The Fiscal Cliff
(Pyc Paint Your Wagon-Signs Zoomer,
Qualified by winning the Bank of America Challenge Championship
Lifetime Record: 8-4-2-2 $258,947 2017 Record: 23-13-7-2 $565,335
Lifetime Record: 8-4-2-2 $258,947 2017 Record: 23-13-7-2 $565,335
The 2017 Bank of America Challenge Championships took place at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, on October 14, and saw a hometown hero conquer the biggest event of the night. Iowa-bred stallion The Fiscal Cliff romped to a three-quarter-length victory in the $345,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) for Iowa City, Iowa-based owner and breeder Tom Lepic. "Thank you so much, AQHA," said Lepic after the race. "Thank you for being in Iowa, thank you so much for letting us run on our home turf." He cruised 440 yards in the Bank of America Challenge Championship, over a sloppy track, to win in :21.297 for trainer Kasey Willis and jockey Benito Baca. The victory earned The Fiscal Cliff and invitation to the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions. The Fiscal Cliff will be making his Los Alamitos debut in the Champion of Champions. Consistency is The Fiscal Cliff's strength. He has started 23 times with 13 wins, seven seconds and a pair of thirds with earnings of $565,335. The Fiscal Cliff was trained by Kasey Willis in the Bank of America Challenge Championship. He ran like he was supposed to," Willis said following the win.
Lepic, the president of the Iowa Quarter Horse Breeders Association (IQHRA), recently sold The Fiscal Cliff to Whitmire Ranch of Marietta, Oklahoma. Whitmire Ranch is the owner of record for the Champion of Champions. "Originally, we were thinking of retiring him following the Champion of Champions," Lepic told Martha Claussen in an article that appeared on stallionesearch.com on Dec. 14. "I met with several breeding farms, but just felt that the timing was not right. We decided to run him in 2018, and once the word got out, I started to get calls about selling him. It was an offer I could not turn down."
Lin Melton watched over The Fiscal Cliff upon his arrival at Los Alamitos following the Bank of America Challenge Championship. In preparation for the Champion of Champions, The Fiscal Cliff has posted a pair of 220-yard turn and works at Los Alamitos - a :12.40 on Dec. 1 and a :12.90 worked on Nov. 17. Willis has since arrived at the Orange County track and will saddle The Fiscal Cliff in the Champion of Champions. "This is my first grade 1, he's one of the best horses I've ever trained. You'd never know 'Fiscal' is a stud. He's been class from Day 1. He's very 'goey' - he's always on the move," Willis told aqha.com/racing. "That's what's neat about him. Now that he's a 4-year-old, he's finally settled into himself and he conserves his energy. The day of the race, he'll sleep all day and then he's ready to go. No problems in the gate or anywhere else. He's perfect, knock on wood. He's flawless."
The Fiscal Cliff qualified for the race by winning the July 4 Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge. The stallion is out of Signs Zoomer, a winning Shazoom mare who was a finalist in the '08 Oklahoma Horsemen's Association Futurity (RG2) at Fair Meadows at Tulsa. The Fiscal Cliff is a full brother to the Mixer Ranch-bred stakes winner Wagon Tales, an earner of $427,579 who finished third in Handsome Jack Flash's All American Futurity (G1), and to The Fiscal Storm, who ran fourth in the September 16 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge. "This is a legitimate horse," Willis added.
