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Veteran stars to clash in Sunday’s Bank of America California Regional

August 17, 2012     E-mail this page to a friend!

A pair of Champion of Champions runner-ups and recent stakes winner Forrest Fire are among the nine older horses that will chase a ticket to Iowa in Sunday’s Bank of America California Championship. The winner of this 440-yard race will move on to the Grade 1 $350,000 Bank of America Championship at Prairie Meadows in Iowa to be held later this year. The winner of the Championship will earn a berth to this year’s Grade 1 Champion of Champions.

Reed Pierson’s Sparky E Boy gets top billing in the California regional based on his second place finish in last year’s Champion of Champions. The veteran standout has since returned to finish third in a trial to the Los Alamitos Winter Championship before running eighth to El Aguila Real in the Grade 1 finale. Outside of his Champion of Champions effort, the Hawkinson gelding did not have a spectacular 2011 season. His was a hard-knocking campaign that included a third place finish in the Farnam Stakes and a timely second place finish in a trial to the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials that earned him the Champion of Champions berth. He also ran in the 2011 Go Man Go Handicap and Los Alamitos Winter Championship. The previous year - in 2010 - Sparky E Boy was outstanding in winning three races and hitting the board in all six of his starts. He won the Intermountain and Town Policy handicaps and was second in the Grade 1 Southern California Derby and Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap. All in all, Sparky E Boy can’t be counted out of any stakes race.

In addition to Sparky E Boy, Little Bit Of Baja has also finished second in the Champion of Champions and in fact he’s been second twice. He ran second to Bues Girl Too in 2007 and also to Jess You And I in 2008. Be A Bono is the only other two-time Champion of Champions runner-up.

Unraced in 2011, Little Bit Of Baja underwent the same stem cell surgery that Be A Bono made famous a couple of years ago. In six starts this year, he ran third in a trial for the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and was a winner in a trial to the Grade 2 Bank of America Sunland Park Challenge. The son of First Down Dash has finished fourth in each of his last three starts.

The 8-year-old Little Bit Of Baja would love to turn the clock back by a year or two, as he was a winner in the Prairie Meadows regional back in 2009. He would finish second to Fighter On Fire in the $350,000 final at Los Alamitos. Little Bit Of Baja will be making his 30th career start on Sunday and his career earnings of $872,636 are twice as much as the second leading money earner in this race, who is Shining First Dash with $404,422. Francisco Ramirez will saddle both Little Bit Of Baja and Sparky E Boy.

Wade Siegel and Don Boyle’s BF Farm Boy is full brother to AQHA champion aged gelding Strawkins, the winner of the $350,000 Bank of America Championship Challenge during his title winning year of 2007. BF Farm Boy has displayed qualities similar to Strawkins and figures to love the 440-yard distance. Paul Jones trains the winner of $91,205.

Caitlin Smith and Jeannie Knuchell’s Pathological Liar should also enjoy the quarter mile distance, as the son of the Thoroughbred Devon Lane enjoyed his biggest night when winning the 870-yard Gold Rush Derby last December. He’s also made up ground during the later stages of his 350-yard races so he should be flying late at 440 yards. Steve Burns’ Ambush Alley is another solid runner that will enjoy the added distance. Sired by the Thoroughbred Snowbound, Ambush Alley ran second against allowance foes at 400 yards in his last start.

The field will be completed by four accomplished runners in Shining First Dash, a multiple Grade 1 stakes placed runner and the third place finisher in the recent Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap; Forrest Fire a winner of more than $280,000 and the winner of the Katella Handicap earlier this year; Hes A Strawfly, a claiming race veteran with a winning habit; and Flaming Out, a Los Alamitos stakes winner and 2012 Vessels Maturity sixth place finisher.