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Can anybody stop Freaky in tonight’s Winter Championship?

February 20, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

Freaky cruises to a 1½-length win in his trial for the Los Alamitos Winter Championship on January 30, 2010.
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
By Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

Can they beat him? "They" are the nine horses that qualified 2-through-10 to the $228,450 Los Alamitos Winter Championship that will be held tonight, February 20 (post time: 9:24 Pacific Time).

"Him", of course, is none other than the sport's World Champion Quarter Horse sprinter, the irresistible Freaky, who posted the fastest qualifying time to the Winter Championship back on January 30. Freaky's fastest time that night of :19.315 was 14/100ths faster than the second fastest qualifier, the quick-breaking Bloke. Impressively, Freaky did what he did despite nearly falling leaving the gate.

"His back legs got caught underneath the breaking bar," jockey Francisco Rubio said.

The minor mishap showed up on Freaky's flesh in the form of a cut about the size of a quarter on his right hind leg. His team quickly handled the superficial cut and fortunately it did not require any stitching. On the morning on February 18, Freaky could be seen walking around the barn area perfectly.

"Do you see that?" trainer Adan Farias said to onlookers. "He's walking perfectly."

Freaky won't be doing any walking on the night of the Winter Championship, and you can count on that. If he lives up to his reputation, Freaky will undoubtedly be kicking up dirt like no other. Last year, the son of TR Dasher posted three different track records at Los Alamitos, including two marks that still stand today, one at 350 yards and one at 400 yards. In the Champion of Champions, he came close to the 440-yard track record held by Jess You And I of :20.94, barely missing an incredible fourth track record in a single year.

As quick as Freaky can look in races, it is his ability to finish a race that really makes him stand out. In the final 220 yards of his Winter Championship trial, Freaky closed home in a time of :09.24, a clocking that equaled Be A Bono's final time in the 2006 Spencer Childers Memorial California Breeders Championship Handicap for fastest ever at Los Alamitos. Earlier in 2006, Be A Bono became the first to go under :09.30 in the final 220 here. Even now, a sub :09.30 clocking in the final 1/8th will make Quarter Horse observers take note.

And that's what makes Freaky so special. Even when he has trouble - like he did in the Winter Championship trials - he is so gifted that he can do things that few horses in history have been able to accomplish.

Can they beat him?

There are several talented stars with the ability to defeat the World Champion. At the top of the list is Double Bar S Ranch's Jess You And I, whose solid victory on trial night represented his return bow after a couple of disappointing efforts. Jess You And I's victory on trial night was a signal that there's still plenty of racing left in his 6-year-old legs. The winner of the Winter Championship will earn the first berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions to be held on Saturday, December 11.

"That was an exciting race," said Carter List of Double Bar S Ranch. "He did great."

Jess You And I won the 2008 Champion of Champions and was looking for a repeat victory in the Champion of Champions only to come up short against Freaky. To make it worst, he returned from that race showing symptoms of a bad throat.

"He sounded a wounded bear after the Champion of Champions," trainer Jaime Gomez said. "He didn't even want to drink any water. We scoped him the next day and we saw that his throat was shut off. He had surgery and stayed at Double Bar S Ranch for about two weeks."

Jess You And I looked wonderful in his return to the track and if there were one runner that can outshine Freaky it would have to be the son of Feature Mr Jess.

Then there's Bloke. Trained by Miguel Rodriguez, Bloke is probably the fastest horse out the blocks currently in training at Los Alamitos. The Fishers Dash gelding is pure dynamite coming out of the gates and he can certainly match up with Freaky during the first 100 yards. If he can somehow open up a sizeable lead early on, he could run away with the Championship. Bloke has often proven his speed by winning a series of 300-yard races at Los Alamitos with his times regularly dipping in the :15.10s.

Masters Call and Separate Bet both ran in the Champion of Champions last year and along with El Primero Del Ano Derby winner Royal Proclamation make up a trio of solid 400-yard horses with solid late kicks. Masters Call usually needs 150 yards to really starting firing up his speed, so if he can just stay close to Freaky early on, he could make things extremely interesting in the late goings. Separate Bet, winner of the Grade 1 Remington Park Championship last year, dominated the racing in Oklahoma last year, but he's been in the middle of the pack in a good portion of his recent races at Los Alamitos. Separate Bet can show his tremendous Oklahoma form at Los Alamitos, and don't count out that from happening - remember his trainer is the champion Paul Jones - he will certainly challenge for a top two spot. Royal Proclamation looked strong in his trial race and this 4-year-old could be one of the revelations as an older horse in 2010.

Hawking, First Magical Dash, Morning Corona and Blues Man Too are all up and coming young horses that should be hard-knockers in the aged division at Los Alamitos this year. It is not rare for a older horse to hit new heights early in his/her 4-year-old year. EG High Desert Farms' First Magical Dash, the 10th fastest qualifier to this race, is the only mare in this race. She will be looking to become only the second mare ever to win the Los Alamitos Winter Championship. The only mare to accomplish the feat is the champion Corona Kool.

Trials report

Freaky overcomes troubled start to post fastest time to Los Alamitos Winter Championship

For the first time since Armando Aguirre's Freaky began his torrid winning streak some eight months ago, he encountered some trouble in a race. It did not matter. The World Champion still crushed to victory, as he posted the fastest qualifying time in Saturday's trials to the $228,450 Los Alamitos Winter Championship.

Freaky, who has now won six straight races, did it by finishing the 400-yard race in the fastest 220-yard time that he has ever posted of :09.24. And while the final time was not a track record, his strong final time of :19.31 was 14/100ths of a second faster than that of next fastest qualifier Bloke.