The Fiscal Cliff has won eight stakes, including the 300-yard, $50,000 Bob Moore Memorial Stakes (G2) at Remington Park in April. Four of his stakes victories have come at Prairie Meadows. Jockey Benito Baca, who will pilot the stallion in the Champion of Champions, finished as the 2017 Wrangler Champion Jockey in Challenge races. "It was a dream trip," Baca said of The Fiscal Cliff's B of A win. "He stepped away and all I had to do was hold on the whole 440. He's an awesome horse to ride." www.aqha.com/racing contributed to this profile
Da One Two Special
(Two Corona Special-Da One,
by Mr Jess Perry)
Qualified through the
Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 4-2-2-0 $16,300 2017 Record: 4-2-2-0 $16,300
Jesus Daniel Padilla's Da One Two Special, a 4-year-old gelding by Two Corona Special, made his career debut on July 16 - exactly five months before Saturday’s running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions. His debut effort was a maiden win here, a race in which he showed grit as he broke out and was bumped. He then finished second in an allowance race before winning a non-winners of two allowance in his third career start on October 8. He showed enough in that race - when he won by 1¾ lengths over 330 yards - for his connections to pay the $5,000 supplemental fee to make him eligible to the Z. Wayne is trial. The gamble paid off as he's now in the Champion of Champions after finishing second by a nose to BH Lisas Boy in division #2 of the Z. Wayne Griffin. Ridden by Jose Nicasio, the Hector Padilla-bred runner covered the 400-yard distance in :19.706 for trainer Felix Gonzalez. He was a 12-1 longshot in the race. Da One Two Special will be making a huge class jump in the Champion of Champions, but if he can run with BH Lisas Boy in the trials, then he is capable of winning the biggest race in Quarter Horse racing.
Owner Jesus Daniel Padilla has campaigned Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos since 2013 and with great success. From only 66 starters, the owner has won 16 races for a win ratio of 24%. His runners have included multiple Grade 1 stakes finalist Remarkableyesapoweer, 2017 Kaweah Bar Handicap runner-up El Remalcable, and multiple allowance winner Shes Da One On Fire.
Few horsemen have had their hands on more Quarter Horse racing standouts than Felix “Pelillo” Gonzalez. Granted, Felix has not always trained these juvenile horses, instead he introduces the young horses to the saddle. For many years, Felix was known as one of the best in “breaking” young horses during the winter months. His job includes taming the often wild, rambunctious, and energetic 2-year-olds, before making them feel comfortable with a bit, saddle and later with someone on their back. “It’s hard work but a lot of fun,” Gonzalez said. “If you get a bucking stud it can be like riding a rodeo horse.” Felix worked with 2006 Los Alamitos Million winner Corona Cartel, two-time divisional champion filly Ah Sigh, and Kindergarten winners Secret Card and Sassy Smith. In 1981, Felix arrived in California and eventually began work at Pegasus Stud Farm. There, he broke 2-year-olds for Carlos Lopez, Jaime Gomez and several other top trainers. In 1996, Felix got his training license. “Pegasus Stud Farm was sold so I decided to go on my own and try training horses.” Gonzalez has trained 2004 Kindergarten Futurity winner Dash To The End, 2004 PCQHA Breeders Derby and Southern California Derby winner Hawkish, 2003 La Primera Del Ano Derby winner Ipomea, multiple stakes winner Classic Sassy Chic, 2002 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity winner Valiantly, and distance stakes winners Jake Blues and Butter Me Up CST. Gonzalez campaigned and owns Two Corona Special, the sire of Da One Two Special.
Mr Pyc To You
(Pyc Paint Your Wagon-Stylish Sign,
by Vital Sign)
Qualified through the
Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 19-5-3-3 $98,686 2017 Record: 9-1-1-1 $48,676
Mr Pyc To You steps up to complete the field to the Champion of Champions after a post-race hair test disqualified a horse from taking part in this 440-yard race. A five-time winner in his career, Mr Pyc To You has not won a stakes race, but he’s finished second in this year’s Bank of America California Championship at 440 yards and third in the first division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial. He recently competed against fellow Champion of Champions finalists The Fiscal Cliff in the Grade 1 Bank of America Challenge Championship at 440 yards. Bred by The Mixer Ranch in Oklahoma, Pyc Paint Your Wagon was fourth to BH Lisas Boy earlier this year in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and also competed in the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap. He qualified to the Rainbow Futurity in 2015.
