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Longtime owners will get a chance to enjoy the Champion of Champions


November 22, 2010     E-mail this page to a friend!

Abigail Kawananakoa's Divide The Cash (#6) outnods Gianni Samaja's Good Reason SA (#7) in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 21. Both horses qualified for the Champion of Champions on December 11.
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
Abigail Kawananakoa has been racing Quarter Horses for 40 years, while Gianni Samaja has enjoyed the sport of the fastest horses in the world for 50 years. The two venerable owners have reached great heights in the game with Kawananakoa winning the 1993 All American Futurity and the first ever Los Alamitos Million Futurity in 1995 and Samaja earning his first million dollar victory with Good Reason SA in last year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

After 90 years of combined experience in the sport, Kawananakoa and Samaja will finally have a chance to be part of the Champion of Champions after the two owners each qualified a horse to the prestigious race courtesy of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. Kawananakoa will be represented by Los Alamitos 350-yard track record holder Divide The Cash, who won the second of two trials in a time of :19.399, while Samaja’s racing silks will be carried by the aforementioned Good Reason SA, who finished behind Divide The Cash in the trials while still having the second fastest time of :19.417.

Divide The Cash and Good Reason SA, both 3-year-old colts, will join an all-star cast in the Champion of Champions on December 11, a field that features World Champion Freaky, Los Alamitos Super Derby winner Apollitical Jess, Bank of America Challenge Championship winner Feature Jess Rockin, Go Man Go Handicap winner A Tempting Dash, Vessels Maturity winner Blues Man Too, Remington Park Championship winner Jess You And I, Refrigerator Handicap winner Spit Curl Diva and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap winner Merridoc Hawk. If any future Champion of Champions starting berths become available, the first open berth will go to Z. Wayne Griffin first trial winner Fire Is On, who posted a time of :19.451. If a second berth opens up it will go to the 8-year-old gelding Precisionist RM, who ran third to Divide The Cash in a time of :19.485.

Kawananakoa dedicated Divide The Cash’s victory to the late Blane Schvaneveldt, who trained Divide The Cash earlier this year.

“I just sent a message to Blane’s wife, Shirley, that this one is for Blane,” Kawananakoa said. “This horse was a runt when he was a baby and I never paid any attention to him. It was Blane that saw this horse’s potential – I never did. Blane always believed in this horse and this horse just kept coming along and improving and improving. This guy (Divide The Cash) just keeps surprising everyone. He’s such a good horse and they way finished tonight was wonderful. He didn’t have the greatest of starts, but he kept trying all the way to the end until he won the race. He’s a horse that takes care of himself. He does everything correct. He never throws tantrums in the gate or try to misbehave. The does what a good racehorse is supposed to do.”

After winning the Make It Anywhere Handicap with a 350-yard track record time of :17.06, big things were expected immediately from the homebred son of Separatist out of Kawananakoa’s great mare Time For Royal Cash. Divide The Cash ran third in his next start, a trial to the Grade 1 Golden State Derby, and then had to settle for fourth place to Good Reason SA in the Golden State final. His next two starts were second place finishes to Apollitical Jess in the trial and then final to the Los Alamitos Super Derby. Apollitical Jess’ posted a 400-yard track record :19.13 in his Super Derby win and his trial win a sizzling fast :19.19.

“For him to follow Apollitical Jess in both of those races made us think that we still had a strong horses,” Kawananakoa said. “He gives you what he can give you every time. I had my doubts about putting him in these trials because he is a 3-year-old running against older horses, but he wasn’t eligible to anything else, so we took a chance. I almost didn’t come out to watch him tonight. It’s about an hour and fifteen minute drive from my place in Nuevo near Hemet to the track and I’m glad I was able to be here to see him run.”

Divide The Cash is trained by Rafael Orozco, who now mans the Schvaneveldt stable after many years as Blane’s right hand man.

“I’m so happy for Rafael,” the owner added. “Rafael was right next to Blane for such a long time that he knows how Blane liked things to be done. When Blane was sick, Rafael got used to running the barn on a daily basis. He’s calls me every day to tell me about my horses, just like Blane used to do. Blane’s daughters, Brenda and Shonna, come out every morning and afternoon to the barn. I see them working so hard and that makes me proud for them. I’m also thrilled about (winning jockey) Cesar De Alba. He communicates well with this horse and they get along great. I am so happy to have the opportunity to share this with all of them.”

The purse for each of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials was $18,000. Divide The Cash and Fire Is On earned $9,900 for each of their wins. Good Reason SA picked up $4,050 for his second place finish and now sees his lifetime earnings rise to $930,645. The son of Favorite Trick was ridden by Ramon Sanchez and saddled by Paul Jones.

“We’ve never seen this horse run 440 yards, but we’ll have a chance to do that in the Champion of Champions,” said Vince Genco, the agent of Gianna Samaja. “He’s big and strong and I think he’ll enjoy running that distance. Gianni will be so happy about this result. He’s run horses for about 50 years in Brazil for about 20 years in the United States and really strong here in the past 10 years or so. It’s a great pleasure for me to see him in the Champion of Champions. I’m happy for Abigail as well. I remember after Good Reason SA won the Golden State, she was a little disappointed about Divide The Cash. I told her not to worry and that they would meet again. Now here they met again and it was her turn to win. Hopefully it will be our turn in the Champion of Champions.”

Owned by Daniel Reynoso, trained by Adan Farias and ridden by Rodrigo Aceves, Fire Is On will now wait and see if a spot opens up for him in the Champion of Champions. The winner of the Katella Handicap earlier this year, he also ran third in the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap to A Tempting Dash and was fifth to Freaky in the Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship.