Ed Allred’s Quirky, currently the nation’s top Quarter Horse mare, earned a berth to the prestigious Champion of Champions after a convincing victory in the Grade 1, $100,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Carlos Huerta for trainer James Glenn Jr, Quirky broke sharply from post number nine and dueled with Golden State Derby runner-up Jess Cuz before pulling away to a half-length win at 400 yards. The effort earned the 4-year-old mare by Stel Corona her fifth victory in a row, all of which have come in stakes races at Los Alamitos.
“She used to do little things that would make her live up to her name,” Glenn said. “She’s matured a lot and when a mare gets sharp, they tend to stay that way for a while. She used to be this thin, little filly, but she’s now packing about 80 more pounds of muscle than last year. I think she’ll like the extra 40 yards in the Champion of Champions. When we were breaking her she would stride to the moon. It was just a matter of her learning how to use her ability.”
In addition to the winning the Mildred Vessels, Quirky’s outstanding 2015 campaign has included wins in the Grade 2 Charger Bar Handicap, Ivan Ashment Handicap and California Breeders Matron Stakes. She finished her sophomore campaign with a victory in last year’s Grade 1 Southern California Derby.
The Allred-bred mare covered the 400 yards in :19.721 while earning $50,500 for the win. That brings her career bankroll to $322,598 while winning seven of 14 career starts. She’ll now become the first mare to carry Allred’s colors in the Champion of Champions since two-time finalist Flare For Toby competed in both the 2001 and 1999 runnings. Quirky will also look to become Allred’s second mare to win the Champion of Champions with the other being the legendary Charger Bar in 1973. And how did Allred come up with her name?
“I was at the (Rolling A Ranch) looking at the babies and she just caught my eye because she would do funny and quirky little things,” Allred said. “I liked the name and I thought it would be catchy and people would remember it. Her sister is in the Los Alamitos Equine Sale (Hip #229 A Bit Quirky) and I also have two Walk Thru Fire embryos out of her. I’m pleased about that.”
Quirky will be her trainer’s first ever starter in the Champion of Champions.
“It’s exciting,” Glenn said. “Three years ago my dad (longtime trainer James Glenn) was very sick and I wasn’t sure that he would make it. The good news is that he’s rallied back. He’s still sick, but he’s still here and now he’ll get to watch (Quirky) in the Champion of Champions from his home in Arizona.”
And a sharp and maturing Quirky, with her unbeaten record in 2015, will be one of the top contenders in the $600,000 Champion of Champions to be held here on Saturday, December 12.
“In the Mildred Vessels a couple of horses started acting up in the gate before the start,” the trainer added. “When I saw that I just about passed out, but as she gets older those things bother her less and less. She’s a lot tougher mentally. We’ll see what’s next for her. In the past, she’s had months off and has come back to run big fresh. I could train her up to the Champion of Champions without another race, but we’ll take a look at the schedule to see if there’s a race for her.”
The Las Damas Handicap for mares could be an option. It will be held at Los Alamitos on Saturday, November 21.
Owned by Double Bar S Ranch, Jess Cuz ran another terrific race to finish second in the Mildred Vessels for trainer Elena Andrade. The 3-year-old filly by Mr Jess Perry came into this race after running second at 12-1 odds to champion Heza Dasha Fire in the Golden State Derby.
“This filly is amazing,” Andrade said. “As a yearling she was on her way to the Ruidoso Select Sale when the trailer that she and other yearlings were in was involved in a traffic accident (in late August 2013). A couple of horses did not survive the accident. She was traumatized a bit because of what she went through. She loves to train, but you can’t put her on a walker because loud noises scare her. I baby her a lot and give her a lot of attention. She is big and powerful, but we had to work a lot with her to get her to relax in the gate. She’s a survivor. She’s a fighter. I’ve gone through some tough things in my life as well so I get her. I can relate to her.”
Fourteen years ago to the date, September 27, 2001, Elena’s husband and top jockey Oscar Andrade was involved in a riding accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. As usual, Oscar was on hand at Los Alamitos to root for Elena’s trainee.
“Today is the anniversary of Oscar’s accident,” Elena said. “It would have been something else to win this race on this day. We’ll keep trying. This was a huge jump for Jess Cuz and she ran a great race. She’s in the trials to the Southern California Derby next.”
Ridden by Alejandro Luna, Jess Cuz earned $17,500 for running second. She’s now made $56,339 in her career.
Paulo Otavio Freire MacEdo’s Dana Point Handicap winner Solid Connection earned $10,500 for finishing third for trainer Paul Jones. She was ridden by Cruz Mendez. Allred’s California Breeders Debutante stakes winner Blabber ran fourth, while Significant Heart, the winner of last year’s Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap, completed the top five. Mrs Pickens, Bring Me Home, Shake Djibouti, and Chalalita completed the field.