Mr Pyc To You is owned by the partnership of Ron and Denise Van Amburgh and Jose Flores. The Van Amburghs have owned several standouts at Los Alamitos headed by major stakes winner A Tempting Dash and 2007 El Primero Del Ano Derby winner Not A Full Moon, a half-brother of AQHA champion Moonist. For the Van Amburghs and parnter Jeremy Giambi, A Tempting Dash won the 2009 Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and the 2010 (RG1) Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap. Not A Full Moon won the Grade 3 AQRA Turf Paradise Futurity before moving to California to win the El Primero while also running second in the Governor's Cup Derby and third in the Golden State Derby and PCQHRA Breeders Derby. Not A Full Moon was second in the 2008 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap. The Van Amburghs have campaigned horses at Los Alamitos either in partnerships or as sole owners since approximately 2006.
Mr Pyc To You is the son of Pyc Paint Your Wagon, who is one of the nation's leading sires. Pyc Paint Your Wagon has over $29 million in sire earnings and nearly 100 stakes winners to date. He is he sire of 2017 Champion of Champions finalist The Fiscal Cliff. Other notable runners sired by Pyc Paint Your Wagon include Remington Park Oklahoma Bred Futurity winner Im A Fancy Pyc, Junos Request Stakes winner This Candys Awesome, A Ransom Handicap winner Wagon Tales, and Black Gold Futurity Championship winner Freighttrain B, who is the sire of Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity finalist Moonie Blues. Sired by Corona Cartel and out of Dashin Follies, Pyc Paint Your Wagon won seven of 16 starts and earned $889,581 in his career. He won the Grade 1 Texas Classc Futurity, Grade 1 Texas Classic Derby, Grade 1 Heritage Place Derby, and the (RG2) Lazy E Futurity. Pyc Paint Your Wagon stands at Lazy E Ranch in Oklahoma.
Trainer Jose Flores will saddled two runners in hope of winning his second Champion of Champions. In addition to Mr Pyc To You, Flores also trains 2015 Champion of Champions winner Heza Dasha Fire, who figures to be the betting favorite in this race. Flores has won two runnings of the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He saddled Matabari to victory in 2012 and the late Ima Fearless Hero to victory in 2015. For his career, Flores has won 1,303 Quarter Horse races, which is the 5th highest total ever at Los Alamitos.
BH Lisas Boy
(Mighty Invictus-Apollo Snowbound,
Qualified by winning the
Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Vessels Maturity
Lifetime Record: 26-16-6-1 $414,948 2017 Record: 6-6-0-0 $161,370
Owned, bred and trained by Bill Hoburg, BH Lisas Boy remained undefeated in six starts in 2017 after winning the second Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials over Da One Two Special. BH Lisas Boy had not raced since having knee surgery to remove chips in early July as first reported by Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form. BH Lisas Boy had won the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity on July 2 - just a few days before his surgery. "This has been very trying the last five months," Hoburg said. "When you set a horse up for a race you go from beginning to finish. I set out an itinerary for him from (the Z. Wayne Griffin) race and then (working) backwards. I put on the calendar target dates that I wanted him to meet. He exceeded every one by a week to 10 days. This horse just shows so much heart and courage. He amazes me. He's an amazing horse. To run in the Champion of Champions, I felt I couldn't compete at that level on works only," Hoburg continued. "I had this (the Z. Wayne Griffin) as one of the rungs on the ladder to get him back to that level. I didn't care if he won. I just wanted a good clean race. I really thought he probably run second or third with the 18 week layoff and 220 works under him. I'm just really proud of him. He didn't want to lose." Hoburg was always confident that BH Lisas Boy would participate in the Champion of Champions. "We received a good prognosis after the surgery,” he said.
BH Lisas Boy has been one of the top older horse at Los Alamitos this season. Undefeated in 2017, BH Lisas Boy earned berths to the Champion of Champions with wins in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Grade 1 Vessels Maturity. He also won the Kaweah Bar Handicap. 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 and his name is BH Lisas Boy. "I have been poor my whole life and I've turned down more money (this year) 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 said. "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.”
