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Fields set for California Champions Night

July 23, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

The 10th running of California Champions Night—a showcase event for the finest California-bred runners in training—is set for Saturday, July 25, at Los Alamitos Race Course. Featuring combined purses of $945,000, the event is the product of joint cooperation between the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association and track management at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Eleven races are on the docket for Champions Night. The richest race on the card is the $431,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity featuring a pair of runner bred by the great Spencer Childers, who passed away on July 9. Childers’ runners are co-fastest qualifier Peace Fire and This Partys On Fire, which are both trained by Dan Francisco.

In the $213,000 Governor’s Cup Derby, Ron and Denise VanAmburgh and Giambi Stables’ A Tempting Dash will look to continue his terrific derby form. A Tempting Dash won the Los Alamitos Winter Derby earlier this year and was narrowly defeated when running second in the El Primero Del Ano Derby. A Tempting Dash will take on a field featuring Hard Hitting, who is looking to become only the sixth horse to sweep the Governor’s Cup series. The feature event for older horses is the now-named Spencer Childers Memorial California Breeders Championship Handicap. The 400-yard test will feature a great matchup between Separate Bet, currently the nation’s top ranked Quarter Horse, and multiple track record holder and Grade 1 winner Freaky.

Freaky and Separate Bet clash in The Spencer Childers

Although nine horses entered the Restricted-Grade I Spencer Childers Breeders’ Championship on Saturday night at Los Alamitos, the eyes of the racing world are likely to be fixed on only two of those contenders: Freaky and Separate Bet. Brilliant in his last four starts, Freaky has set three track records during this phenomenal and unprecedented four-race hot streak. A winner of the Grade I Vessels Maturity in his most recent start, he demolished his rivals by a length and a half while earning a qualifying berth to the prestigious Champion Of Champions in December.

“The way he’s been running lately has just been unbelievable,” said his trainer Adan Farias. “If you were to just look at the form to see how he’s been training, I’d have to say that he’s the fastest horse that I’ve ever trained. The only area where he’s lacking so far is in the earnings department. Although he’s been brilliant lately, he hasn’t made near as much money as some of my other runners have. That’s what we’re focusing on with him now. Our goals for the rest of the year after this race are the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and the Champion Of Champions. He’s training great right now though. I’m expecting another big effort.”

Making his first start back in Southern California will be Paul Jones’ Separate Bet. A winner of his last four consecutive starts, this five-year-old gelding has been on quite a tear of late. Although his first start of the 2009 meet came here at Los Alamitos, he has since been competing at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in his last three outs. In addition to racking up three stakes wins there, he also set two track records and qualified to Quarter Horse racing’s most coveted prize: the Grade I Champion Of Champions. His presence in that particular race makes tonight’s Spencer Childers Championship the first of at least two showdowns between Freaky and Separate Bet for the rest of this exciting racing season here at Los Alamitos.

Although many may perceive this event to be a match race between those two runners, Rancho El Alacran’s Fighter On Fire appears to be capable of spoiling the party. Victorious in his first start of 2009, he defeated five rivals in that race, all five of which are Grade I winners including Really A First, A Mere Chocolate, Short Czech, Spike It And Fly, and Strength In Numbers. In his last start, Fighter On Fire finished third in the Grade I Vessels Maturity prior to being disqualified for interference. With a cleaner trip, he could present a challenge in this contest.

Jaime Gomez holding a strong hand in Governors’ Cup Derby

Few horsemen have enjoyed as productive of a 2009 race meet thus far as trainer Jaime Gomez. Aside from winning 35 races since the start of the season, Gomez has also managed to capture four of the seven Grade I races that have been held so far this year at Los Alamitos, including the Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Championship, the Kindergarten Futurity, and a share of the Ed Burke Million Futurity with Ld Fire. Saturday evening’s California Champions Night appears to be no different, as Gomez will be sending out a powerful one-two punch in the Governor’s Cup Derby with A Tempting Dash and Sixish.

