Bill Hoburg’s BH Lisas Boy was so close to earning a berth to the prestigious Champion of Champions last year. The gelding by Mighty Invictus finished second in three different stakes races that carried berths to the Champion of Champions, including a pair of races with guaranteed berths to the 440-yard classic. Winless in those races, BH Lisas Boy had to settle for the rallying cry of ‘Wait till next year!’
“I was very frustrated,” Hoburg said. “I felt this horse should have been in the Champion of Champions, but you have to win a berth. We didn’t win a berth. That was our fault.”
BH Lisas Boy didn’t have to wait too long into the new year to earn a well-deserved berth to the 2017 Champion of Champions. The Hoburg-bred runner did it at first asking, as he held off AQHA champion 3-year-old gelding Zoomin For Spuds by a half-length in the Grade 1, $150,900 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and berth to this year’s Champion of Champions that comes along with winning this race.
“The berth to the Champion of Champions means more than the money,” Hoburg said. “I don’t care about the purse tonight. It was all about the berth. That’s what I was after.”
Ridden by Cesar De Alba for trainer John Cooper, BH Lisas Boy broke out and bumped slightly after starting from post number nine of 10, but quickly recover to take a nice lead over Jess A Pollitician and reigning Champion of Champions winner Zoomin For Spuds. The three dueled for the next 150 yards, but eventually it became a two-horse race between BH Lisas Boy and Zoomin For Spuds. It was the 6-5 favorite BH Lisas Boy in the end, as he was just too strong to be denied his berth to the Champion of Champions to be held here on Saturday, December 16.
“He’s my first horse in the Champion of Champions,” Hoburg added. “I felt like I could have qualified him last year by running in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials, but then I probably would have had a horse that was 85% going into the Champion of Champions instead of one that was 110%.”
In addition to owning and breeding BH Lisas Boy, Hoburg also trained his ‘Boy’ during his solid 2016 campaign. The Idaho-bred won the Bank of America California Championship and as previously mentioned he was runner-up in the Grade 1 Bank of America Challenge Championship, Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap. A win in any of those races would have earned BH Lisas Boy a spot in the Champion of Champions.
“We had a really nice year,” Hoburg added. “I wanted him to be in the Champion of Champions last year. He ran his guts out, but I didn’t want to run him in the Z. Wayne Griffin. We turned him out for 40 days and I brought him to John Cooper to train. I told that I would be the worst owner that he’d ever have because I was the worst owner that I ever had. John has worked with me 200%. He’s been like my twin. We think so much alike that it’s crazy. I forgot to tell John about a few tiny incidences and he called me and told me what I should have told him. That made me very happy.”
At the 2016 season at Los Alamitos, Hoburg planned to go back to Meridian, Idaho to begin the work of breaking babies for the 2017 racing season. He knew he wanted to leave BH Lisas Boy at Los Alamitos for the winter, but he needed to find a trainer.
“I’m (at the track) every morning at 4:30 a.m. and before I get out of my pickup Mr. Cooper would pull up right in front of me in his truck. I park on one side of the chain link fence and he parks on the other. I appreciate people that get up and go to work. That’s what I do for a living, I get up and go to work and Mr. Cooper was always there when I got to work or just shortly thereafter. We’re on the same page when it comes to that. I was planning on leaving this horse here. I looked over at about a half a dozen trainers, nationally known trainers, but I picked John to take care of my horse.”
Cooper and De Alba have won back-to-back runnings of the Winter Championship. They previously teamed up to win the 2016 Winter Championship with the unforgettable champion Moonist.
“(BH Lisas Boy) reminds me a lot of Moonist,” Cooper said. “He has some of the same traits. Bill told me what he wanted and that’s the way it went. He’s got a nice horse and we took care of him. That horse is a dandy. I can’t say he’s hard to train. He has his own little ideas. He has the same groom as Moonist. Tubercio ‘T-bo’ Argueta was Moonist’s groom and now he’s got BH Lisas Boy. T-bo loves this horse and it makes a lot of difference how you take care of them.”
“(BH Lisas Boy) is a very opinionated horse,” Hoburg added. “But other than that he’s a sweetheart. There’s no reason for this horse to leave Los Alamitos. There are a lot of nice stakes races out here that are scheduled five to six weeks out. We are looking at the Moonist Handicap (March 26) and I would like Mr. Cooper to win that race for personal reasons. I also paid BH Lisas Boy into the Vessels Maturity (trials on June 11) and we’ll go from there.”
BH Lisas Boy earned $63,378 for the win to take his career earnings to $320,256. The win was his 12th in 22 career starts.
Jim Walker’s Zoomin for Spuds, which started from post number one, earned $25,653 for running second. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Monty Arrossa, Zoomin For Spuds raised his career bankroll to $442,546. This was his second straight runner-up effort – he was second in the trials to Ima Fearless Hero – after winning his previous four starts.
Jose Nieves Garcia and Janet McKinnerney’s Jess A Pollitician earned $18,108 for running third. Jose Flores saddled the Apollitical Jess gelding, which was ridden by Rodrigo Aceves. Harrel, Nichols and Van Amburghs’ Mr PYC To You earned $10,563 for fourth, while He Looks Hot ran fifth. A two-time Grade 1 winner at Los Alamitos, He Looks Hot earned $9,054 to take his career earnings to $999,889. We Like Corona, Stevie B First Cash, Megatron Harry, Ima Fearless Hero and Timely Delivery completed the field.