"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.
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, so he found John Cooper to train his horse during the winter months. "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 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. I looked over at about a half a dozen trainers, nationally known trainers, but I picked John to take care of my horse." Cooper responded by saying, "(BH Lisas Boy) reminds me a lot of Moonist."
Zoomin For Spuds
(Zoomin For Bux-A Perfect Cocktail,
by Corona Cocktail)
Qualified through the
Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 17-7-6-3 $455,073 2017 Record: 6-1-2-2 $39,530
Owner Jim Walker and trainer Monty Arrossa hope that history repeats itself after Zoomin For Spuds qualified to the Champion of Champion via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials for the second straight year. Last year, the son of Zoomin For Bux ran the race of his life as he upset Heza Dasha Fire to win the Champion of Champions. He'll be looking to do it all over again as Heza Dasha Fire once again looks like the horse to beat in the 440-yard classic. Zoomin For Spuds would go on to be named the PCQHRA Horse of the Year and AQHA champion 3-year-old gelding in 2016. Zoomin For Spuds will now look to become the first horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Champion of Champions since SLM Big Daddy in 1997-98. The homebred gelding by Zoomin For Bux, Zoomin For Spuds held the lead in his Directors Trial before settling for third place. Cody Jensen piloted the Idaho-bred. Jensen also qualified Chazaq to the Champion of Champions last weekend when he piloted the son of Corona Cartel to victory in the Los Alamitos Super Derby. Zoomin For Spuds covered the distance in a time of :19.764.
Zoomin For Spuds had a sensational campaign in 2016, as he won six stakes races headed by the Grade 1 Champion of Champions. In addition to the Champion of Champions, he also won the his Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial, Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap, Costa Mesa Handicap, Fullerton Handicap, and Wrangler Stakes. He won the Wild West Futurity in 2015. His 2017 season has been quieter, but it could get a whole lot louder with a big effort in the Champion of Champions. Zoomin For Spuds lost his first four outings of the year, which included a ninth place finish in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity on July 2. Trainer Monty Arrossa decided it was time to give Zoomin For Spuds a break following the Vessels Maturity. "The horse had been in training for quite some time," Arrossa said. "He was a little dull in his two outs (before the break). He was telling us and we just hadn't listened closely. He just needed a little time to get his mind clear. The horse is sound. He really doesn't have anything bothering him. We decided it would be good for his mind and it (helped). He put some weight on and came back." Zoomin For Spuds returned to the track with renewed vigor. In that allowance race, he broke nicely from the outside post six and was game throughout to post his ninth victory. For Arrossa, it was special to see his big star back in the winner's circle at Los Alamitos. "He needed a break. You never know how they'll come back."
Jim Walker bred Zoomin For Spuds in Idaho from the 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 85-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."
Time For Jess
(Apollitical Jess-Coronation Time,
by Corona Cartel)
Qualified by winning the
Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap
Lifetime Record: 25-7-7-3 $372,829 2017 Record: 8-2-2-0 $102,495
Spackman Racing’s Time For Jess takes on the boys in the Champion of Champions after earning her spot in the starting gate by defeating fillies and mares in the $125,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1) over Jess Good Reason in September. She kicked in during the final strides of the Vessels to get up and win by a nose at 2-1 odds. Time For Jess will enter this race after finishing fourth after a troubled start in the Las Damas Handicap on November 25. Trainer Lin Melton knows the ups and downs of racing. “On her day, Time For Jess can run with anybody." Time For Jess beat the top mares in the Mildred Vessels, but it was a closely contested race. Time For Jess beat Jess Good Reason by a nose with Jess Ravin finishing a head back in third and Thermonuclear Energy running another head back in fourth place. In the winner's circle, a joyful K.C. Spackman hugged and kissed anyone and everyone within reach. "After all these years, we are in the Champion of Champions," said Spackman, a second generation Quarter Horse owner. "This is just fun. We've been through a lot to get to where we are tonight. My dad, Kelly, has been around for years. My dad is still in charge. I'm so blessed to be where I am."
