The Racing Journal Logo

Jess You And I headlines Winter Championship

February 17, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Orlando Guiterrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

A star-studded cast of runners headed by last year's Champion Of Champions winner Jess You And I and fastest qualifier My Lady First will headline the Grade 1 $240,700 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Saturday night, February 21. Aside from the rich purse of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Championship also carries the first berth of the year to the 2009 Champion Of Champions, the most prestigious race in the world for older Quarter Horses.

A victim of a troubled start in his last race, Jess You And I will try to put the loss behind him and rekindle some of the magic from his record-setting meet last season. Although he only started five times last season, the five-year-old son of Feature Mr Jess wowed racing fans with a dazzling head-victory in the Grade I Champion Of Champions. He also set a new 440-yard track record in a blazing-fast 20.94 seconds, becoming the first horse to ever record a sub-21 second clocking in the history of the racetrack.

Among his other accomplishments last season were an impressive victory in the Grade I Go Man Go Handicap and a troubled second in the Vespero Handicap behind Go Love A Lark Go. Most recently, he broke slowly and was bumped at the start of his trial to the Winter Championship, finding himself trapped in between horses early in the race. However, with a clean trip away from the gates, he looms the one to catch.

Several distaffers could also be a factor in this race such as Stylish Jess Br and My Lady First. Stylish Jess Br defeated Jess You And I the last time the two met on trial night and possesses the necessary class to score in a major Grade I stakes race like the Winter Championship. Since last August, she's turned in a number of fantastic efforts, including a powerful victory in the Grade I Mildred N. Vessels Memorial Handicap and a strong pair of seconds behind One Famous Eagle in the Golden State Derby and Los Alamitos Super Derby. Breaking from the rail in post position number one, she'll be able to utilize her early quickness and could find herself on the early lead in this race.

Fastest-qualifier My Lady First also deserves attention. A seven-time Grade I-finalist, she has made eight trips to the winner's circle from only eighteen total starts, more than every other horse in this race with the exception of likely post-time favorite Jess You And I. Last time out, she wore down the leader First To Reach in the stretch run, going on to score by a head in impressive fashion. Moreover, she has a history of problems with her behavior during the loading process, but will undoubtedly benefit from loading into the starting gate last and remains a very live contender if she can mind her manners.

Magic Show Czech could also be dangerous. A runner-up in last year's Los Alamitos Winter Derby, he'll face older rivals in the Winter Championship this time around. A consistent son of Corona Czech, he has finished in the trifecta in 13 of his 16 career outings and qualified to the finals of seven Grade I contests as well, with his biggest score to date coming in the 2007 Governor's Cup Futurity. Additionally, he is a perfect two for two since joining Paul Jones' stable at the start of the 2009 race meet. Second in his trial to the Winter Championship, he was elevated to first place after the disqualification of A Mere Chocolate for interference.

Another horse to watch is First To Reach. He exploded onto the scene last season after taking a pair of allowance races in impressive fashion over solid competition like Boys All Jacked Up and Time For A Royal Dip.

Recently transferred to the barn of trainer Jesus Nunez, he had the lead in his trial to the Winter Championship until the final strides. A speedy son of Ought To Be First, he'll try to spring the upset over this outstanding group of ten.