LARC NEWS Posted: 11/19/2018 3:23:23 AM

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          Johnny Trotter’s Bodacious Eagle and S-Quarter K Racing LLC’s Heza Dasha Fire earned berths to the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions on December 15 after finishing 1-2 in the first of two divisions of the $25,000 Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Justin Joiner, Bodacious Eagle was the fastest qualifier among the 13 horses vying for a Champion of Champions spot tonight. Racing from post number five, Bodacious Eagle was ultra-impressive on the way to posting a neck victory over Heza Dasha Fire. The gelding by One Famous Eagle covered the distance in :19.512 while earning his 13th win in 32 career starts. After winning the All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso Downs on September 2, Bodacious Eagle traveled to Los Alamitos and finished second to He Looks Hot in the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship at 440 yards on October 14. Razor sharp in winning his Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials, Bodacious Eagle figures to be among the top contenders in the Champion of Champions at 440 yards.

”This horse seems to really like this racetrack,” Justin Joiner said. “He came out of the (All American) Gold Cup, which he won with my dad at Ruidoso Down, and ran an awesome race there. He traveled up here real nice. In his first race (the Los Alamitos Invitational), he really shot out of the gates and ran a spectacular race. He pulled up real nice. I got back to galloping a little bit earlier than I wanted to because he was feeling so good. I think he just improved in a little more tonight. We got a little extra time (before the Champion of Champions) and maybe we can keep improving. We have to. He’s a professional. He does tend to get a little wound up. He likes his job. I think that’s probably the only thing that we have to manage on him. He’s a real feel good horse. He likes his job.”  

Bodacious Eagle has made a majority of his starts at Ruidoso Downs, Remington Park, and Lone Star Park, but he’s performed well in big races at Los Alamitos. As 2-year-old, he qualified to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He also finished second to Heza Dasha Fire in last year’s Los Alamitos Invitational.  Surprisingly, his victory in Sunday’s Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial was his first ever at the Orange County oval.

“He’s probably the best racehorse I’ll ever own,” said Trotter of the La Feliz Montana Ranch-bred gelding. “He’s just a stone cold racehorse. He knows his job and he does it. I’m very proud of him. He deserves this. We love coming out here. He likes it out here. I’m also happy for Justin. He’s does a great job.”  

            Heza Dasha Fire, who qualified with a time of :19.562, is only the fourth horse to qualify four times in the 46-year history of the Champion of Champions. Refrigerator, a three-time Champion of Champions winner, and Jess You, the 2008 winner, each qualified a record five times to the Champion of Champions. Whosleavingwho, the winner of the 2002 Champion of Champions, is the only other horse to have also qualified at least four times to this prestigious race.  

            “He didn’t break quite as good as we were hoping,” said Don Meneely of S-Quarter K LLC. “He kind of bobbled, but we were really pleased with how he finished the race. We thought he finished extremely strong and that was pleasing to see. Bodacious Eagle ran a great race. Hats off to him. We are encouraged. We’ve changed so much on (Heza Dasha Fire). We can’t feed him alfalfa anymore. We can’t feed him anything that has high amounts of protein. We have to back off. It’s been a trial and error things. It’s been quite an ordeal, but he’s really settled in. I thought he looked good tonight. He acted (well). That race is really going to help him a lot. We’re encouraged for the Champion of Champions. That’ a tough field.  We’re happy to be in it for the fourth year in a row. He is ‘Dash’ and anything is possible.”

            Heza Dasha Fire won the 2015 running of the Champion of Champions and has finished second in the race in each of the past two years. Cruz Mendez piloted the 6-year-old by Walk Thru Fire for trainer Jose Flores. Heza Dasha Fire is the third all-time leading money earner in Quarter Horse racing history with $2,225,112 in earnings. Stolis Winner ranks second in career earnings with $2,242,661. Heza Dasha Fire will move past Stolis Winner in the all-time ranks if he finishes sixth or better in the Champio of Champions.

            Jim Walker’s Zoomin For Spuds, who qualified to the Champion of Champions when winning the Vessels Maturity on July 8, won the second division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Trials by a length over Darling Farms, Jaime Gomez, and Valeriano Racing Stable, LLC’s LD Is Back. Zoomin For Spuds raced in the Z. Wayne Griffin in order to prep for the big race on December 15.

“He looks like he’s back to himself,” Monty Arrossa said. “I’m really happy with his performance tonight. He’s always been a really good gate horse.

The 5-year-old gelding by Zoomin For Spuds finished a disappointing 10th in the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship prior to this race.

“He was standing in there perfectly and I don’t know what, but it looked like he kind of stepped back and turned his head right when the gate opened.” Arrossa said of his trainee’s race in the Los Alamitos Invitational. “He got some dirt in his face and he just had a tough go in there. We were disappointed and we didn’t want to go in the Champion of Champions with that. We changed his training regimen a little bit. We put a work in him a couple of weeks ago. He worked great and he ran a nice race tonight.”

The 10 horses with provisional starting berths to the Champion of Champions are: BH Lisas Boy (Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Bank of America Challenge Championships), Jessies First Down (Remington Park Championship), Zoomin For Spuds (Vessels Maturity), Jess Ravin (Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap), Hotstepper (All American Derby), He Looks Hot (Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship), Tarzanito (Go Man Go Handicap),  Jesstacartel (Los Alamitos Super Derby), Bodacious Eagle (Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials), and Heza Dasha Fire (Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials). If any additional berths open up to the Champion of Champions, LD Is Back (:19.820) would be next in line followed by Martha Wells’ Yanque (:19.863).

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Bodacious Eagle, Heza Dasha Fire, BH Lisas Boy, and He Looks Hot are all 6-year-old geldings in the Champion of Champions. Both Zoomin For Spuds and Jess Ravin are five, while Hotstepper and Jesstacartel are three. Jessies First Down is 7-years-old. As for the two on the waiting list, LD Is Back is four and Yanque is three.

***

While Refrigerator and Jess You And I have both qualified to the Champion of Champions a record five times and Heza Dasha Fire and Whosleavingwho have made the field to the big race four times, there are 11 other horses to have qualified three times. Zoomin For Spuds, the 2016 winner, and He Looks Hot will both be making their third appearance in the Champion of Champions this year. The others to have qualified three times to the Champion of Champions are: A Ransom,  Catchmeinyourdreams, Charger Bar, Corona Kool, Little Bit Of Baja, Sgt Pepper Feature, SLM Big Daddy, Town Policy, and Wicked Dash. Corona Kool qualified three times, but she was scratched from the race in 2001.  

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