EMPRESSUM IS 2022 PCQHRA HORSE OF THE YEAR; PAUL JONES IS PRESENTED WITH FRANK N. VESSELS MEMORIAL AWARD
Steve Holt and Jeff Jones’ homebred Empressum, who was named 2022 AQHA World Champion on January 18, can add the title of 2022 Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Horse of the Year to his lofty resume after being honored with the award at the PCQHRA Awards Banquet on Friday night.
Hosted by Michael Wrona, the PCQHRA Awards Banquet celebrated the achievements of California’s Quarter Horse breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, and champion horses of the 2022 season.
During a tremendous campaign at Los Alamitos, Empressum won the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity, Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap, and in the race of the year in Quarter Horse racing, he won the 50th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions. The gelding by Apollitical Jess and out of the mare Crazy Down Corona, Empressum was also named the champion aged gelding. Heath Taylor trains the Oklahoma-bred, who was ridden throughout his campaign by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo.
“He’s a magnificent horse,” Taylor said of Empressum. “He’s extremely fast. He has a great personality. I don’t know if it’s because of a lot of time spent with the horse, but even when I walk in the barn, he recognizes my voice. He could be in the back of his stall asleep and he’ll get up as soon as he hears us talking. I think the connection I have with this horse is similar to the connections people with their pet at home. I would be remiss not to thank all of the barn help; the groom, the assistant, the farriers, the jockeys. Jose Nicasio spent a lot of time with this horse all year, taking care of the horse, and Rodrigo (Sigala Vallejo) flying over to give him a lot of great rides. Dr. Ashley Troncatty has done a great job taking care of this horse from a veterinary standpoint. I get to come up here and talk, but it’s a team honor. It takes a village to be fortunate enough to have a horse like this one.
“The atmosphere on the night of the Champion of Champions perhaps because of the buildup, the rivals – Apollitical Pence, Danjer, Bomb Cyclone, 10 great horses – the electricity in that race that night, it was a remarkable race,” Taylor added. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have won the All American a couple of times, but I don’t think there’s anything that compares to the excitement and atmosphere of that night.”
Paul Jones (photo), one of the most successful trainers in the history of Quarter Horse racing, was presented with the 2022 Frank Vessels, Sr. Memorial Award. Jones was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the sport of Quarter Horse racing. He is the second all-time leading trainer in wins at Los Alamitos and the industry’s all-time leading trainer in earnings. Jones is also a top breeder and owner. He co-bred the tremendous stallion Favorite Cartel and bred the AQHA champion and top stallion Foose.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to the Quarter Horse racing industry and it’s been great to me,” Paul Jones said. “I really love this place (Los Alamitos Race Course). It’s definitely the best track and without a doubt the greatest horsemen of all time have come through this track, the greatest trainers, owners, breeders, jockeys, vets, horseshoers, the whole group of people. This track has definitely made the best horsemen of all time. I have to thank my wife (Marin), my mother (Joyce), and everyone who has supported me, all my clients, grooms, jockeys, but most of all the great horsemen here and all the great people who have been through Los Alamitos over the years. Not all of them are here with us today, but their memories remain here at Los Alamitos.”
Gentry Farms’ Kiss Thru Fire was named champion aged mare for the second straight year. The Walk Thru Fire won four stakes races last year, including the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap and the inaugural running of the Abigail Kawananakoa Stakes. She’s also been named the AQHA champion aged mare each of the past two years. Johnny Trotter’s stakes placed runner Famous Cartel Jess was named the champion aged stallion.
After winning the title of champion 2-year-old colt last year, M&G Racing’s Golden Boi was named the champion 3-year-old colt. He won the La Primera Del Año Derby and the Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap. The Favorite Cartel colt was also the AQHA champion colt this year and last year. Ed and Theresa DeNike’s Sweet Tess was named the champion 2-year-old filly following his victory in the Los Alamitos Oaks.
“I want to thank Pat Visscher,” said Ed DeNike of Sweet Tess’ trainer. “We’ve been racing several types of horses for 40 years and I’ve never seen a more dedicated person. I appreciate everything she’s done for us.”
Rosenthal Ranch’s Bomb Cyclone and Edward and Von Zae McNelis’ Scoops Dynasty were dual winners in the 3-year-old gelding category. Bomb Cyclone won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby, while Scoops Dynasty won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and the Golden State Derby.
In the juvenile ranks, Rosenthal Ranch’s Cyber Attack was named the champion 2-year-old colt following his victory in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity. JGA Racing Stable’s Party Politics was the champion 2-year-old gelding after winning both the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity and the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity. Clanfield Act Stables’ Frivolous was named the champion 2-year-old filly following her victory in the Restricted Grade 1 Governor’s Cup Futurity. Link Newcomb’s Cattail Cove, a two-time stakes winner last year, was the Moonist Award winner, while Robert Harrison’s Pattys Saint, the winner of the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap, was named the Intermountain Horse of the Year at Los Alamitos.
“Cattail Cove loves the track and loves running hard,” Newcomb said. “Shortly after I started owning horses, my family and I won the Los Alamitos Million Futurity and qualified to many other Grade 1 races. I thought winning races was easy back then. It took 20 years to get another stakes win thanks to Cattail Cove. He’s been a blessing and I appreciate this horse so much.”
Robert Harrison was not on hand to accept the award for Pattys Saint, but trainer Monty Arrossa explained why the Idaho-based owner could not attend the event.
“Mr. Harrison is 91 years old and the reason he couldn’t make it tonight is because he’s helping his mare, who are foaling right now,” Arrossa said. “He’s what this industry is about. He’s my hero.”