Time For Jess will be the first starter in the Champion of Champion for Spackman Racing while also giving Melton his first Champion of Champions qualifier. Melton is one of the top Quarter Horse trainers in the history of the sport. "It's special being in the Champion of Champions," Melton said. "Especially to do it the way she just did. I've had her since she was a baby. We turned her out for like three months last winter. She's pretty much been in that same stall for three years. That's her home." Melton knows that you don’t mess with Time For Jess. "She doesn't like to be whipped. She doesn't like you messing with her. She loves people, but she doesn't like you messing with her. She's like a stud," Melton added. "That's how she behaves. She's always been that way. She does kind of thrive on racing. She loves the cool weather."
"We own a breeding facility back in Idaho and we have broodmares," K.C. added. "Lin said 'I don't know if she's going to breed.' I said 'why is that?' and he said, 'because she thinks she's a stallion.' That's just her way. She's a blessing."
Sired by 2010 Champion of Champions winner Apollitical Jess, Time For Jess won the $28,260 Merial Los Alamitos Distaff Challenge (G3) three races ago. She raced to a three-quarter-length score and was pulling away at the end of the 400-yard test. She was sharp at the start and strong in the second half of the race in route to a ¾ length victory in a time of :19.695. Joining Lin Melton in the winner's circle on that night was Bo Spackman, the grandson of Kelly Spackman. Bo Spackman is hoping that there will be many future trips for him in the winner's circle at Los Alamitos. "My grandfather, Kelly, started (the racing operation). My dad (K.C.) started taking over and hopefully I'm third generation coming seeing what we can do with this. I'm excited to be a part of it and I love every minute of this."
Bred by Kelly/Yearsley Equine Llc, Time For Jess won the Adequan California Derby Challenge last year. Her other top stakes results at Los Alamitos include runner-up efforts in the Grade 2 Southern California Derby and a third place finish in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby. She ran in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in 2015 and earlier this year she finished second in the Miss Princess Handicap.
He Looks Hot
(Walk Thru Fire-Look Her Over,
by Check Him Out)
Qualified through the
Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 22-6-4-5 $1,079,489 2017 Record: 8-1-2-2 $90,004
Owned and bred by Ed Allred, He Looks Hot's sensational career continues after he qualified to his second consecutive Champion of Champions with a runner-up effort in the first Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial in a time of :19.767. The Scott Willoughby-trainee ended Heza Dasha Fire's hopes of a perfect season in 2014 when he beat the champion to win the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He Looks Hot then missed the entire 2015 campaign because of the first of his two colic surgeries. He returned in 2016 to win the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity and made the field to the Champion of Champions. Earlier this year, He Looks Hot beat Heza Dasha Fire again, this time in the Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap. He later became the first millionaire campaigned by Allred, the sport's all-time leading owner and breeder. He Looks Hot has beaten Heza Dasha Fire twice before to join the great Moonist as the only horses with two victories over the 2015 AQHA world champion. The Champion of Champions would be another gold star on his record.
Back in late July, He Looks Hot delivered the performance of California Breeders Champions Night after outdueling 2015 World Champion Heza Dasha Fire by a head in the Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap in what was at the time the meet’s fastest 400-yard time of :19.509. "We had a big offer on the table for this horse before this race for a quarter of a million dollars," Allred said. "Had he run a distant second in (the Spencer Childers), we probably would have sold him. He's not the best horse that I've ever had, but he's a very good horse," Allred said. "We had to geld him, but he's certainly a nice horse." In addition to this Restricted Grade 1 victory and his win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million, He Looks Hot took the Vessels Maturity in 2016. For his career, the gelding by Walk Thru Fire has earned $1,079,489 from six wins in 22 career starts. In 2016, He Looks Hot posted the meet’s fastest 440-yard time of :21.18. "When he won the Two Million we were extremely excited to come back with him as a 3-year-old," Willoughby added. "We didn't get the opportunity because he got sick. You wonder how much better he could have been if he had not been sick.”
