BH Lisas Boy
(Mighty Invictus-Apollo Snowbound, by Snowbound)
Qualified by winning the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Bank of America Challenge Championship
Lifetime Record: 35-20-8-2 $697,662 2018 Record: 8-4-2-1 $245,214
Owned, bred and trained by Bill Hoburg, BH Lisas Boy has enjoyed another tremendous campaign. His four wins include a victory in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship at 400 yards and a victory in the Grade 1 Bank of America Challenge Championship at 440 yards. He also won the Bank of America California regional at 440 yards, with a flying finish that will live in the memory of many racing fans. In one of the most impressive come-from-behind efforts ever in a Quarter Horse stakes race, BH Lisas Boy rallied back from being more than two lengths behind AQHA champion Hold Air Hostage halfway through the Bank of America California Regional Championship to win the 440-yard race by a nose.
"In midstretch I thought we were going to get our you-know-what handed to us," Hoburg said. "But our horse just kept running at (Hold Air Hostage). I'm really proud of him. He's a once in a lifetime horse. I just appreciate him every day. That (final) 40 yards really makes a difference for this horse," Hoburg said of BH Lisas Boy. "At 400 yards we were beaten badly. It was a great finish by my horse."
For Hoburg, BH Lisas Boy is a lifelong dream come true. "I was leaning on the rail by the paddock about six or seven years ago watching the horses get saddled for the Champion of Champions," Hoburg said. "What I would have given to have a horse like that someday. I just never thought I would have a horse as nice as those being saddled on that evening." He has one now - for the second year in a row in fact - and his name is BH Lisas Boy. "I have been poor my whole life and I've turned down more money for this horse than I ever thought I would ever turned down," Hoburg added. "This is a dream I've had for 40 years to have a horse like this. I'm just not going to sell my dreams. I can throw hay over the fence at him for the rest of his life. The berth to the Champion of Champions means more than the money," Hoburg added. "This horse is very easy going, but he can have a mind of his own," Hoburg added. "When we're done in the mornings and I lead him back to his stall, he'll just stop and stand for five minutes before he walks into his stall. He won't go inside until he's ready. I don't care, I'll stand right there with him until he's ready. I'll wait all day for him if I have to. He's a little spoiled, but he's my horse so that's okay. I want him happy. If he's happy, I'm happy."
Earlier this year, BH Lisas Boy became the first back-to-back winner of the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship, formerly named just the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, after outdueling 2016 Champion of Champions winner Zoomin For Spuds by a neck. As usual, BH Lisas Boy was flying late.
"(Zoomin For Spuds) was about a half-length in front of us," said Cesar De Alba, who piloted him on that night. "My horse broke on his left lead, but 50 to 75 yards he switched to his right and I knew that by switching to that gear that I was going to get him.” And to think that BH Lisas Boy's presence in the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship was in serious doubt when he was vanned off after bleeding when running third in his trial for this race on January 21, 2018. With the track closed for winter renovation earlier this week and with BH Lisas Boy needing to post a workout after going on the vet's list, Hoburg had to get creative with his training schedule. Los Alamitos racing officials helped set up a workout for BH Lisas Boy at Santa Anita Park on Monday morning, February 5. BH Lisas Boy was able to work 220 yards in an easy :12.60 with no setbacks, giving him the clearance to enter in the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship. “It takes a village to win a horse race,” Hoburg said.In the process became the first Quarter Horse to work at Santa Anita since Griswold did so in preparation for his famous 1991 match race with the Thoroughbred Valiant Pete.
And one final quote from the always quotable Bill Hoburg: "I bought his mother, Apollo Snowbound, for $3,500 as a yearling and I paid $500 for the stud fee at a stallion (services) auction. I liked the filly because she was out of a mare sired by Shawne Bug. He was a very good broodmare sire. Apollo Snowbound's grandmother is Stars Apollo. She was Bob Pulse's great matriarch mare. I saw Stars Apollo win a futurity in (1969) for fun. I was still in high school when I saw her win. You never forget when you see a good horse run."
A multiple stakes winner, Stars Apollo won 10 of 28 races while earning just $19,096. She won the Charlie Russell Futurity, Northern QHRA Futurity, and Tumbleweed Futurity in a 330-yard-track record time at Sunset Downs. She was also runner-up in the 1969 Montana Futurity and in the 1970 Montana Derby in what would be her final career start.
(One Famous Eagle - Bodacious Dream
by Corona Cartel)
Qualified by winning the 1st division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials
Lifetime Record: 32-13-7-3 $997,536 2018 Record: 6-2-2-2 $153,600
Justin Joiner has made quite a splash in his first year of training Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos. The son of longtime trainer Mike Joiner, who trained the likes of AQHA champion FDD Dynasty here, and brother of Cody Joiner, who has trained multiple stakes winners at Los Alamitos, Justin Joiner will saddle Grade 1 winner Bodacious Eagle in Saturday’s Champion of Champions. Joiner also trained the Johnny Trotter-owned superstar to a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Joiner’s first stakes win at Los Alamitos came last month when his trainee, Flash And Roll, won the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity.
