The Racing Journal Logo

Heza Dasha Fire looks for repeat in $600K Champion of Champions on Saturday


December 9, 2016     E-mail this page to a friend!

S-Quarter K LLC’s Heza Dasha Fire will look to become only the fourth horse with back-to-back victories in the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions when he leads a full field of 10 in the 440-yard classic on Saturday night, December 10.

Heza Dasha Fire won the Champion of Champions by 1¼ lengths last year to record one of the most lopsided wins ever in the 42-year running of the race. He now looks to join all-time greats like Dash For Cash, Refrigerator and SLM Big Daddy as horses who won consecutive runnings of this race. Tailor Fit won the Champion of Champions twice, but in non-consecutive years, while the ‘Fridge is the only three-time winner of this race.

SLM Big Daddy is the last horse to win Champion of Champions in straight years, accomplishing the feat in 1997 and 1998. Tailor Fit then won the race in 1999 and returned in 2001 to win once again. Rylees Boy, the oldest horse to win the Champion of Champions at age 7, is the closest one to a recent repeat, winning the 2012 running and then running second to Last To Fire in 2013.

Heza Dasha Fire will start from post #7 when he looks to make history on Saturday night.

“He’s fantastic,” owner Kathy Meneely said. “He makes all your dreams come true. You can’t sit back and think you’re going to win. I still get nervous and yell for him to run fast. He’s been incredible. We’ve had so much fun with him.”

Heza Dasha Fire had surgery after running second in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship earlier this year, but Meneely said the Walk Thru Fire gelding came back “hard and strong.”

“We are only going to run him a few more times,” she added. “Possibly in the (Los Alamitos) Winter Championship again. We don’t want to over-run him.”

Heza Dasha Fire could also go over the $2 million mark in career earnings, a figure that has only been achieved in Quarter Horse racing by the likes of Ochoa, Stolis Winner, Refrigerator, One Dashing Eagle, Blues Girl Too, and Jess Good Candy. With a win in the Champion of Champions, Heza Dasha Fire would take his career earnings to $2,122,737 or less than $4,000 away from Refrigerator and into third place on the all-time list of money winners. Cruz Mendez, who has ridden Heza Dasha Fire in every one of his races, will pilot the Washington homebred. Jose Flores will saddle the regally bred six-time Grade 1 stakes winning gelding.

The only living horse to have won a race that featured Heza Dasha Fire as part of the field is Ed Allred’s He Looks Hot, who starts from post #8.

On paper, He Looks Hot looks as impressive as any of the rest of the horses in the field. He’s won a pair of Grade 1 races, including his victory over Heza Dasha Fire in the 2014 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, and he could also go over the million dollar mark on Champion of Champions night. He Looks Hot, who also won the Vessels Maturity earlier this year, needs $22,515 to become a million dollar winner. Carlos Huerta will ride the Walk Thru Fire gelding for trainer Scott Willoughby.

Mike Teel’s 4-year-old AJs High has been outstanding over the last two campaigns, winning 10 of 15 starts and earning over $546,000. The Apollitical Jess gelding has also been a stakes winning machine, winning four of them this year. Trained by Charlton Hunt, AJs High won the Bank of America Challenge Championship in a great duel over BH Lisas Boy. Another big moment at the Orange County track would take him to $975,114 in career earnings, and certainly destined to become a millionaire.

There are two half-million dollar winners in the field in the form of 3-year-old star Big Lew for Reliance Ranches and Hector Villalobos’ Forget It from the barn of Jose Antonio Moreno. Trained by Mike Robbins, Big Lew won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby and now looks to give Robbins his fourth Champion of Champions win. That would make the trainer third all-time in Champion of Champions wins. Jimmy Dean Brooks will ride Big Lew from post #2. Forget It, meanwhile, won three derbies last year, but now seeks his first graded stakes win of the year. Rite Regal, a two-time derby winner this year, has won seven races in 2016 and could be a big factor.