Ed Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos Race Course and American Quarter Horse racing's all-time leading breeder, is synonymous with Quarter Horse racing. 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 every single year for over 25 years. Allred is in a tight battle for that title this year, as he’s one win behind Bobby Cox 127-126 as of this writing. He is the sport's all-time leading breeder by earnings with around $54 million. In addition to He Looks Hot, 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. He's also the sport's all-time leading owner by earnings with over $17.5 million. 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"
He Looks Hot is out of the stakes winner of $171,000 Look Her Over, who is a half-sister to champions Hawkish, Hawkinson and Flame N Flash. He Looks Hot's second dam is the previously mentioned Oh La Proud, one of the all-time great broodmares in Quarter Horse racing. Look Her Over is also the dam of Once Over, a three-time stakes winner this year Once Over's biggest California win came in the Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap.
Heza Dasha Fire
(Walk Thru Fire-Dasha Freda,
by Dash For Cash)
Qualified by winning the
Go Man Go Handicap & Robert L. Boniface
Los Alamitos Invitational Championship
Lifetime Record: 20-15-4-0 $1,822,737 2017 Record: 3-2-1-0 $129,250
S-Quarter K LLC's Washington homebred 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. He also ran second in 2016 and now appears to be one of the favorites in 2017. The 2015 AQHA world champion reached multi-millionaire status this past October after becoming only the sixth horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Ridden by Cruz Mendez for trainer Jose Flores, the 2-5 favorite Heza Dasha Fire ran past the early leaders near the halfway mark of the race before finishing strong in the 440-yard race. Heza Dasha Fire is the first to win consecutive runnings of the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship since Freaky in 2009-10. The others to successfully defend their title in this race are: three-time winner Catchmeinyourdreams (2003-05), Heza Rambling Man (1997-98), Refrigerator (1992-93), and four-time winner Go Josie Go (1965-1966, sweeping the Spring and Fall Championships each year). Earlier this year, Heza Dasha Fire became only the second horse since 1969 to win back-to- back running of the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap. He 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.
Heza Dasha Fire has now won eight Grade 1 races 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 last year he won the (G1) Go Man Go Handicap and (G1) Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship.
"Those things will be a lot more important later on in the years when you look back," said Don Meneely of S-Quarter K LLC. "Right now you just want him to continue to show the form that he has in the past. He found another way to win (in the Robert Boniface). Instead of going wire-to-wire he showed some real guts, determination, and speed on the end. That was really exciting to see." Having won the Robert Boniface and Go Man Go in 2017, is this version of Heza Dasha Fire better than the 2015 version? "He might be," the owner responded. "We were really worried after (a runner-up effort) in the Spencer Childers Championship Handicap in the way he lacked his finish. He came back to form (in the Go Man Go). We were wondering what we would see in the Robert Boniface. He was on his toes in the paddock and he was all business. He's in great shape and he's extremely healthy," Meneely continued. "That's a good set-up for the Champion of Champions. It's nice to win going into the Champion of Champions. Jose has done a fantastic job. You have to train them a little different when they're five than when they're two or three. Jose does a great job with that. With some luck and some good health going into it, I think we have a good chance."
Jose Flores indicated that training Heza Dasha Fire for this year's Champion of Champions would be different than in the previous two years. "He's getting older," Flores began. "We've changed a little bit his training pattern. Hopefully it works out good for us. He got a little bit sick on us last year, but all through this year Dr. Ricky Overly and his team have done a great job working with him. They've kept him sound and healthy and that's the key with him, to keep him healthy. Heza Dasha Fire will have good race if he goes into the Champion of Champions healthy." In the meantime, the connections of Heza Dasha Fire will continue to enjoy their "once-in-a-lifetime" superstar. "He's unbelievable," Meneely said. "There'll be a point in time where he doesn't want to run or can't run to the form that he's running in. He'll tell us when that point in. Until then we'll just enjoy the heck out of him. 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 very, very special horse."