“I’m happy for Justin,” Trotter said. “He does a great job.” In the Joiner-training stables, Justin is now the lead traveler. That’s how he ended up at Los Alamitos with the likes of Bodacious Eagle, who earned his berth to the Champion of Champions by winning the first division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 18. The gelding by One Famous Eagle covered the distance in :19.512 while earning his 13th win in 32 career starts. His wins have included the Grade 1 All American Gold Cup, Grade 1 Leo Stakes and Grade 1 Texas Classic Derby. "He came out of the (All American) Gold Cup, which he won with my dad at Ruidoso Down, and ran an awesome race there,” Joiner said. “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 (in the Z. Wayne). This horse seems to really like this racetrack. 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." "
To be ridden by two-time AQHA champion jockey Cody Jensen, Bodacious Eagle will go over the million dollar mark in career earnings when he starts in the Champion of Champions. 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. "He's just a stone cold racehorse," said Trotter of the La Feliz Montana Ranch-bred gelding. "He knows his job and he does it. I'm very proud of him."
Johnny Trotter of Hereford, Texas has been in the Champion of Champions four times before 2018. Along with partners Burnett Ranches Ltd, Trotter campaigned superstar stallion One Famous Eagle to a fourth place finish behind Jess You And I in the 2008 Champion of Champions. Trotter and Burnett Ranches also raced Super Derby winner Miss Racy Jess to a seventh place finish in the 2011 Champion of Champions. Trotter also campaigned the champion Hez Our Secret to a pair of Champion of Champion appearances in 2012-13. Hez Our Secret ran fourth in 2012. Trotter is past-president of the American Quarter Horse Association. He is also part owner of Ruidoso Downs Race Track in New Mexico.
An avid horseman and roper, Trotter has served as director of First National Bank Shares, Inc., and is President of Livestock Investors, ltd., one of the largest cattle feeders in the United States. He is an officer in Deaf Smith Enterprises, a privately owned real estate company. In 2016, he became a member of the Agricultural Advisory Committee. He has been inducted into the Texas Cowboy and Texas Horse Racing Halls of Fame. In 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from West Texas A&M, and the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award from the AQHA Racing Committee.On the racetrack, Trotter has won the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and Los Alamitos Super Derby with One Famous Eagle. Miss Racy Jess added another Super Derby win in 2011. Earlier this year, Trotter’s One Sweet Racy won the Grade 1 AQHA Distaff Challenge.
In an interview with The Team Roping Journal in September, Trotter said, “I raise about 25 race colts each year. A lot of those mares I’ve got are fillies I picked out as yearlings and raced. In fact, One Famous Eagle is the horse that’s kind of been putting me on the map. (Bred by Trotter and owned in partnership with Burnett Ranches, ltd., he is now owned by the One Famous Eagle Syndicate and stands at the 6666 Ranch). He’s probably the greatest sire alive, but I own his mother. I bought her as a yearling and raced her and still got her. She’s hard to get along with, but I get along with her good, you know; she doesn’t mind me.”
He Looks Hot
(Walk Thru Fire-Look Her Over,
by Check Him Out)
Qualified by winning the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship
Lifetime Record: 27-9-4-5 $1,177,019 2018 Record: 9-1-2-2 $108,754
Owned and bred by Ed Allred, He Looks Hot's amazing career continues, as he prepares to makes his third consecutive Champion of Champions appearance. He earned this berth by outdueling one of the best fields ever assembled for the 64th running of the Grade 1, $125,000 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship at 440 yards. Six horses that competed in the Invitational will be in the starting gate in the Champion of Champions on Saturday. In winning the Invitational, the Scott Willoughby-trainee posted the meet’s fastest 440-yard time of :21.342, In 2016, He Looks Hot also posted the meet's fastest 440-yard time of :21.18. The Champion of Champions is contested over the classic 440-yard distance. He Looks Hot added $62,500 in earnings with this effort in the Invitational to take his career bankroll to $1,177,019. He is the richest horse ever campaigned by Allred, who is the sport's all-time leading owner, and is also only the second Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity winner to win the Los Alamitos Championship. The other one is champion Corona Kool, winner of the rich futurity in 1999 and of the Los Alamitos Championship in 2001.
In addition to winning the 2014 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, when spoiling Heza Dasha Fire’s perfect juvenile campaign, He Looks Hot also won the 2016 Grade 1 Vessels Maturity and 2017 Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap. The Allred-bred is out of stakes winning mare Look Her Over, who is also the dam of Once Over, the winner of the Grade 1 The Championship at Sunland Park in 2017. Look Her Over is a half-sister to champions Hawkish, Hawkinson and Flame N Flash.
He Looks Hot's accomplishment are impressive enough on their own, but they are on different level when one considers that he has undergone three colic surgeries during his racing career. The third surgery happened earlier this year, just days before he was set to run in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship final. "He had two stones," Willoughby said. "It's all connected from the first surgery because the rope (he swallowed in 2015, which led to his first bout with colic) had fragmented and just started building a stone. Unfortunately we had to go back in (and operate) after the Winter Championship trials. He was doing fantastic three days before the final and two days before the final we had to go to surgery. You either open him up or you don't. Horses usually don't live after three colic surgeries much less run in (and win) Grade 1 races against the best horses in the country."
