WORLD CHAMPION EMPRESSUM EDGES SCOOPS DYNASTY BY A NOSE IN
THRILLING BANK OF AMERICA CALIFORNIA CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP
Steve Holt and Jeff Jones’ Empressum held off the ultra-game Scoops Dynasty by a nose to win the 440-yard Grade 2, $542,400 Bank of America California Challenge Championship in a thriller on Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo and trained by Heath Taylor, Empressum and Ed and Von Zae McNelis’ Scoops Dynasty put on a show in the Bank of America California, as Scoops Dynasty had the early lead before the AQHA World Champion Empressum moved ahead of him at around the midway point. Scoops Dynasty did not go away and instead fought back to shorten Empressum’s advantage and nearly upset the champion while coming up short in the photo finish. Empressum, who covered the final 220 yards in :09.43 and the quarter mile event in :21.326, improved his record to 21 wins from 28 career starts while picking up his eighth victory in 10 outings at Los Alamitos. Bred by Holt and Jones, Empressum earned $25,477 for the win to take his career earnings to $1,743,044, while picking up his ninth career stakes win and fourth stakes win at 440 yards.
“It was a really good race to the very end,” Taylor said. “We were fortunate enough to win the race by a nose over an exceptionally classy horse in Scoops Dynasty.”
The 5-year-old gelding by Apollitical Jess out of Crazy Down Corona earned with this victory a berth to the $250,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship to be held at Lone Star Park on October 21. It could be his first outing outside of Los Alamitos since his second place finish to Instygator in The Championship at Sunland Park on January 2, 2022.
“We have a lot of options,” Taylor said. “There wasn’t a guarantee that if we won we would for sure go (to Lone Star) and there wasn’t a guarantee that we won’t. We’ll keep our options open. It’s hard to pass up these older horse races with a $250,000 purse. It does require a lot of travel. The track here has been really good to the horse. Our whole schedule is based on having the horse at his best in December. We’ll have to see how the horse progresses.”
Taylor said that the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap on Sunday, August 27 is still an option and the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Champion on Saturday, October 7 is also an option. Another race under consideration for Empressum is the Grade 1, $300,000 Albuquerque Fall Championship.
“Really, we just want to have options as to when and where we go,” Taylor added. “One thing that figures a little bit into the plans is that we are very fortunate this year that, if we do choose to run in the Challenge on October 21, this year we are very lucky that the Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita. There would be a lot of horse flights the last week of October and first days of November. That could be a factor. The horse could be back here in three hours on a flight in air conditioned, as opposed to not. We’ll just have to see and let the horse tell us.”
Armando Cervantes piloted Scoops Dynasty for trainer Monty Arrossa with the 4-year-old gelding by FDD Dynasty earning $11,269 for his runner-up effort. A multiple derby winner here last year, Scoops Dynasty has yet to win a race in five starts this season, but in addition to this second place finish he has also run second in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity to Empressum and third in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship to Apollitical Pence.
Bobby Cox’s Jettz finished third for jockey Armando Viramontes and trainer Heath Taylor. Charlies Fast Man and Apollitical Famous V completed the field.