(Corona Cartel-All About Ease,
by First Down Dash)
Qualified by winning the
Los Alamitos Super Derby
Lifetime Record: 13-7-6-0 $948,664 2017 Record: 6-3-2-0 $417,249
The meaning of the Hebrew word chazaq includes to be strong, to prevail, be secure, and is a descriptor of courage. Dutch Masters III's star juvenile Chazaq has lived up to the meaning of his name, as he has prevailed against tough company time and time again over the course of his 13-race career. He has seven wins and five second-place runs with his only off-the-board performance a fifth-place finish in last summer’s Golden State Derby (G2). A well-bred gelding by Corona Cartel and out of All About Ease, Chazaq qualified for the Champion of Champions by winning the $956,500 Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) in his latest start on November 12. That win over 400 yards should have him in peak form for trainer Jaime Gomez in the Champion of Champions.The win made Chazaq only the second starter ever in the Champion of Champions for owner Dutch Masters III. "Our first horse in the Champion of Champions was the Bob Baffert-trained Zure Hope Again in 1988," said Jaimes Streelman of Dutch Masters III.
The owners sure hoped again that one day they would be back in the Champion of Champions. That's now a reality thanks to Chazaq."I flew in from Palm Desert for the Super Derby," Streelman added. "I was there with a partner of mine and we brought a whole bunch of people with us to the race. I told them this horse was really good last year, but we had to operate on him and maybe he had lost a step. I also told them I thought he was ready for a big (race). When you have this guy (Jaime Gomez) you have a chance because he's the best."
It was Chazaq's night to shine, just like he had done on the night of the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity in June of 2016. The Bobby Cox-bred runner won the Ed Burke Million in similar fashion, flying out of the gate and then cruising to a half-length victory. Chazaq has now finished in the top two in 12 of his 13 career starts. "This horse showed us what he had in the Ed Burke Million Futurity," Streelman said. "He had some problems in subsequent trials. We did a little surgery after his 2-year-old year. I've been doing this for almost 40 years and I haven't had good luck (with horses) coming back after surgery, but Chazaq showed us so much talent. His injuries were minor, very tiny, like a cloud of (bone) chips. Speaking from personal experience, original equipment is best, but I'm standing here because I got a heart transplant. He didn't have real big problems, but he needed that surgery. This horse came back great.
For Gomez, the Los Alamitos Super Derby had previously escaped his list of accomplishments, but that's a thing of the past thanks to Chazaq. "I'm very blessed," Gomez said. "I have a great crew in the barn and Dr. Ricky Overly does a wonderful job looking after my horses. I can't be any happier. I've been blessed to win these stakes race. This horse goes into the starting gate like a pony. When it's time to go, he'll jump 10 yards out of there. He's as nice as a horse can be."
Dr. James Streelman and Denny Boer of Dutch Masters III have been best buddies since first grade. Their racing operation was among the largest in racing in the 1990s and early 2000s, but they cut back over the past few year with Boer only involved in a few of Dutch Masters III’s horses. "We talk every week," Streelman said. "I talked to him before the (2015) Ruidoso Sale and I told him, 'I think it's time we partner on a horse again.' He always had at least one horse with trainer Lin Melton so he's always been in the game. He told me 'I have a budget,' and told me how much it was.' I said 'okay.' I bought three horses that would work with his budget and we liked Chazaq the most. I told him 'this is the one to partner on.' We loved his breeding. All About Ease was a great runner and is a great producer, and it's tough to beat Corona Cartel. I didn't have to drag him back kicking and screaming. I didn't have to do much to seal the deal." Dutch Masters III purchased Chazaq for $42,000 at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale.