Ed Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos Race Course and American Quarter Horse racing's all-time leading breeder, is synonymous with the sport. In addition to being named AQHA Champion Breeder a record 13 times, he has also been named AQHA Champion Owner a record six times. Allred finished as the nation's leading breeder in money earned with $3,448,478 in 2015 and has been the nation's leading breeder in wins in 26 of the last 27 years. He is the sport's all-time leading Quarter Horse owner by earnings with $19,516,418. He could go over the $20 million mark with big efforts from He Looks Hot in the Champion of Champions and from Transcend and Deceiver in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. The owner has won 1,493 Quarter Horse races in his Hall of Fame career and currently leads the nation with 55 wins as owner. Allred is also the all-time leading Quarter Horse breeder by earnings with $58,516,745. Going over the $59 million career is also a possibility on this weekend. Allred-bred Quarter Horses have won an all-time record 5,118 races. He is the nation’s leading breeder with 135 wins in 2018.
In addition to He Looks Hot and the two juveniles in Sunday’s Los Alamitos Two Million, his top runners in recent years include multiple Grade 1 winner and two-time AQHA champion Quirky, multiple Grade 1 winner Check My Thoughts, stakes winners Once Over, Governor’s Cup Futurity Discontent, and stakes winners Nymph, Bemused and distance star Bound To Bet. Allred enjoyed his richest victory ever thanks to He Looks Hot’s Los Alamitos Two Million win in 2014. Allred won the 1998 Los Alamitos Million Futurity with Kingman Kid. The owner also won the Champion of Champions in 1973 with the great mare Charger Bar.
Allred’s racing operation has been a model of stability with Willoughby and Jimmy Glenn, Jr. campaigning most of his Quarter Horses in the past several years. runner. "Scott is a great person and top horseman,” Allred said of Scott Willoughby. “David Martin is the ranch manager at Rolling A Ranch and has worked there since he was 15. He's now been there some 35 years now. John Creager has been there a long time as well, ever since he retired from riding at Los Alamitos. It's a very stable team of people and (He Looks Hot) is a credit to their work. I've had these old female families of Quarter Horses for years. I learned so much when I was younger from Spencer Childers. He taught me a lot about the female lines in the sport and their importance in breeding. I've patterned my breeding program after Spencer's program based on those ideas. He Looks Hot, for example, comes from the incredible family Oh La Proud, who is a mare that produced three AQHA champions"
Vinnie Bednar, who shared the Thoroughbred riding title at Los Alamitos with Juan Sanchez last year, will pilot He Looks Hot. His transition this year from Thoroughbreds to Quarter Horses has been spectacular. “I had been watching Vinnie for a while, but he's exceeded my expectations,” Willoughby said. “I knew that he's great on Thoroughbreds and gets horses away from the gate really well. He's getting Quarter Horses away (from the gate) as good as anybody I've seen in a long time. I think he'll be one of the best jockeys in the country within a year."
Heza Dasha Fire
(Walk Thru Fire-Dasha Freda, by Dash For Cash)
Qualified through the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 24-16-6-0 $2,225,112 2018 Record: 3-1-1-0 $57,125
S-Quarter K LLC's Washington homebred Heza Dasha Fire became only the third Quarter Horse in history to go over the $2.2 million mark in career earnings earlier this year. Heza Dasha Fire joined Ochoa, the sport's all-time leading money winner, and Stolis Winner after a dominant victory in his 2018 debut in the Restricted Grade 1, $100,000 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap. Heza Dasha Fire then finished out of the money in the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship before returning to qualify to his fourth Champion of Champions thanks to a second place finish in the first division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials.
The connections of the 6-year-old gelding have to keep a closer eye on him on a daily basis. "He still has problems from the Leptospirosis he got two years ago," trainer Jose Flores said. "The horse has had problems because of it on and off. When he tells us something is off, we stop. If he remains healthy and sound then we keep going with him. Dr. Rick Overly and his team do a great job with him and keep him going the way he's supposed to."
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection with various symptoms that include weight loss, eye redness and swelling, uveitis, abdominal pain, dysuria, etc. It is believed that Heza Dasha Fire contracted the infection in December of 2016.
"We’ve changed so much on (Heza Dasha Fire)," said Don Meneely of S-Quarter K. "We can’t feed him alfalfa anymore. We can’t feed him anything that has high amounts of protein. It’s been a trial and error thing. It’s been quite an ordeal, but he’s really settled in. We’re encouraged for the Champion of Champions. We have to give a lot of credit to Dr. Overly and his staff. They, along with Jose, were on top of everything right from the start. With us being 1,000 miles away we were on top of it as much as we could."
Heza Dasha Fire will look to join Tailor Fit as the only horses to win two runnings of the Champion of Champions but in non-consecutive years. Tailor Fit won the 1999 and 2001 runnings, while Heza Dasha Fire won the 2015 running. He’s been second the past two years, finishing behind Zoomin For Spuds in 2016 and Mr Pyc To You in 2017. No horse has ever been second in the Champion of Champions in three occasions.
