The Racing Journal Logo

Champion of Champions tonight, "The Duece" tomorrow night


December 10, 2011     E-mail this page to a friend!

Stories by Orlando Gutierrez, Los Alamitos Race Course

Jess You And I—older, wiser, faster—aims for second Champion of Champions win


The Double Bar S Ranch’s gallant 7-year-old gelding Jess You And I tries to become the oldest horse to win the 40TH running of the Grade 1 $750,000 Champion of Champions when he faces a deep field in the 440-yard race with world championship implications on tonight (Saturday) at Los Alamitos.

Mr Doty Bars, Refrigerator, SLM Big Daddy and Tailor Fit won the classic as 6-year-olds. Refrigerator, SLM Big Daddy and Tailor Fit were each world champions after their Champion of Champions’ win at 6.

Refrigerator won three runnings of the Champion of Champions (1992-94) and Jess You And I is trying to join Dash For Cash (1976-77), SLM Big Daddy (1997-98) and Tailor Fit (1999 and 2001) as two-time winners. Tailor Fit is the only horse to win the Champion of Champions in non-consecutive years. Jess You And I is looking to become the second. His connections had the opportunity to select his post position first among the 10 runners in the race. Trainer Paul Jones swiftly snagged the number nine post for the grizzled veteran.

“It was a slam dunk to take the number nine spot for Jess You And I,” said Jones, a nine-time AQHA champion trainer and a winning Champion of Champions trainer four times. “He ran so well from that spot when he won the (Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship) in his last start. It was a no brainer to pick that spot. I like the horses to tell me where they like to start from and this horse likes that spot.”

Sired by Feature Mr Jess, Jess You And I won the 2008 Champion Of Champions and was that year’s champion aged horse and champion aged gelding. Stolis Winner was the 2008 world champion as a 2-year-old with three Grade 1 futurity wins and he has gone on to become the all-time leading money-earning American Quarter Horse at $2,235,161. Jess You And I has earned $1,754,827 and would move up to $2,129,827 with the Champion of Champions first-place check of $375,000. Champion of Champions winners and world champions Refrigerator ($2,126,309) and Blues Girl Too ($2,032,328) are the only other Quarter Horses above the $2-million mark. Jess You And I is the 5-to-2 morning line favorite in the Champion of Champions.

Jess You And I is in Grade 1-winning form and comes off back-to-back wins after returning from a 6-month layoff. The gelding enhanced his fitness on August 28, when in his first start back he won a 350-yard Los Alamitos allowance race in a sharp :17.205. He then showed his ageless class with a game neck win over Divide The Cash in the October 9 Robert Boniface Championship over 440 yards, scoring his eighth career Grade 1 win by a head in a near-stakes record of :21.028. A victory in the Champion of Champions would have Jess You And I only the third horse in Quarter Horse racing history to win nine career Grade 1 races. Refrigerator and Dash For Speed are the all-time record holders in that category with 10 Grade 1 wins each.

Trainer Heath Reed has brought the top-ranked and third-ranked horses in the national AQHA Racing/Horseplayernow.com poll – Llano Teller and Louisiana Senator – to Los Alamitos for the Champion of Champions.

Owned by Wootan Racing with the Reed Land and Cattle Company, Llano Teller moved to the top spot in the poll after a sensational summer campaign at Ruidoso Downs. The 5-to-1 morning line fourth choice, Llano Teller will start from post four.

At Ruidoso Downs, the gritty little gelding was a neck winner of the $702,000 Ruidoso Derby (G1), ran in the Rainbow Derby (G1, where he was bumped hard at the break and finished back) and concluded his summer with a half length win in the $1.3 million All American Derby, the richest race this year for 3-year-old Quarter Horses. Llano Teller tries to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the November 12 Texas Classic Derby (G1) when he makes his Los Alamitos debut in the Champion of Champions.

Terry Wootan and Joe D. Yates’ Louisiana Senator is the morning line third choice at 7-to-2 odds and he should be dangerous after two impressive efforts in his latest two starts, both at 440 yards. After winning two stakes at shorter distances at Remington Park this spring, he was a very close second as the favorite in the Remington Park Championship (G1) and then came back after a four-month freshening to dominate the October 1 the Refrigerator Handicap (G1) at Lone Star Park in :21.119 for the quarter mile.

Stern Ranch’s homebred Chivalry SR set the 400-yard Los Alamitos track record of :19.067 while winning the July 30 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship (RG1). He next finished third in two more Grade 1 stakes, the September 11 Go Man Go Handicap and, in his only start at 440 yards, behind Jess You And I after a troubled trip in the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Championship. The 4-year-old gelding then impressed in his latest out when he won a division of the November 19 Z. Wayne Griffin Directors’ Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths in :19.377 in his first start for trainer Francisco Ramirez. He is the morning line second choice at 3-to-1 odds. Juan Aleman will start from post number five.

“I was opting for post 10 because he won the (Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap) from the outside post, but Juan liked the number five post. I trust him so we went with the number five post,” said owner Albert Stern.

“I wanted to stay away from the outside post,” Aleman explained. “I don’t like the outside post in Grade 1 races. The good thing about the number five spot is that he will be one of the last horses loaded in the gate so he won’t be in there very long.”

Armando Leon’s Snitcher raced to a 12-to-1 upset win over Chivalry SR and Divide The Cash in the June 19 Vessels Maturity (G1) and was awarded first place in the Go Man Go ’Cap after the disqualification of world champion Freaky. He’ll start from post two.

Burnett Ranches and Johnny Trotter’s Miss Racy Jess has thrived this fall at Los Alamitos for trainer Trey Wood. The 3-year-old filly won her West Coast debut in her October 15 trial to the Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) and then scored her first stakes win when she won the November 6 final by a half length over the consistent Grade 1 force One Sweet Jess.