Jess Good Reason
(Good Reason SA-Jess Call Me Tieing,
by Feature Mr Jess)
Qualified through the
Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
Lifetime Record: 21-9-6-1 $368,234 2017 Record: 5-2-1-0 $84,582
Jess Good Reason will be racing in the memory of her owners, John and Cina Sperry, who both passed away this year. In his early 80s, John Sperry, a long time Quarter Horse owner and breeder and former California Horse Racing Board member, passed away last week, while his wife Cina Sperry passed away a few weeks earlier. “John was a good man,” trainer Paul Jones said. “He was a father figure to me. If I ever needed anything, he was always there for me. John Sperry and trainer Paul Jones won races together since the early 1990s. It was a time before Jones had established himself not only as the nation's leading Quarter Horse trainer and perennial AQHA champion trainer, but he had yet to win his first Quarter Horse training title at Los Alamitos.Training for Sperry was a great opportunity for the young horseman as he built his stable and racing operation. The two quickly began enjoying victories together, wins like an allowance race together with a filly by the name of Keen Dasher on July 1, 1993. Keen Dasher would later produce the multiple stakes winner Inthetwinkleofaneye, which Jones conditioned to several stakes victories in the late 1990s. Horses like Keen Dasher served as the foundation of a great working relationship for Sperry and Jones that continued strong for 25 years until John’s passing. "John was one of the owners that had been with me the longest," said Jones. "Sperry and Joe Bettencourt are two owners that had been with me the longest. John was a great guy. He (was) really good to me back when I didn't have a lot of horses. He really supported me and would give me horses to train."
Sperry made it to the races as often as his health would allow to enjoy Jess Good Reason. He was in the winner’s circle when she won the Grade 3, $227,100 La Primera Del Ano Derby in 2016 and then again after the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap earlier this year. "To win (stakes races) for him is really special. It means a lot. I wish he was 20 years younger because he's a really good guy," Jones said after the La Primera. Sperry was not on hand following the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials, but he knew that his mare had made the Champion of Champions.
It was quite a year for Jess Good Reason. She won the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap in January, was second in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap in late September, and posted the fastetest qualifying time when winning her Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 19 to earn a berth to the Champions of Champions. She also posted a couple of seventh place finished in middle of summer, both a result of a hip injury. "She had like a hematoma on her hip," trainer Paul Jones. "We drained it and it got infected. We just had some problems with it. It made her sick. She got kind of down from it. It's all healed up and she looks like a different horse right now. She's training great now. Everything has kind of come together at the right time. I think she'll relish the 440 yards. I'm really pleased. She reminds me a lot of her sire, Good Reason SA, who won the Champion of Champions. She looks so much like him in everything she does." Jones saddled the great Good Reason SA to victory in the 2011 running of the Champion of Champions.
"When Jess Good Reason gets away and gets a clean trip she's pretty hard to beat," Jones added. "She had a tibia fracture early on (in her racing career) and we had to give her some time off," Jones added. "We brought her back and then she had gate trouble. You have to have patience sometimes, but sometimes the horses also just make you wait. When they are talented, the patience can really pay off. She showed a lot of talent right from the beginning. She was just a handful and had her quirks. She's matured and settled down and now she's showing that ability."
Jess Good Reason will look to give trainer Paul Jones his seventh win in the Champion of Champions and his first with a mare. He did saddle the 3-year-old filly Cash For Kas to an upset win over Be A Bono and Catchmeinyourdreams in the 2004 Champion of Champions. Jones, the leading trainer at Los Alamitos with 86 victories coming into this week, has won 3,588 Quarter Horse races in his career at Los Alamitos. Paul Jones has been the meet's leading Quarter Horse trainer in 18 of the last 19 years. He is currently only 394 wins away from tying the great Blane Schvaneveldt for most wins ever at the Orange County oval. The great Blane has the record for most Champion of Champions wins with nine.