The 2015 AQHA world champion reached multi-millionaire status back in October of 2017 after becoming only the sixth horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. He was the first to win consecutive runnings since Freaky in 2009-10. Heza Dasha Fire is also one of only two horses since 1969 to win back-to- back running of the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap. In winning the race in 2016 and 2017 Heza Dasha Fire joined the champion Jess You And I (2008-09) as the only horses in the past 48 years to successfully defend their Go Man Go crown. Since 1960, Duplicate Copy in 1966 and '67 and Go Derussa Go in 1968 and '69 are the only two others to have back-to-back Go Man Go titles.
In his career, Heza Dasha Fire has won eight Grade 1 race, one Restricted Grade 1 race, and one Grade 2 race - all while racing at Los Alamitos. He won the (G1) Ed Burke Million Futurity and (G1) Golden State Million Futurity during his freshman campaign when named 2014 champion 2-year-old gelding. He won the (G1) Los Alamitos Super Derby, (G2) Golden State Derby, and (G1) Champion of Champions during his sophomore season when named 2015 World Champion, champion 3-year-old, and champion 3-year-old gelding, and won the (G1) Go Man Go Handicap and (G1) Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship in 2016. Last year, he repeated his Go Man Go and Invitational Championship victories, and this year he won the Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers Championship Handicap. .
"Those things will be a lot more important later on in the years when you look back," Meneely added. "He's unbelievable. We know that he's an once-in-a-lifetime horse. He's extremely well-bred (by Walk Thru Fire and out of Dasha Freda). He's not a fluke breeding wise. He deserves to be there. He's got brothers and sisters that have been extremely successful. He's a very, very special horse."
(Corona Cartel - Jessica Ravin
by Mr Jess Perry)
Qualified by winning the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap
Lifetime Record: 20-10-3-3 $244,253 2018 Record: 1-1-0-0 $62,500
When the talented colt The Down Side won the 2003 running of the Champion of Champions he did so in only his third start of the year. EG High Desert Farms' Jess Ravin will look to do one better, as she’ll be making only her second outing of 2018 in Saturday’s Champion of Champions. Her first start of the year went off great, as she posted a sensational wire-to-wire daylight victory to win the Grade 1, $125,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on the way qualifying to the Champion of Champions. .
Jess Ravin broke sharply from the outside post 10 and had a ¾ length lead early in the 400-yard race. She was a length ahead of her rivals at the midway point of the race and then cruised to the finish under confident handling to win by 1 ½ lengths. Her first ever Grade 1 stakes win was also the seventh stakes win of her career at Los Alamitos. She’s only the 47th Quarter Horse in the track’s history with at least seven stakes wins. Jess Ravin was a three time stakes winner in 2017. She also finished third to BH Lisas Boy in the 2017 Grade 1 Vessels Maturity and was a multiple stakes winner in 2016. "She had a hoof problem last year," said owner Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms. "She ran 400 yards in :19.81 when she finished third in the Mildred Vessels last year, but the hoof was stinging her. She was starting to tail off. We ran her once more (in mid-November), but then we had to give her a rest. We took some embryos out of her. We bred her to my stallions and ended up with a couple of embryos by Hawkinson and a couple by Corona Czech. That was the first time we've bred her."
Jess Ravin returned to training in the summer and posted a couple of drills. Her last workout before her season debut was 350-yard gate drill in :17.80 on August 11. It set her up perfectly for the Mildred Vessels. "We gave her a total of about four or five good works," said trainer Jesus Nunez. "She runs well fresh.”
Jess Ravin, who has since posted a 350-yard work in :18.30 on November 17, will enter the Champion of Champions after more than 80 days of rest from her Mildred Vessels start. She’ll be looking to become the first female to win the Champion of Champions since Blues Girl Too in 2007. The last aged mare to win this race is Dash For Speed in 1990.
Owner Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms received the 2017 Frank Vessels, Sr. Memorial Award in recognition for outstanding contributions to the sport of Quarter Horse racing. His first Quarter Horse at Los Alamitos was Quality Counts, who he acquired in the early 1990s and was trained by Jaime Gomez. Since then, EG High Desert Farms has grown into one of the nation's leading racing operations and a force at Los Alamitos for more than two decades. He's also been the track's second leading owner in wins during that span, only behind Ed Allred. Since 2000, Gonzalez has started 3,089 Quarter Horses and won 527 races. His horses have finished in the top three a total of 1,775 times during that span and have earned $8,567,261.
Gonzalez's EG High Desert Farms was recognized as the AQHA's champion owner in 2003. EG High Desert Farms has campaigned AQHA champions Hawkinson (2001 aged stallion), Hawkish (2003 2-year-old colt), and Walk Thru Crystal (2015 2-year-old filly) and his star runners have also included stakes winners Merridoc Hawk, Clydette Mia, Corona Czech, Jess Ravin, Matilda Czech, Short Czech and more. EG High Desert Farms was named PCQHRA owner of the year and the winner of the breeder special achievement award in 2016. EG High Desert Farms was the leading Quarter Horse owner at Los Alamitos in 2006. Gonzalez is among the top consigners each year the Los Alamitos Equine Sale. Based in Temecula, California, EG High Desert Farms is home to stallions Hawkinson, Red Hot Rhythm, Hawkish, Fast Prize Cartel, etc.. "When I heard how many horses I've raced over the years, it took me by surprise. I've enjoyed it and it's been special to have been a part of nice horses over the years.” EG High Desert Farms was part of the Champion of Champions in 2010 with Merridoc Hawk and 2001 with Hawkinson.