It was not all fun and games for Freaky in this race. In fact, the horse had a rough start to his trial journey. The gelded son of TR Dasher stumbled leaving the gate from post three and when he was immediately bumped jockey Francisco Rubio nearly fell off. All Rubio could do was grab a hold of the reins to try to balance himself aboard Freaky. Coolly, Rubio waited for the champion to recover and pick up his stride. Once that happened, Freaky took no mercy on his rivals, accelerating quickly and leaving the field far behind en route to an impressive 1½-length victory. There was no place of show wagering in this race. It was all about the win with the 1-to-9 favorite Freaky. He returned $2.10 for a $2 win wager.

The sorrel superstar will now headline the running of the Los Alamitos Winter Championship to take place on Saturday, February 20. The winner will earn a berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions, a race that Freaky won last year. The complete list of qualifiers to the Winter Championship is as follows: Freaky (:19.315), Bloke (:19.455), Jess You And I (:19.582), Royal Proclamation (:19.563), Masters Call (:19.607), Hawking (:19.627), Morning Corona (:19.660), Blues Man Too (:19.664), Separate Bet (:19.673), and First Magical Dash (:19.688).

Freaky was making his season debut on Saturday after being AQHA World Champion in 2009. Last year, the Ed Allred-bred runner won the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity, Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers Memorial California Breeders Championship Handicap, Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship, and the aforementioned Champion of Champions. He was named the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association Horse of the Year and Cal-bred Horse of the Year earlier this week. Now, if the Adan Farias-trained runner can deliver another stellar effort in the Winter Championship, he will secure a berth to the first Champion of Champions of the new decade as he looks to become the first to win back-to-back runnings of this race since SLM Big Daddy in 1997-98.

"We were 100 percent confident coming into this race," said Jose Valdez, the son in law of owner Armando Aguirre. "Freaky is perfectly sound. We checked him out right after the Champion of Champions. The only concern was the space between races. There was a little bumping in this race, but he still came through. I can only describe him as a phenomenal horse. He's one of the best ever. I think he is comparable to the greatest of all time. I'm not saying that because he's our horse. There are people coming up to us all the time telling us that he is one of the best ever.

"It's a total privilege to be involved with this horse," Valdez added. "He is making a lot of people happy. He gets a lot of support all of the time. People tell us 'we're here to watch your horse, we're here to see him race.' We think our horse is super fast and once he gets going I don't think anyone can catch him. Jess You And I ran a good race tonight. When we bought Freaky the only thing we wanted was a horse that could compete against Jess You And I. We got one in Freaky.

"Regardless if he wins or loses the Winter Championship, we'll turn him out after that race," Valdez continued. "We'll send him to one of the good farms in California. He'll stay two or three months resting. He's paid for the Vessels Maturity (trials on May 29). We'll leave it to the Adan. Freaky wants to run. If he doesn't run, he'll down the stall. We don't want him to get hurt, that's why we're running him right now. He wants to run."

So what happened at the start of his Winter Championship trial?

"When he broke his two back legs went under the breaking bar in the gate and stumbled a little bit," Rubio said. "He slipped right there and I almost went down. I had to fight just to stay on. I wasn't worried about pushing at that point. I knew that once he got going he was going to take off. He's a horse that you don't have to push. He'll push you to victory. He takes care of his business. Right now I know that if I can hang on to him, we'll win the race."

Ramon Alanis' Bloke improved his record to four wins in five career starts while winning the second trial to the Winter Championship. Trained by Miguel Rodriguez, Bloke has always shown a ton of quickness, as his 300-yard winning times of :15.31, :15.07, and :15.14 provide plenty of proof. He is the type of horse that will give Freaky a run for his money early on, especially in the first 200 yards. The son of Fishers Dash proved that he is capable of delivered at 400 yards as well, especially based on this trial victory. Ridden by Santiago Mendez, the Allred-bred runner beat the 55-to-1 longshot Morning Corona by 1¼ lengths. The Winter Championship will be his first ever stakes race.

Double Bar S Ranch's Jess You And I, one of the greats of racing right now, posted his 13th win in 24 career starts in the opening trial of the night. The now 6-year-old gelded son of Feature Mr Jess has now earned $1,342,836. Rhonda and Dawn List bred Jess You And I.

"He's the best horse ever bred by Double Bar S Ranch," Rhonda List said. "It's hard to believe that we bred and own a horse like him. He's an absolutely great horse. When he retires, he'll have a spot right in the middle of the barn where we keep the stallions. He will be where Strawfly Special used to be."

The winner of the 2008 Champion of Champions, Jess You And I was making his first start since running eighth in last year's Champion of Champions. This was also his first outing since having throat surgery.

"He sounded a wounded bear after the Champion of Champions," trainer Jaime Gomez said. "He didn't even want to drink any water. We scoped him the next day and we saw that his throat was shut off. He had surgery and stayed at Double Bar S Ranch for about two weeks."

"It's not an excuse, but a reason as to why he ran the way he ran in the Champion of Champions," Rhonda List added. "We know he is getting older so we are trying to enjoy every race we can with him. We won't do anything to ever hurt him. Jaime and (ranch manager) Jerry Young are great horsemen and they'll tell us when we should stop with this horse. Right now we're glad to see him run at a top level. He is using a tongue-tie right now. I'm not a big fan of tongue-ties, but it worked for him tonight. As long as the horse doesn't mind it, I'm fine with it."

"Of course we want another shot at Freaky," she added. "I didn't believe on Freaky at first but I am a believer now. He's a super horse. But we want to see Jess You And I have another shot at him. It's nice to have a rivalry with him. It would be nice to go through the year and see them match up a couple of times. We will rest our horse like we did last year, but we would like to run him a few times."