AJS HITS A HIGH NOTE IN BANK OF AMERICA CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP
10-stakes races held as part of Racing Challenge Night at Los Alamitos
Charley Hunt saddled the first ever Bank of America Challenge Championship winner when Nancy McCoy’s champion Junos Request won the 1993 running at Sunland Park. Twenty-three years later Hunt was fighting back emotions in the winner’s circle after his son, Charlton Hunt, saddled Michael Teel’s AJs High (left) to victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $353,500 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos.
“I was training horses with that boy when he was three days old,” Hunt said. “He grew up around the track and to see him here tonight with AJs High, well that makes me very proud. I used to come out to Los Alamitos in the summers and I learned a lot over here by being around a lot of great people that I looked up to like Blane Schvaneveldt. It’s pretty special to now win this race here. Charlton does a good job.”
Charley and Charlton Hunt have shared the training duties on AJs High, who earned a berth to the $600,000 Champion of Champions on December 10, thanks to his Bank of America Championship victory. The homebred 4-year-old son of Apollitical Jess was enjoying his 10th lifetime stakes while racing at his fifth different track.
“It’s great when you can send a horse somewhere and it’s family that takes care of him,” Hunt said.
With jockey Stormy Smith in the saddle – and he’s the only person to have ever ridden AJs High in his 20-race career, the Oklahoma-bred gelding covered the 440 yards in :21.540, while holding off the 3-5 favorite BH Lisas Boy by a head. AJs High earned $155,540 for the win to take his career earnings to $675,114.
“I’ve had two favorite horses, this one and the horse that won the first Bank of America, Junos Request,” ,” added Hunt, who has trained since 1977 and has won over 1,000 races.
Teel, a resident of Columbia, Missouri, now has the opportunity to be part of the Champion of Champions for the first time. The owner has been in the sport for two decades and has had horses with the Hunt family for approximately 16 years. As far as racehorses go, AJs High has been a great source of pride and joy.
“He’s a homegrown and we take care of him,” Teel said. “He goes home in the winter and comes back in the spring. I’ll leave it up to the trainers to see what AJs High will do next. It’s my first time with a Champion of Champions horse.”
“I would imagine we’ll go for the Champion of Champions,” Charlie Hunt added. “He’ll stay here for a week and we’ll then take a look at him and see how he’s doing. You don’t get many chances to be in the Champion of Champions and when you do you often only get one chance”
Owned, trained and bred by Bill Hoburg, BH Lisas Boy earned $70,700 for running second. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, the Mighty Invictus gelding could still earn a berth to the Champion of Champions with a good effort in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 13.
“I was scared of AJs High and with good reason,” Hoburg said. “He ran faster than us and beat us by a head. Both horses ran great races.”
Eyesa Famous Eagle ran third, a half of a length behind AJs High. Heat Warning, Tempting Valor, Jrc Callas First, Jess A Cowboy, Rockin Disco, Stella Corona, Bf Farm Boss, Cruisinfourabruisin, and Fantsy Pants completed the order of finish.
Owner John Sperry and trainer Paul Jones go back a long time together.
“John has been one of my longest and most loyal owners,” Jones said. “He’s been with me just about from my start. John and Joe Bettencourt have probably been with me the longest. (Sperry) was under the weather tonight so he couldn’t come out to the track on Challenge Night, but I hope he got a chance to watch the race on television.”
Sperry’s wife, Cina, said the owner was enjoyed the races on TV and he must have liked what he saw. On the track, his talented filly Jess Good Reason led the Grade 3 $202,000 Adequan Derby Challenge from start to finish on the way to a half-length victory with Oscar Peinado in the irons.
“I’m so happy that we got this win for John,” Jones added. “Early on Jess Good Reason was bad in the gates, but we’ve spend a lot of times in the gates and the starting crew has been great helping me work with this filly. She’s become more relaxed and she’s now pretty good in the starting gate. We’ll probably go for the Southern California Derby next.”
Sent to post as the 8-5 favorite in a field of 11 sophomores, Jess Good Reason covered 400 yards in :19.731 and the final 220 in :9.60, and her winning margin was a half of a length from Bf Fooserageous. Oscar Peinado rode the Good Reason SA filly for trainer Paul Jones.