In 1974, Gonzalez purchased a cantina for $2,000. “The cantina did well for me. I eventually sold it and bought a little club named Puerto Vallarta in North Hollywood. I kept Puerto Vallarta for eight years until I bought a grocery store. We opened up a few more stores. My brothers joined the business and we found our niche (the chain, Vallarta Markets, caters to the Hispanic community)."
Jesus Nunez had triple bypass surgery at Anaheim Regional Medical Center on Sunday, September 30. Less than three months later, he’ll be saddling his first Champion of Champions starter since Buccaneer Beach in 2004. “I had 14 stents put in a few years ago,” he said. “I should be good now for a long time.” Nunez is also well on his way to winning his second straight Thoroughbred training title here.
(One Sweet Jess - Stolmeacartel by Stoli)
Qualified by winning the Los Alamitos Super Derby
Lifetime Record: 10-7-2-0 $529,463 2018 Record: 5-3-2-0 $491,763
Lesley Joyner's homebred runner Jesstacartel has been at the top of his game in 2018 with two graded derby victories to his name. The son of One Sweet Jess won the Grade 2 Golden State Derby on August 19 and then scored an impressive win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby on November 11. In both of those victories, Jesstacartel has shown the potential to handle 440-yards with aplomb. With that ability in mind, Jesstacartel figures to be one of the top contenders in the Champion of Champions on Saturday night. The Utah bred's development as a major stakes runner has to be pure joy for Lesley Joyner, who also bred Jesstacartel's dam, Stolmeacartel. She made only $84 in two career starts, while racing only once each in 2012 and 2013. Additionally, Jesstacartel's granddam, the Corona Cartel mare Buena Cartel, never even made it to the track.
"I went to the Los Alamitos Equine Sale with (trainer) Mark Skeen and Fawna Knight and I was looking for a horse by Corona Cartel," said Joyner of Mapleton, Utah. "We came across this (2004) Corona Cartel filly named Buena Cartel bred by Paul Jones. She was small, but affordable. We bought her, but we were never able to race her. She was a little bit on the smaller side, but she was by Corona Cartel and out of Marmeta, whose family had stakes winners, so we decided to make her a broodmare. We bred Buena Cartel (to Stoli) and got Stolmeacartel, who I like to call "Ella". We sent Ella to St. George, Utah with trainer Mark Skeen, but she just did not want to race. We ran her a few times, but she just didn't want to do it. We tried a lot of different things with her with no much luck, but she was just this big, beautiful mare so we decided to breed her. That's how we got Jesstacartel."
Jesstacartel’s outstanding development has been one of the stories of 2018. "He's always been really big,” Lesley continued. “I remember Mark Skeen saying when he started training him that he didn't know where all his parts are yet. As a 2-year-old, we decided to run him later in the year and we would just see what would happen. In his first out, he got bumped around from both sides," she continued "We started him again and this time he was on the outside. He went super right at the start, but halfway through the race he started picking up speed and he won the race."
Finally, Joyner got to enjoy a win from this family of horses. Best of all, it was only the start of a lot of fun nights at the track for Ella's gentle giant. "You know, Ella is a funny mare,” she added. “She's very protective of her babies. She's always had a lot of attitude. Jesstacartel doesn't have any of that attitude. He's a very sweet horse. With Buena Cartel and Ella not wanting to run, we didn't pay him into any big races as a 2-year-old. He ran some good races during the second half of his 2-year-old year so we put him in the Winter Derby. Unfortunately, he was sick right before the trials. He ended up being off for about eight months altogether,"
Jesstacartel returned to action with a second place finish to A Political Lady in the Vandy’s Flash Handicap. It was an effort good enough for the Joyners to pay the late supplement of $25,000 to make Jesstacartel eligible to the Los Alamitos Super Derby trials.On trial night, Jesstacartel finished second to Eyes The Favorite, but he delivered in style on the night of the derby final. Now Joyner and her husband, former MLB All Star Wally Joyner, will have a chance for another graded stakes win in the biggest Quarter Horse race in the sport, the Champion of Champions.
"He's been just a great horse to watch," Wally Joyner said. "Mark and Holly Skeen have done an incredible job. Nobody liked him early on. He had a little trouble his first race. He figured it out and has been really good ever since.” “After Stolmeacartel, we didn't think Jesstacartel would race,” Lesley Joyner added. “You just never know in racing."
It took a lot of patience and hard work from Mark Skeen and his team to tap into Jesstacartel's racing ability.
"When he was first born, he didn't want you to touch him," said Skeen's wife and assistant trainer, Holly Skeen. "At first, when we would to try to handle him, he would just scream. He didn't want anyone touching him. Now he loves you. He's changed a lot. I remember Mark telling the gallop people to take their time with him. He told them that we had no deadlines and just get on him and walk him around. Mark would say, 'you don't even have to gallop him at first, just get him to like his job.' We didn't have the pressures of getting him ready for an early futurity. We didn't have to rush him and I think that was the best thing.”