Owned by Dr. Steve Burns, Paul Jones and Terry Thompson, Favorite Cartel comes off his best race and it came at Los Alamitos over 440 yards. The Jones-trained 4-year-old scored a neck win in the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) over Rylees Boy with a :21.501 time. Favorite Cartel earned his berth in what became his first Grade 1 win by scoring in the August 20 Bank of America Los Alamitos Championship Challenge (G2) with a :21.367 time. The connections of Favorite Cartel had the second choice when it came to selecting the post position and they chose the number three spot.

“We couldn’t have asked for better post position,” Thompson said. “He won the Bank of America Challenge Championship from post number three and he won the California Challenge from post two three races ago. He likes that part of the track. He also started from post number three in the All American Futurity and even though he didn’t win the race, he was flying at the end of the race. I’m happy with his post.”

The complete list of runners in the Champion of Champions in post position order is as follows: Fovee (30-to-1), Snitcher (15-to-1), Favorite Cartel (6-to-1), Llano Teller (5-to-1), Chivalry SR (3-to-1), Louisiana Senator (7-to-2), Miss Racy Jess (12-to-1), Good Reason SA (20-to-1), Jess You And I (5-to-2) and Sparky E Boy (30-to-1).

Last To Fire aims for "Deuce" victory


Jesus Avila and Jesus Cuevas’ fastest qualifier Last To Fire looks to substantiate his breathtaking trial win when tries for his first stakes win in the $2,236,300 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.

The 400-yard “Deuce” offers the largest racing purse in California for any breed, is the richest race in Los Alamitos history and is the second-highest purse in American Quarter Horse racing. The winner of the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity will earn $903,966 or $2,259 per yard raced. The running of the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity will last around :19.80 seconds, which means that the winner will earn about $45,200 per second raced.

Last To Fire looks to be perfectly positioned to earn the big bucks. He has been in this position heading into a million-dollar futurity before. The gelding set the fastest-qualifying time to the $1,218,500 Golden State Futurity (G1) and then had a troubled trip in the October 30 final, finishing third behind Igotyourtac.

Trainer Juan Aleman brought Last To Fire back in the Two Million trials on November 20, where he won the 13th of 14 heats by three lengths. (Note: see http://www.theracingjournal.com/news/news-1744.html for the trials report.) His time of :19.724 was the equivalent of nearly a length quicker than second-fastest qualifier I Like The Odds (Corona Cartel-Fancys First Affair by First Down Dash), who won the 14th trial in :19.868. Last To Fire will start from post four, which is the post position his connections selected for the gelding at Wednesday’s special post position draw.

“He looked good from that spot when he won his trial to the Los Alamitos Two Million,” said owner Jesus Avila. “That’s exactly what we are looking for from him in this race. We hope that he can do it again. We came in hoping for post number four and we got exactly what we wanted.”

Last To Fire’s connections had the second choice to select their post. The first choice went to the connections of Hez Our Secret, who tabbed post number nine. Johnny Trotter’s Hez Our Secret could become the 2-year-old comeback story of 2011 if he can win the Two Million. Purchased for $110,000 at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale, the colt on July 8, won his Rainbow Futurity (G1) trial by more than two lengths while setting the fifth-fastest qualifying time. He would have been one of the choices for the Rainbow Futurity and a top All American Futurity (G1) prospect, but he colicked and required surgery.

“We’re lucky that we did not lose him,” said owner Johnny Trotter.

Trainer Trey Wood ably brought him back to fitness with a second in a Los Alamitos allowance race on November 4, and Hez Our Secret then overcame bumping to score a length win in his Los Alamitos Two Million trial.

A homebred racing for Tom Bradbury and Kim Kessinger, with Howard Nichols, I Like The Odds surprised at 10-1 odds for trainer Joe “Bear” Bassett with the half-length trial win. Stepping forward at Los Alamitos this fall after a winless summer campaign at Ruidoso Downs, he broke his maiden in his first Los Alamitos start and was then a non-qualifying second in his Golden State Million trial.

Double Bar S Ranch’s homebred Igotyourtac tries to become the fifth horse to win the Golden State Million and the Los Alamitos Two Million. He almost didn’t have the opportunity to race in the Golden State, when he tied for the 10th-fastest qualifying time but then won the shake to earn a starting spot. Igotyourtac made the most of his opportunity by prevailing by a neck in the Golden State Million.

Igotyourtac made his qualification to the Los Alamitos Two Million just slightly less suspenseful by winning his trial by a half length and sharing the nineth and 10th qualifying slots with Hez Our Secret (First Down Dash-Secret Separation by Separatist).

Billy Smith and Pat Guthrie’s Terrific Synergy is the only horse to qualify for the Ed Burke Million (G1), Golden State Million and the Los Alamitos Two Million. The talented gelding finished fourth in the June 26 Ed Burke Million and sixth in the Golden State million for his only non-winning efforts from six starts. Trained by Cody Joiner, Terrific Synergy surged through the last half of his Los Alamitos Two Million trial to win by one-half length with the fifth-fastest time of :19.938.

His connections did not have much of a choice in the post position draw, as they had the 10th and final choice, but his connections were rather pleased after ending up with post position number three.

“That worked out for us,” said Billy Smith. “I’m pleased with that spot.”

The field in post position order is as follows: I Like The Odds, Eye On Corona, Terrific Synergy, Last To Fire, Hit It Big, BPS Jumpin Frisco, Madoff, Igotyourtac, Hez Our Secret and Last To Check Him.