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Veteran stars Freaky and Jess You And I headline Winter Championship

February 18, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Jess You And I, shown setting the fastest qualifying time from four trials to the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, covering 400 yards in :19.346.
(photo by Scott Martinez, courtesy of Los Alamitos Race Course)
By Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

To those associated with 2009 World Champion Freaky, his shocking sixth place finish in the $750,000 Champion of Champions on December 11 was an aberration, a one-off, the result of terrible luck.

The son of TR Dasher, which up to that point had finished third or better in 11 straight races to go along with nine victories during that span, was bumped around hard at the start of the Champion of Champions and to top it off he cut himself while running the quarter mile race. Could he had beaten the eventual winner and 2010 World Champion Apollitical Jess if he had run a perfect race in the Champion of Champions? Freaky’s supporters believe that to be the case. His connections, meanwhile, are convinced that the ‘The Freak’ will show that he is still Quarter Horse racing’s top runner when he faces the ageless 7-year-old champion Jess You And I in the $214,550 Los Alamitos Winter Championship at 400 yards on Saturday, February 19. The winner of the Winter Championship will earn a starting berth to this year’s Champion of Champions.

To be ridden by Rodrigo Aceves for owner Armando Aguirre, Freaky is the defending Winter Championship winner and now enters this year’s final after posting a tremendous daylight win over 2009 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity winner Good Reason SA in the January 29 trials. As for Aceves, he retains the mount on the 6-year-old gelding despite the fact that Freaky’s regular pilot Francisco Rubio is back in the United States after having to travel to Mexico due to a personal matter earlier this year. Rubio will instead ride multiple stakes winner Sparky E Boy in the Winter Championship. Adan Farias will saddle Freaky, who will be going after his seventh major stakes victory in his Los Alamitos career. The winner of the 2009 Champion of Champions and $867,994 in earnings, Freaky will start from the outside post nine.

Double Bar S Ranch’s Jess You And I won the Winter Championship in 2009 and the Champion of Champions in 2008. He is a three-time AQHA Champion and he actually finished ahead of Freaky in last year’s Champion of Champions as he ran fourth to Apollitical Jess. Jess You And I also enters as the fastest qualifier to this race after posting a 1 1/2 length victory in a time of :19.34 in the trials. Freaky’s trial time was :19.38.

The winner of the Winter Championship will earn $90,111. If that money goes into Jess You And I’s pocket, his career earnings will be elevated to $1,736,382. That would make him the 11th richest horse in the history of Quarter Horse racing.

The two superstars will be joined in the Winter Championship starting gate by eight outstanding 4-year-olds. Gianni Samaja’s Good Reason SA, who could go over the $1 million mark in career earnings with a Winter Championship victory, and Winter Championship trial winner First Down King are among the favorites to upset the old guard. Others to watch are Harems Last Dash, who is owned by a partnership headed by Vessels Stallion Farm and Robert Wood, and Reed Pierson’s Sparky E Boy. Harems Last Dash won the Southern California Derby two races ago and come in sporting a three race win streak, while Sparky E Boy ran second in the Southern California and has six straight top two finishes. Mimi Wells’ Forrest Fire, a multiple Grade 1 stakes placed runner, Stel Master, Separate Bet and Mamas Justice will complete the field.

Trials report

Double Bar S Ranch’s Jess You And I and Armando Aguirre’s Freaky, two of the best Quarter Horses of their generation, proved that they still have a lot left to give the sport after they each posted impressive wins in the trials to the $214,550 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on January 29. The two ageless stars will each try to become a two-time winner of the Winter Championship, as “Jessie” won this race in 2009, while the “Freak” took the title last year. Whosleavingwho is the only two-time winner in the 11-year history of the Winter Championship.

Ridden by G.R. Carter for trainer Paul Jones, Jess You And I won the first of four trials at 400 yards for the Winter Championship with the fastest qualifying time of :19.346 on Saturday. The now seven-year-old gelding earned $3,300 for his trial win to take his career earnings to $1,646,271. A winner of 16 of 31 career starts, Jess You And I is now less than $15,000 away from moving past A Delightful Dasher and into 11th place in the all-time Quarter Horse earnings list. A top four finish in the February 19 Winter Championship will do the trick for Jess You And I.