LD Is Back
(Walk Thru Fire - Prima LD by Jazzing Hi)
Qualified through the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 21-4-5-1 $137,564 2018 Record: 7-1-2-1 $41,574
LD Is Back has posted some strong efforts in his career, but he'll be going after his first graded stakes win in the Champion of Champions on Saturday. His lone stakes win came on California Breeders Champions Night when the Walk Thru Fire gelding scored in the Jens List Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds last year. He has also posted runner-up efforts in the Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers Championship Handicap, Moonist Handicap, and most recently to Zoomin For Spuds in a division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. It was the second place finish that earned LD Is Back a spot in the Champion of Champions. His mother, Prima LD, won the AQHA Derby Challenge in 2003, sparking one of the most memorable winner's circle celebrations at Los Alamitos in recent memory. The celebrations may be just as memorable if LD Is Back scores in the Champion of Champions.
Darling Farms received 15 of 17 votes on the way to being named the AQHA champion owner in 2017. Headed by Dan Darling, his racing operation campaigns champions Hold Air Hostage and J Fire Up, who combined to earn over $2.5 million last year. Hold Air Hostage won the All American Derby, Rainbow Derby and Heritage Place Derby, while J Fire Up, who Darling Farms campaigned in partnership with Jaime Gomez and Ernesto Solis, won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity. Dan Darling is often at Los Alamitos accompanied by his wife, Tiara, and daughter, Derby. His family owns Darling Companies, which primarily is in oilfield services, the insurance business and other businesses. The Darlings jumped into racing in 2013 when Tiara and her father attended the Heritage Place Yearling Sale. The father and daughter duo purchased a couple of horses with some success. The following year, Darling Farms purchased One Fabulous Eagle, who would go on to finish second to Jess Good Candy in the All American Futurity. Darling Farms has never looked back since then.
Valeriano Racing Stables operates a ranch near Odessa, Texas. The Valeriano family operates a company in the oil field transportation business. At Los Alamitos, Valeriano Racing Stables campaigned Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finalist Jess Lips. Other top horses for the stable include 2018 West Texas Derby winner Wagon On Fire V and 2015 Remington Distaff Challenge Stakes winner Echoes of Love. They currently campaign Im Jess Special V, a gelding by Jess Lips, who finished second in this year's All American Futurity.
Trainer Jaime Gomez, long known as the king of the futurities at Los Alamitos, has enjoyed success with older horses and derby horses as well. In recent years, Gomez has won derbies with Forget It, Chazaq, Bac In Front and Moonie Blues. He also enjoyed his first ever Champion of Champions when he saddled the millionaire Jess You and I to victory in the 2008 running. With that victory, the native of Jalisco, Mexico became the first Mexican born trainer to win the Champion of Champions. "I was raised in Guadalajara and I came here when I was 15 years old," said the 66-year-old conditioner. "Los Alamitos will forever be my home. I love this place and it's in my heart. I've had some good times, some bad times and so many great times at Los Alamitos. I will never want to leave this place." Gomez was a second with Like Frankie And Me in 2005. He was third with Senor Toby in 2012 and also saddled Chazaq and Forget It to appearances in this race. When Jess You And I won the Champion of Champions he became the first Quarter Horse to eclipse the 21 second barrier at 440 yards at Los Alamitois. His winning time was :21.94, a mark that was broken by Apollitical Jess in the 2010 Champion of Champions. His futurity winners include Higher Fire, Corona Cartel, J Fire Up, Carters Cartel, Chazaq, LD Fire, Checknbac, Tac It Like A Man, Flys R Streakin, Romeo Ryon, Chicks Like Us, Make It Anywhere, Sassy Smith, Secret Card, Sixish, Twin Spires, Vachetta, and Gold Nugget Rd. Gomez ranks in the top eight in all-time earnings for a trainer with nearly $29 million. He has saddled the winners of more than 1,250 races in his career, while closing in on 100 stakes wins.
(Favorite Cartel - Ancient Empress by Stoli)
Qualified by winning the Go Man Go Handicap
Lifetime Record: 17-8-1-5 $359,683 2018 Record: 7-3-0-4 $107,535
Eddie Garcia, the all-time leading Quarter Horse jockey at Los Alamitos in wins and stakes wins, has piloted 151 stakes winners in his historic career at this track, but one stakes race has eluded him, the Champion of Champions. Garcia, who won his first race at Los Alamitos more than 30 years ago, has an excellent chance to add the Champion of Champions to his resume when he pilots A1A Racing LLC's Tarzanito. Garcia has ridden Tarzanito in every single one of his 17 starts, including victories in the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap on September 2, 2018 and in the Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap on September 2, 2017. Tarzanito finished second in the 2016 Golden State Million Futurity and finished third in both the 2018 Grade 1 Vessels Maturity and 2018 Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Garcia’s 151st stakes came aboard Tarzanito at 11-1 odds in the 58th running of the Go Man Go Handicap on September 2. The win eventually earned the stallion by Favorite Cartel a berth to the December 15 Champion of Champions. "We were hoping that Eddie would win his 150th stakes win with Tarzanito," said Dr. George Fallieras of A1A Racing. "But we were happy to take his 151st stakes win."