The field is set for the Champion of Champions and here is how the field shapes up:

—In 2015, there was only one 3-year-old in Champion of Champions, the eventual winner Heza Dasha Fire. This year’s running is one for the sophomores, as four 3-year-olds—all males—will be in action. They are Big Lew, Rite Regal, Zoomin For Spuds, and Militarist. There are five 4-year-olds: Heza Dasha Fire, AJs High, Forget It, He Looks Hot, Heza Dasha Fire, and Sass Me Blue. The oldest horse in the field is the 5-year-old Heat Warning.

—There is only one stallion: Heat Warning. The last stallion to win the Champion of Champions was Good Reason SA in 2011. Only four stallions have won the Champion of Champions. Heat Warning also looks to become the first 5-year-old to win this race since SLM Big Daddy in 1997.

—There is only one colt: Big Lew

—There is only one female: Sass Me Blue. The last aged mare to win the Champion of Champion was Dash For Speed in 1990. Only four older distaffers have won the Champion of Champions.

—There are two stallions to have sired multiple Champion of Champion starters in this race: Walk Thru Fire sired Heza Dasha Fire and He Looks Hot, while Favorite Cartel sired Militarist and Rite Regal. Apollitical Jess, Corona Cartel, Foose, A Regal Choice, Valiant Hero, and Zoomin For Bux each sired one horse in the race. Apollitical Jess is the only sire who is a previous Champion of Champions winner. He won the 2010 running of the Champion of Champions.

—There are eight different broodmare sires. Hawkinson is the broodmare sire of Forget It and Militarist. Mr Jess Perry is the broodmare sire of Heza Dasha Fire and Sass Me Blue.

—The 10 horses in the Champion of Champions field were bred in six states: Califonia (Forget It, He Looks Hot, Militarist, Rite Regal); Oklahoma (AJs High); Utah (Big Lew and Sass Me Blue); Oklahoma (AJs High); Idaho (Zoomin For Spuds); Arizona (Heat Warning) and Washington (Heza Dasha Fire). States represented last year were California, Washington, Texas, and Louisiana.

—There is only one horse who is already a millionaire—Heza Dasha Fire. Heza Dasha Fire could go over the $2 million mark with his second straight Champion of Champions win. He Looks Hot is less than $33,000 away from also becoming a millionaire.

—There are six horses who are already Grade I winners: Heza Dasha Fire, He Looks Hot, Big Lew, AJs High, Forget It, and Sass Me Blue. There were also six Grade 1 winners in last year’s field.

—There will be two horses who have already won Grade 1 races at 440 yards: Heza Dasha Fire and AJs High. Three horses are making their first career starts at 440 yards: Rite Regal, Forget It, and Militarist.

—Rite Regal has been the busiest Champion of Champions finalist this year with 10 starts and sports the highest number of wins, with seven. The horse in this field with the most money earned this year is Big Lew with $440,976.

—This is the first appearance in the Champion of Champions for all but Heza Dasha Fire. The all-time record for appearances is five shared by Jess You And I and Refrigerator. The 2015 running was the first time since the inaugural running of the Champion of Champions in 1972 in which every starter was making its Champion of Champions debut.

—The only two horses to win the Champion of Champions and not earn a Running Champion title that same year from the AQHA are The Down Side in 2003 and Justanoldlove in 1983. Twenty nine times since the race’s first running in 1972 the winner has been named that year’s World Champion by the AQHA, including Heza Dasha Fire.

—Should Heza Dasha Fire win the Champion of Champions, his career record would be 14 wins in 17 career starts. He is looking to win his seventh career Grade 1 victory and eighth stakes win at Los Alamitos. He Looks Hot is looking to become only the fourth horse to win both the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and Champions of Champions. The only three to have done so are Ocean Runaway (2004-05), Blues Girl Too (2006-07) and Good Reason SA (2010-11).