Dr. Becky Fitzgerald, DVM, was presented with the Sam Thompson Memorial Award for her exhibiting leadership within the racing community at Los Alamitos Race Course. Dr. Fitzgerald is the track veterinarian at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Ed Allred was recognized as the Owner of the Year, while JGA Racing Stables won the Owner Special Achievement Award. JGA Racing Stables campaigned Party Politics. Jose Flores was the Trainer of the Year, while Monty Arrossa received the Trainer Special Achievement Award. Arrossa trains Grade 1 winner Apollitical Pence and Scoops Dynasty, plus stakes winners Chicks First Flash, Favorite Honey, Jet Wings One, and Valiantli. Arrossa’s entire team of grooms and assistants were on hand to join him in accepting the trainer special achievement award.
“These guys are the heart and soul of our industry,” Arrossa said. “These guys allow us to do what we do every single day and without them none of us would be here.”
Jesus Rios Ayala was the Jockey of the Year while Henry Reynoso Lopez, who rode stakes winner Frivolous and top runners Majority Interest and Monopolist, won the Jockey Special Achievement Award. The breeder awards went to Steve Burns as Breeder of the Year, while Jeryl Hartley was awarded the Breeder Special Achievement Award.
“We have the best crew in the world at Burns Ranch,” Dr. Steve Burns said, who earlier in the week was also named AQHA champion breeder. “My thanks to everyone who bought a Burns Ranch bred horse.”
The Val Tonks Award presented to an up-and-coming young rider went to Irving Lara.
In the Thoroughbred divisions at Los Alamitos, Jesus Uranga won titles as leading owner and trainer, while Ricardo Ramirez was the leading pilot. Ramirez also won the riding title in the Mixed-Breed division, while Uranga was the leading trainer in the Mixed-Breed division and the co-leading owner along with David Hinkins. Belico Racing and Lizbeth Medina’s See Through It was named the 1000-Yard Horse of the Year at Los Alamitos after winning the Winter Final.
The leading money winning Cal-Breds in various divisional categories were presented awards during the banquet. John Cooper, who retired from training following an accomplished spanning six decades, and FanDuel/TVG received special recognition awards.
The complete list of award winners follows below featuring each nominee and winner in bold.
2022 PCQHRA AWARDS
Owner: Rosenthal Ranch, LLC.
Breeder: Steve D. Burns, DVM
Presented by P.C.Q.H.R.A.
Owner: JGA Racing Stables, Inc.
Breeder: J. Garvan Kelly
Owner: Clanfield Act Stables
Breeder: Edward C. Allred
Owner/Breeder: M&G Farms, Inc.
Owner/Breeder: Edward A. and Theresa DeNike
FAMOUS CARTEL JESS
Owner/Breeder: Johnny Trotter
Owner/Breeder: Jeff D. Jones and Steve A. Holt
KISS THRU FIRE
Owner: Gentry Farms (Robert Kirk Gentry/Robbi Force)
Breeder: Gentry Farms
Owner: Ralph Link Newcomb
MOST IMPROVED HORSE AWARD
Owner: Alfredo Alonzo, Luciano D. and Robert C. Martinez
Breeder: Paul Jones/Thompson Racing Inc.
INTERMOUNTAIN HORSE AWARD
Owner/Breeder: Robert L. Harrison
HORSE OF THE YEAR
Owner/ Breeder: Jeff D. Jones and Steve A. Holt
FRANK VESSELS, SR.
In Recognition of an Outstanding Contribution to the Sport of Quarter Horse Racing
sam thompson memorial award
Presented by P.C.Q.H.R.A. to
REBECCA fITZGERALD, DVM
For an Individual who displays leadership within the Los Alamitos racing community
JAMES V.A. CARTER AWARD
REMEMBER ME ROSE
Owner: Steve D. Burns, DVM
Breeder: MLA International Company
THREE BARS AWARD
Owner: Steve D. Burns, DVM and Bobby Cox
Breeder: Paul C. Jones and Thompson Racing, Inc.
OWNER OF THE YEAR
Edward C. Allred
JGA RACING STABLES, LLC
BREEDER OF THE YEAR
Steve d. burns, dvm
Breeder - SPECIAL recognition
TRAINER OF THE YEAR
JOSE A. FLORES
trainer - SPECIAL Recognition
JOCKEY OF THE YEAR
JESUS RIOS AYALA
HENRY REYNOSO LOPEZ
VAL TONKS MEMORIAL AWARD
TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT
Cal-Bred Breeder: Steve D. Burns, DVM
TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING
TWO-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY
Cal-Bred Breeder: Edward C. Allred
THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED COLT
Cal-Bred Breeder: M&G Farms, Inc
THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED GELDING
THREE-YEAR-OLD CAL-BRED FILLY
fire fast honey
Cal-Bred Breeder: Silver Racing Farm, LLC.
AGED CAL-BRED GELDING
AGED CAL-BRED MARE
kiss thru fire
Cal-Bred Breeder: Gentry Farms
CAL-BRED HORSE OF THE YEAR
THOROUGHBRED OWNER OF THE YEAR
JESUS J. URanga
THOROUGHBRED JOCKEY OF THE YEAR
RICARDO S. RAMIREZ
THOROUGHBRED TRAINER OF THE YEAR
jesus j. uranga
1000 YARD CHAMPION HORSE OF THE YEAR
SEE THROUGH IT
Owner: Belico Racing, LLC. and Lizbeth Medina
MIXED-BREED JOCKEY OF THE YEAR
MIXED-BREED TRAINER OF THE YEAR
JOHN l. COOPER