Tarzanito will now look to become only the sixth aged stallion to win the Champion of Champions. Stallions have enjoyed success in this race in recent years. The stallion Mr Pyc To You won the race last year and the late Good Reason SA won in 2011. “I've always loved this horse,” Garcia added. “As long as he doesn't get bumped around and is able to run cleanly he can be one of the best horses that I've ever ridden. The first time I breezed this horse it was unbelievable. He reminded me of Corona Cartel. He has a real nice stride and his sire, Favorite Cartel, is a son of the Eclipse Award winner Favorite Trick and adds excellent Thoroughbred bloodlines.” Tarzanito's mother is the Stoli mare Ancient Empress, which was a winner at Los Alamitos for trainer Patricia Visscher, who is also the breeder of Tarzanito.
Tarzanito is the first racehorse owned by the Los Angeles-based racing operation, A1A Racing. Their early success has helped Dr. Fallieras appreciate the opportunity to see Tarzanito compete against the best horses in the world. "We are thrilled for the horse. We think he's so talented and has such a wonderful temperament. He's now in the discussion with the great horses at this track. I think there are so many wonderful horses out here.” Dr. Fallieras grew up in Tampa, Florida and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Tennessee and did his residency training in New Orleans at the Tulane Health Science Center/Charity Hospital. Dr. Fallieras made an appearance on the nationally syndicated show, The Doctors. He has extensive emergency room, hospital inpatient, ICU, inpatient and outpatient detoxification and outpatient recovery experience. He has served as the Medical Director for multiple large in-patient hospitalist programs. He has also conducted mission trips to rural Dominican Republic and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. "I did dual training in internal medicine and pediatrics, but I primarily work in the ICU," he said.
Trainer Yanet Rodriguez has been an integral part of guiding Tarzanito to the Champion of Champions. The horsewoman has trained him since the beginning of this 3-year-old campaign. Rodriguez previously trained the 2-year-old champion filly Walk Thru Crystal and had some strong years as the trainer of perennial top owners EG High Desert Farms. Previously, horsewomen Donna McArthur (1996), Connie Hall (2000) and Janet VanBebber (2001) have saddled a horse to victory in the Champion of Champions.
As for Eddie Garcia, the 54-year-old rider moved ahead of Danny Cardoza to become the track's all-time leading Quarter Horse jockey when he picked up his 2,529 win aboard Janet McKinnerney's Royal Motions to victory on September 21, 2008.
"I came to Los Alamitos in the 1980s with the dream to become a leading rider and the track's number one jockey," Garcia said. "It feels great to have made that dream a reality. I rode for some big owners but I also rode for some small owners. It was those wins aboard $2,500 and $4,000 claimers that helped me reach milestones. I want to keep on riding and getting more wins. I want to make it tough for the next jockey that tries to break this record."
Garcia's first stakes win ever came with the Blane Schvaneveldt-trained Easy Conversation in the 1986 Los Alamitos Championship. In his career, Garcia has won the 1996 Los Alamitos Million Futurity with Corona Cartel and the 2008 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity with Tres Passes. He also rode A Classic Dash to victory in the 1993 All American Futurity. He has piloted standouts Separatist, Sign Of Lanty, Brotherly, Artesias Special Chic, and Black Fryday just to name a few.
(Favorite Cartel - Red Hawk Chick by Hawkinson)
Qualified through the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 19-5-5-1 $100,560 2018 Record: 10--2-2-1 $65,331
Martha Wells’ Yanque enters the Champion of Champions as one of the biggest wild cards in the field. The Favorite Cartel gelding has stamina to spare and has proven capable of overcoming poor starts on the way to challenging late. For example, his runner-up effort in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby happened despite him breaking last in the field of 10. He started rolling at the halfway point of the 400-yard race and by the time the horses crossed the wire, Yanque was in second place, losing the race by only a neck. Yanque will be mighty dangerous if he can break on top. Perhaps the extra 40 yard distance in the 440-yard Champion of Champions will be the difference that will provide Yanque the late running space that he’s shown to need.
Yanque is the first Champion of Champions starter for Martha Wells since Chicks First Policy in 2000. Chicks First Policy was a typical Wells-owned runner: a hard-knocking, blue-collar worker with the ability to deliver in big races. In his 47-race career, Chicks First Policy competed in 23 stakes or stakes trial races. He won the Grade 2 California Sires’ Cup Derby, Fresno Futurity and Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial. He also finished second in the Grade Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and Go Man Go Handicap in 2003. Forrest Fire is another horse in that mold for Wells. He competed in 34 stakes or stakes trials in his 51 career starts and was a multiple stakes winner to boot.
Wells’ late husband, Dwayne Wells, passed away in the late 1990s. A prominent trainer at Los Alamitos, he saddled 564 winners that earned $2.3 million. He was also recognized as an enthusiastic and hard-working horseman, and a great supporter of Quarter Horse racing in California. “After Dwayne died I didn’t think I could run a successful racing program,” she said. “Luckily I had a lot of people that believed in me and encouraged me to continue in the business.” Over the years, Wells has campaigned the likes of stakes winners New Look, Getit Together, No Pet Peeves, and Heza Sand Trap. Wells finished as the second leading Quarter Horse owner in 2000 despite having 13 horses claimed from her that season. It was a testament that she ran horses where they had a chance to win, a trademark of her racing operation that rings true to this day. Wells is a former recipient of the Frank Vessels Sr. Memorial Award. In her ownership career, she’s won 305 races from 2,194 starters with earnings of $3,751,523.