Jess Good Reason was bred in Oklahoma by Preston and Karen Cloud. Campaigned exclusively in California, the filly has won six of her 14 outs and has earned $276,982, and she was coming off of a second-place finish in the 400-yard, $100,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1) for distaffers on September 25. Earlier this year, Jess Good Reason won the Grade 3, 400-yard La Primera del Ano Derby for fillies on April 2.
Toughie finished third, a half of a length behind Jess Good Reason, and was followed by Country Boy 123, Corona Suerte, Keyper, El Compa Jv, Royal Quick Eagle, Lonely In Front Br, For Sweet Jess, and Bm Casina Royale.
Ron Hartley was not in attendance recently when his long-time trainer, John Cooper, enjoyed career Quarter Horse win number 1,400th at Los Alamitos on October 16.
“I was at a blackjack tournament in Las Vegas,” Hartley said. “But I wasn’t going to miss this race (the John Deere Juvenile Challenge) for the world.”
What Hartley enjoyed was another victory by “Mr. Cooper”, as Hartley enjoys calling his trainer from time to time, a victory that came courtesy of his Kindergarten Futurity winner One Proud Eagle in the Grade 2, $151,250 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos.
With Tony Guymon up, One Proud Eagle stopped the timer in :17.525 while earning his fourth win in seven outings. One Proud Eagle was a bit fractious part of the start of the race, which also saw Paint A Candy Storm flip in the starting gate before being scratched by the stewards on advice of the track veterinarian.
“The (assistant starter) can’t touch him on his head,” Cooper said. “He doesn’t like that. He just doesn’t want you to tough his head or he gets a little hot. I don’t know why he became that way. It just happened. One Proud Eagle is the ugly duckling that turned into a swan.”
“The horse has talent for sure,” Hartley added.
One Proud Eagle was bred in California by Hartley. The gray gelding is by One Famous Eagle out of Guy Chasing, a winning daughter of the First Down Dash stallion Fishers Dash, and he was coming off of a fourth-place finish in a 350-yard PCQHRA Breeders' Futurity (G3) trial on September 11.
The $69,575 winner's share of the purse pushed One Proud Eagle's bankroll to $264,105. Born To B Bad, 17-10 favorite Kissed By An Eagle, Stelfast, Faster Than Hasta, Fooseability, Hoot And Holler, Apollitical Boogie, and Rpainted Pistol completed the order of finish. Paint A Candy Storm was scratched.
It was Time For Wine in the Grade 1 $125,000 Merial Distance Challenge, as the Pete A. Scarmardo-owned mare posted an impressive 1 ½ length victory at 400 yards. Saddled by Brian Stroud and ridden by Francisco Calderon, Time For Wine was making her first start since running sixth in the King William Handicap at Retama Park on July 9, while recording her first win since winning the Sam Houston Merial Distaff on April 30. Time For Win covered the distance in :19.777.
“A lot of the credit for this win goes to Leon Bard," said Stroud, referring to the trainer who conditioned Time For Wine in Texas. "I just shipped her out here and tried to keep her happy."
Stroud did some work in order to keep Time For Wine happy.
“When she first got here, she was pretty nervous,” Stroud said. “She would pace around her stall a lot. We did a few things for her and that started helping her. She started eating and gaining weight. Anytime an animal starts picking up weight, they’re on the up. It’s important.”
Time For Wine was bred in California by Vessels Stallion Farm. A $23,000 purchase by Scarmardo at the 2013 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale in New Mexico, the mare has won four of 15 races, and the $57,500 winner's share of the purse from her first graded stakes score pushed her bankroll to $89,293.
Stroud added that Time For Wine will remain at Los Alamitos for the next few months. She’ll go to the barn of trainer Jaime Gomez and will likely be pointed to races like the Charger Bar Handicap in January.
Political Nonsense finished second and was followed by Flyin Lion, Wrap You Up, Getting Even, Sr Esmeralda, Maggie Durant, Kissin Kate Barlow, and L Bar D Sweet Fantsy. Shiner Blond was scratched.
Ridden by Ramon Guce for trainer Jim Crotts, Rare Ed covered 870 yards in :45.693, and the gelding's winning margin was 1 3/4 lengths from a fast-closing Jessa Little Rusty. Streakin Zoomer finished third, two lengths behind the winner.
"My agent wanted me to ride (CJs Rocksolid), who earned over $200,000, but I really liked this horse," said Guce. "I told the trainer I was going to send him, and he fired tonight."
