The $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos on Saturday ended with 2011 world champion Cold Cash 123 chasing 17-1 longshot Vodka With Ice, and a night of many surprises ended with one more. Vodka With Ice, an 8-year-old gelding with earnings of less than $180,000 entering the race, held off a valiant late charge by millionaire Cold Cash 123 to take down a $161,000 payday for owner Gerardo Prado and trainer Pablo Rabasa Jr. Francisco Rubio, who also won the $75,000 Zoetis Starter Allowance Challenge Championship and $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G2), piloted the Stoli gelding to a neck victory in :21.340 for 440 yards. The richest race during the Bank of America Challenge Championships also provided the winner with a berth in the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) to be run December 14 at Los Alamitos.
Vodka With Ice, who was bred in Texas by Michael Pohl, qualified with a victory in the Bank of America Emerald Downs Championship Challenge at the track near Seattle. The veteran has been well-traveled throughout his career, with starts at major tracks like Los Alamitos and Lone Star Park and small tracks like Sandy Downs in Idaho, where he broke his maiden at first asking in 2007 for a $1,175 purse. The gelding has also raced at the Gem County Fair, Elko County Fair and Crooked River Roundup while putting together a record of 47-11-8-5 before this win. Although he had five previous stakes victories, none came close to matching the $350,000 purse at Los Alamitos.
"You dont know how wonderful (this is)," said his trainer. "I know this horse. The way he broke, I knew he had won the race."
Rabasa said Vodka With Ice suffered from ulcers last year, and once he got that under control the gelding became more relaxed. Now he’ll have the chance to move on to the Champion of Champions in December.
T Bill Stables Inc.’s homebred Cold Cash 123 unleashed his usual late run as the 9-5 favorite but could not quite catch Vodka With Ice. The 5-year-old Oak Tree Special gelding picked up $70,000 for his effort to boost his earnings to $1,398,306.
Eliazar Salas’ Valiant Valor, a Valiant Hero gelding who came in from Turf Paradise in Arizona, took third.