If Jess You And I can win the Winter Championship, it will give the son of Feature Mr Jess his seventh major career stakes victory. The 2006 champion 2-year-old gelding and 2008 champion aged horse and champion aged gelding, Jess You And I can count the Champion of Champions, two Go Man Go Handicaps, Remington Park Championship, the aforementioned Winter Championship and the Golden State Million Futurity among his notable victories. Nevertheless, a victory in this year’s Winter Championship at the age of seven and against a field headed by 2009 World Champion Freaky and Grade 1 stakes winners Harems Last Dash, Separate Bet and Good Reason SA would have to rank among the veteran’s top career moments. Jess You And I defeated Winter Championship finalist Stel Master by 1 ½ length in the trials.

Saddled by Adan Farias and ridden by Rodrigo Aceves, Freaky looks ready to defend his Winter Championship crown after posting an impressive length victory over 2009 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity winner and 2010 Golden State Derby winner Good Reason SA. Freaky, a 6-year-old gelded son by TR Dasher, covered the distance in the second fastest qualifying time of :19.381. The charismatic runner was also making his first start since a very un-Freaky when running sixth in last year’s Champion of Champions. Freaky suffered a cut on the back of his left front leg in that race, but his connections managed to tend and help heal the injury.

“The Champion of Champions was a very bad race for him because he hit himself,” Farias said. “I gave him the benefit of the doubt because of that reason and he proved tonight that he can still run like Freaky. He didn’t cut himself tonight, which was my biggest concern. I am very pleased about that. I also think I over trained him going into the Champion of Champions. We were facing monsters like Apollitical Jess and A Tempting Dash and I didn’t want him to fall short. I think I over did it. When I first got him I used take it easy with him. I would only jog him and then I would let him relax. That worked out great before so I backed off a lot in training him for this race.

“Last year we gave him a break after he won the Winter Championship, but this year we are going to keep on going,” Farias said. “We are going to run in this final and then we’ll point him to the Vessels Maturity, Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship, Go Man Go Handicap, Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and hopefully the Champion of Champions. We did x-rays on him and he was clean as a whistle. He only had three faces after his layoff last year, so we think that he is ready for a great season in 2011.”

Breaking from post seven, Freaky improved his record to 13 wins from 29 starts and $867,994 in earnings with this effort.

“It’s a big relief to have seen him run this well,” Farias continued. “Rodrigo said that he felt Freaky wanted to go inside, so he was making him run out. He was trying to keep him straight and keep him out of trouble. Rodrigo said he had a lot of horse left after the race.”

Aceves picked up the mount on Freaky in place of Francisco Rubio, who traveled to Mexico a couple of weeks ago to take care of a family emergency. He is slated to return to riding here in about two weeks according to Farias.

The heavyweight matchup between Freaky vs. Jess You And I now figures to headline the marquee for the Winter Championship final.

“A horse like Jess You And I commands respect,” Farias continued. “You have to be proud of a horse like Jess You And I. He is a true iron horse. I enjoy watching him run and I have all the respect in the world for his abilities. He is running well for Paul Jones. Freaky’s task will be difficult, but I’ll enjoy seeing Freaky face Jess You And I. I hope we can beat him.”

Vessels Stallion Farms, Wood, et al’s Harems Last Dash picked up his third straight victory after taking the second trial to the Winter Championship. Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio and saddled by Farias, the royally bred runner came into this race having won the Southern California Derby in his last start. A full brother to champions First Sovereign and Royal Quick Dash, Harems Last Dash won his trial by a half length over multiple stakes winner Sparky E Boy in a time of :19.515. Dunn Ranch Ltd’s First Down King scored one of the easiest wins of the trials, as crossed the wire first by 1 ¼ lengths in a time of :19.431. Trained by Paul Jones and ridden by Ramon Sanchez, First Down King finished athe night as the third fastest qualifier.

The complete list of qualifiers is as follows: Jess You And I (:19.346), Freaky (:19.381), First Down King (:19.431), Harems Last Dash (:19.515), Good Reason SA (:19.541), Mamas Justice (:19.559), Sparky E Boy (:19.586), Stel Master (:19.589), Forrest Fire (:19.595), and Separate Bet (:19.642).