowsky-owned Thisfeatureisspecial in the Merial California Distaff Challenge.
“It was my other horse that beat her last time, but in that race Check N Fetch didn’t break. She moved right when they kicked it and Thisfeatureisspecial ran a great race. (Thisfeatureisspecial) had room to run tonight and she was coming on at the end. It was not a bad race from her and I have no excuses.”
Check N Fetch’s connections are hopeful that a spot will open for her in the Merial Distaff Challenge on Bank of America Challenge Championship Night on November 9. Then it’s on to the Champion of Champions for the winner of 11 of 20 career starts.
Owned by Gustavo and Jose De La Torre, Zoomdasher finished powerfully while running second. The Henry Brown-bred mare by Azoom earned $25,500 for her runner-up finish. Third against the boys in the Golden State Derby and third against fillies in the La Primera Del Ano Derby, Zoomdasher also made the field to the Los Alamitos Super Derby last year. She ran fourth in the Stylish Jess BR Handicap in her only other start this year. Zoomdasher, who was ridden by Carlos Huerta, has lifetime earnings of $124,934.
Dean Frey’s multiple stakes winner Shez Jess Toxic broke sharply from post number four and ran a gritty race from there. The 4-year-old mare by Take Off Jess earned $15,000 for finishing third. The winner of the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship in 2011, Shez Jess Toxic was second in last year’s Southern California Derby. Since July of 2012, she’s finished in the top three in a total of six stakes races.
Thisfeatureisspecial ran fourth and was followed across the wire by Last To Check Him, Tres Of Linda, Feature Malinche, Flame N Flash, Required Fire and Onemoreglassofwine.