A winner of the Los Alamitos Winter Derby earlier this season, A Tempting Dash could be a handful. Despite stumbling at the start of the race, he led throughout en route to an impressive length and a half score in his trial. Although he had been off for three months coming into that race, he still managed to turn in the second-fastest qualifying time for owners Ron and Denise Vanamburgh and Giambi Stables. A finalist in last year’s rich Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, he was also narrowly beaten in the El Primero Del Ano Derby earlier this meet in April, giving him a strong dose of class.

Gomez’s other contender is Sixish. Never worse than third in his eight-start career, he captured last year’s PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity and finished second in two other Grade I events including the Kindergarten and Ed Burke Million Futurities. Making only the second start of his sophomore campaign, he had been training outstanding heading into trial night. Drawn on the far outside in post ten, Sixish should have clear sailing for Dutch Masters III and jockey Ramon Sanchez.

Hoping to break up the Jaime Gomez party will be trainer Adan Farias with the talented filly First Magical Dash. A wire-to-wire winner of her trial, she blew away a field that included the heavily-favored graded stakes-winner Alice K White. First Magical Dash enjoyed a strong freshman campaign last year too, qualifying to such races as the Ed Burke Million and Governor’s Cup Futurity. If she can manage to duplicate her effort from trial night, First Magical Dash could be a force to be reckoned with.

Also featured in tonight’s Governor’s Cup Derby is Hard Hitting, the winner of last year’s Governor’s Cup Futurity, and Hulapai. A flashy winner of the Dillingham Handicap in April, he has won three of his four starts on the year. Sent out by owner Carlos Romero and trainer Hector Jaime Hernandez, Hulapai seems to turn in a strong effort every time he’s led to post and could be a factor in this evening’s race.

My Lady First heads $50,000 California Breeders’ Matron Stakes

Drawn on the far outside in Saturday’s $50,000 California Breeders’ Matron Stakes, Rancho El Alacran’s My Lady First figures to draw a great deal of wagering attention. Now a four-year-old, this brown daughter of First Down Dash will be making her fifth start of the 2009 racing season. Second in the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February, she was only beaten a head by last year’s AQHA Aged Champion Jess You And I. Moreover, My Lady First has been competing against open-sex competition in each of her last four starts and figures to relish this opportunity against females.

Cody Joiner could also have a live contender in Forgive Him. Perfect so far this season, she captured the Huntington Harbour Handicap in February for owner Ed Allred. Idle since that start over five months ago, she boasts a strong 350-yard gate drill from July 1st in 17.90 seconds and typically runs very well following a layoff. Forgive Him will be searching for her second career victory on California Champions Night, as she was also victorious in last year’s California Breeders’ Debutante Stakes.

Shescheckinumout is another one to watch. She put away a field of six allowance foes in her last start by nearly two lengths, earning a solid 93 speed index for the win. A finalist in last year’s Grade I Golden State Derby, she also qualified to the Governor’s Cup Derby and the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes. Victorious in the La Pacifica Handicap in April, she brings a great deal of class into this affair and could make her presence felt for owner and trainer Paul Jones.

Claming Stakes races feature competitive fields

Saturday’s California Champions night program features three different races for horses that regularly compete at the claiming level, including a $17,500 event for seniors in race six and a pair of stakes for sophomores in the first two races of the evening. All three events feature competitive fields loaded with a number of talented contenders. Leading the way in race six is Peyton Csb. “I think Peyton Csb drew an excellent spot for Saturday night,” commented his trainer Adan Farias. “He’s such a hard-trying type of horse. It seems like every time we enter him, he finishes in the top three.”

Taking center stage in the two sophomore claiming stakes will be Cruisin The Loop in the opener and Tru Corona Quality and Two O Nine in race number two. Victorious last time out at the $12,500 level, Tru Corona Quality earned a strong 92 speed figure for the win, which should compare favorably with the rest of this field. Justin Clark’s Two O Nine could also perform well. Although she’s one of two fillies in the field of ten, she’s been competing at the allowance level in her last three starts and should appreciate the drop in class.

Peace Fire headlines $431,000 Governor’s Cup Futurity

The sentimental choice on California Breeders Champions Night will undoubtedly be Spencer Childers' Peace Fire, as the co-fastest qualifier will represent the legendary owner and breeder in the $431,000 Governor's Cup Futurity. Childers, who passed away on July 9, loved his homebreds and he would have certainly been proud of the ultra talented daughter of Walk Thru Fire.