Now in his third year at Los Alamitos Race Course, trainer Matt Fales will be saddling his second Champion of Champions starter. His first qualifier was Heat Warning, who qualified via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. A leading trainer in Arizona, Matt is the son of Ralph and Carrie Fales.
The Fales family operates one of the top Quarter Horse racing operations in Arizona. Based in Coolidge, Arizona, the Fales currently stand Texas Icon and Heat Warning at their ranch in Coolidge, Arizona. A former Arizona Quarter Horse Racing Association champion trainer, Matt Fales saddled Mickey Ward to victory in the Grade 1 Cox Ranch Distance Challenge. He’s also won stakes in the Desert Classic Futurity, John Deere Juvenile Challenge, Turf Paradise Open QH Futurity, The Plan Handicap and more. Fales Ranch offers breaking and training for young Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds at its 5/8th mile training track and 48-stall facility.
Veteran jockey Agustin Silva, who piloted Corona Ranger to victory in this year’s Adequan Derby Challenge at Los Alamitos, will ride Yanque on Saturday. A second generation jockey, Silva has won 608 Quarter Horse races for earnings of over $11 million. His Grade 1 stakes wins include this year’s Grade 1 Ruidoso Derby aboard Jess Move You and the Grade 1 Zia Park Quarter Horse Futurity on Jess Fire Chick. He also piloted El Duero to victory in the 2012 West Texas Futurity.
Zoomin For Spuds
(Zoomin For Bux - A Perfect Cocktail, by Corona Cocktail)
Qualified by winning the Vessels Maturity
Lifetime Record: 34-12-11-7 $667,566 2018 Record: 9-3-3-1 $137,493
In 2016, Jim Walker’s Zoomin For Spuds won the Champion of Champions after qualifying via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. In 2017, Zoomin For Spuds finished a strong third in the Champion of Champions after qualifying via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. Things changed in 2018, as Zoomin For Spuds qualified to his third Champion of Champions by winning the Grade 1, $170,500 Vessels Maturity in July, but why disrupt tradition? Agreeing with that thought, trainer Monty Arrossa entered Zoomin For Spuds in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials and the 5-year-old gelding responded with a powerful victory that may set him up perfectly for the Champion of Champions.
"He looks like he's back to himself," said Monty Arrossa on the night of the Z. Wayne. "I'm really happy with his performance tonight. He's always been a really good gate horse.”
Zoomin For Spuds had finished a disappointing 10th in the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship prior to his start in the Directors Trials. Plus in the Invitational, he behaved in an uncharacteristic way. "He was standing in there perfectly and I don't know what happened, but it looked like he kind of stepped back and turned his head right when the gate opened." Arrossa said. "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 as his last race. 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 in (the Directors Trials)."
Zoomin For Spud’s victory in the Vessels Maturity, which earned him his spot in the Champion of Champions, came on a special weekend for Arrossa. The trainer was represented by 19 starters over the three day period with 10 of them crossing the finish line first in races held in both California and Idaho. By far, the most important win for Arrossa's barn came with Zoomin For Spuds, as he outdueled his longtime rival BH Lisas Boy in the Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos.
"Three years in a row (in the Champion of Champions), that's pretty incredible," Arrossa added. "He's an incredible animal. He lays it on the line every time. He has a big heart. He had a lot of trouble in the (Vessels Maturity) trials, but he bounced back. I have to give a lot of credit to his groom, Filaberto Alvarado. He's done a great job. They cut him up a little big in the trials in the hind legs and (Alvarado) was on top of it, taking extra good care of him. The horse responded very well."
Jim Walker bred Zoomin For Spuds in Idaho out of his Corona Cocktail mare A Perfect Cocktail. The first person Zoomin For Spuds saw on the day that he was born was the smiling face of the owner and breeder. "I pulled him out of his mother," said the 86-year-old resident of Bellevue, Idaho. "First person he saw in this world was me grinning. I knew he was going to win (the Wild West Futurity)," Walker said. "I never doubted it and I never wanted to think anything different. There's no other way to think. I've owned racehorses on and off for about 40 years now," said Walker, who for years operated a sand and gravel company in Bellevue. "I won some races at Los Alamitos with a horse named Time For Jesse Lee. I feel lucky that at my age I've blessed with some good horses. I just hope that God cuts me a little (slack) and I can watch these horses a few more years."
Zoomin For Spuds had a sensational campaign in 2016, as he won six stakes races headed by the Grade 1 Champion of Champions. He also won the his Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial, Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap, Costa Mesa Handicap, Fullerton Handicap, and Wrangler Stakes. Zoomin For Spuds would go on to be named the PCQHRA Horse of the Year and AQHA champion 3-year-old gelding in 2016. He won the Wild West Futurity in 2015.