Rare Ed was bred in Illinois by Ronald H. Martin. An $8,000 claimer earlier in the meet, he scored his fourth win in 23 starts, and the $60,000 winner's share of the Andreini Distance Challenge Championship purse boosted his earnings to $83,931.
"The preps over the track really helped us," said Crotts, referring to Rare Ed's four outs at Los Alamitos this year. "Even though he ran second in two of those races, I knew he had it in him. When the 'Guce' gets loose, that's all you can ask for."
Rare Ed qualified for this stakes with a third-place finish in the AQHA Turf Paradise Distance Challenge on May 1.
Cjs Rocksolid ran fourth and was followed by Mickey Ward, Juno Dat Timber, and 3-5 favorite Fire On The Fly. Kr Streakin Version was scratched by the stewards in the post parade on advice of the track veterinarian.
Rare Ed, a 5-year-old son of champion Dean Miracle racing for Suzan R. Crotts and Martin Marin, earned his first stakes win in Saturday's Grade 1, $125,000 Andreini Distance Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos.
A sharp break from her rail post helped Jerry D. Chapman's Million Dollar Kiss score her first stakes win in more than two years in Saturday's 350-yard, $75,000 Markel Invitational Bonus Challenge Stakes at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Bret Vickery and sent to post at odds of 9-2, Million Dollar Kiss defeated 18-1 longshot CC Tres by a half of a length in :17.557. The 4-year-old mare was winning for the fifth time in 19 starts, and the $36,750 winner's share of the purse from her second lifetime stakes victory pushed her bankroll to $119,745.
Million Dollar Kiss was bred in Texas by her owner, and she is a daughter of champion Jess Louisiana Blue and Stoli Kiss, a winning 13-year-old daughter of champion Stoli. Her resume includes a neck victory in the 2014 John Deere Sam Houston Juvenile Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park.
Million Dollar Kiss returned an $11.60 win mutuel and teamed with CC Tres for a $2 exacta payoff of $122.80. Design Tobe A Winner, a 13-1 longshot, ran third to complete a $425.10 ($1) trifecta.
First Prize Chicks, the 3-5 favorite, ran fourth and was followed by Time For Jesse Lee, Chicks R Gone, and Dk The Nacho Lady.
Ed Allred’s multiple Grade 1 winner He Looks Hot won the $25,000 Nutrena Stakes for 3-year-olds and upwards at 440-yards. Trained by Scott Willoughby and ridden by Carlos Huerta, He Looks Hot relished the classic Quarter Horse distance, as he led right from the start before cruising to a 1 ½ length victory in a hand time of :21.180. This was his second career start at 440 yards, but it won’t be his last. He Looks Hot will make his next appearance in the Champion of Champions. His first ever 440-yard start was a sixth place finish in the Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship on October 9.
As a 2-year-old the Walk Thru Fire gelding won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He missed his entire 2015 campaign after undergoing surgery due to colic. He returned this year to win the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity on July 3. He Looks Hot earned $12,500 in the Nutrena to take his career earnings to $980,485.
The $25,000 AQHA Members Plus Stakes for fillies and mares went to Michael Pohl’s Send Me This Wagon. Trained by Stacy Charette-Hill and ridden by Jorge Torres, the PYC Paint Your Wagon mare had a very rough beginning to this race and was in eighth place out of 10 after the first 50 yards. The 5-year-old Oklahoma-bred gained her best stride from there and flew past her rivals to score a nose win over You Can Fly. This was her ninth win in 18 starts.
In the $25,000 Wrangler Stakes, Jim Walker’s Zoomin For Spuds was a convincing ¾ length winner. Ridden by Cruz Mendez for Monty Arrossa, the Zoomin For Bux gelding had previously beaten older horses in the Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap here on September 30. Zoomin For Spud covered the 400 yards in :19.556. This was his sixth win in 16 starts.
Racing for a partnership that includes James Bailey, Vaughn Cook, Jimmy Harrel, Paul Jones, et al, Whata Corona posted his second win in three starts at Los Alamitos while taking the $25,000 B&W Stakes for 2-year-olds by a neck. Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, the colt by Corona Cartel covered the 350-yard distance in :17.635. The Colorado-bred previously won his trial to the Rainbow Futurity at Ruidoso Downs and was also an allowance winner at the Cool Mountain. His B&W victory improved his record to four wins in seven starts.
For photos, videos and more follow Los Alamitos Race Course on Twitter and Instagram @losalracing.