A half sister to World Champion Be A Bono, Peace Fire needed two races to learn her job, but once she mastered it she has been unbelievable. She broke her maiden by 3¼ lengths and then set the co-fastest qualifying time to this race when winning her trial by 2¼ lengths while covering the distance in :17.35. One of the all-time great breeders in Quarter Horse racing, Childers won the Governor's Cup Futurity three times as an owner. It would certainly be a magical moment, if his black and white Childers Ranch silks are in the winner's circle once again on a night that celebrated California breeders.

Childers also bred The Partys On Fire, another Walk Thru Fire filly racing for Ed Allred and Tom Seibly. The Partys On Fire has won her last two starts and she's done so by finishing her races well. Undefeated horses Brazilian Dasher, Thinking Jazz and Jumpn Beduino, who equaled Peace Fire for the fastest time, are among the other top futurity contenders. Kindergarten Futurity finalist Azshecanfly, Forrest Fire, Anybody Anytime, Shining First Dash and Get Him Out SA will complete the field.

Foose is set loose in Jens L. List

After a surprising out of the money finish in the trials to the Governor's Cup Derby, the talented Stel Corona colt Foose will look to make amends when he headlines the $25,000 Jens L. List Jr. Memorial California Breeders Stakes for 3-year-olds. The AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Colt in 2008, Foose was making his season debut in the derby trials on July 10 when leaving the gate slowly while encountering trouble. Foose was bumped shortly after the start and just couldn't make up the ground on the fast flying A Tempting Dash.

On paper, Foose appears to be strictly the horse to beat. But outcomes are deciding on the racing strip, so the millionaire Foose will need to be at his very best if he is to win his fifth race in nine career starts. Paul Jones, who recently over the $50 million mark in career earnings as a trainer, will saddle his homebred, which he co-owns with Ed Allred.

Pat Visscher's Enjoy The Cash, who has finished no worse than third in eight straight races, could give Foose a run for the money. The First Down Dash gelding is drawn right next to the classy Foose, so the Jens List could turn into a match race. Then again, that's why races are decided on the racing strip.

Revv It Up returns to action in Debutante

The Debutante Handicap features the return of one of the princesses of 2008 in Kindergarten Futurity winner Revv It Up. A full sister to 2003 Champion of Champions winner The Down Side, Revv It Up also ran in the Ed Burke Million Futurity and Golden State Million Futurity before calling an end to her freshman campaign after the trials to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Revv It Up has been training nicely, so a return to the winner's circle could be in the cards. Catahawk, a stakes winner earlier this year, and Flying Regal, who is riding the crest of a three-race win streak, should benefit from their racing activity and appear to be definite contenders in this race.

Joiner Racing Stables sends out strong pair

Joiner Racing Stables figures to do well in the California Breeders Freshman Stakes. Mike Joiner trains Dunn Ranch Ltd's First Down King, who has been knocking on the doors of a win while facing the likes of Governor's Cup Futurity finalist Brazilian Dasher and the nice maiden winner Fighting City Hall. First Down King has finished second in three of his four starts this year.

Joiner's son, Cody, will saddle Ed Allred's undefeated gelding Jasons Year in this race. A winner in each of two career starts, Jasons Year has shown a punishing late kick in his two victories and he could be the type of horse that continues to improve as the year and racing distances develop. Ten 2-year-olds will be in action in the Freshman Stakes.

Horses with winning habits look strong in 550 Race

El Chino Davalos and Good Morning Mr Zip, a pair of runners that love to win races, figure to be the top contenders in the 550-Yard Sophomore Stakes. Bred by Rancho Davalos and now owned by Jim Hanson and Var Reeve, El Chino Davalos will be going after his fourth win of the year when he starts from post number one. Jan Rehak's Good Morning Mr Zip, meanwhile, has already won four times this season but his winning habit has come against lesser competition. Makeloveandrun, who has finished second against allowance horses in his last two starts, is another strong possibility to win this race.