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Be A Bono wins Vessels Maturity, is back in Champion of Champions


June 24, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

Vessels Maturity - Dan Francisco, Spencer Childers accept the trophy from Scoop and Bonnie Vessels.
(photo by Scott Martinez)
By Orlando Gutirrez
LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA.... World Champion Be A Bono earned a return trip to the Champion of Champions after outdueling Brookstone Bay by a nose in the Grade 1 $134,800 Vessels Maturity at 400 yards Friday at Los Alamitos.
    Trained by Dan Francisco for owner and breeder Spencer Childers, Be A Bono will be back in the $500,000 Champion of Champion after running second in that race last year. The son of Bono Jazz was also making amends on his disappointing effort in the Vessels trials, where he finished out of the money for the first time in his career. A lot of Be A Bono's troubles on that night stemmed from the fact that he false broke prior to the start. The mistake left him with "a big headache" but it was not something that stayed on Be A Bono's mind for too long according to Francisco.
     "He was a little nervous the following morning but after that he was back to normal," Francisco said. "We stood him in the gate on Thursday morning and he did things like a champ. We felt good about his chances coming into this race."
      Be A Bono appeared headed to a runaway victory in the Vessels final after exploding from the rail. Brookstone Bay, however, made things tight at the end.
      "That was close," said trainer Paul Jones, who saddled runner-up Brookstone Bay, early leader Latest Version and four other horses in the final. "Another jump and I think Brookstone Bay beats Be A Bono."
       "Be A Bono doesn't like to win by a lot," Francisco added. "He prefers to make things interesting and exciting. I guess he'd rather win by a nose or a head. We'll take it either way."
       This is the second time that Be A Bono has gotten the best of a field loaded with Jones-trained horses. Last year, Be A Bono won the Winter Derby over a field that included eight of Jones' top trainees, including Brookstone Bay. By the way, Be A Bono is the second horse to qualify to the Champion of Champions. Who is the other horse with a berth already in his pocket? It is the Jones-trainee Whosleavingwho, who won the Champion of Champions in 2001. Be A Bono's connections were overjoyed that their gelding will be facing Whosleavingwho in the most prestigious and celebrated race for older horses in the country.
        "It is really gratifying to be back in the big race and it is great to get that out of the way," said AQHA Champion Jockey G.R. Carter, who piloted Be A Bono. "That takes a lot of the pressure off. Now we can concentrate on winning more races and having more fun with this horse."
       "We're hoping that this is his first of many berths to the Champion of Champions this year," Childers said. "I hope he takes the berth in the Go Man Go and I hope he takes the berth in the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship."
        When x-rays on Be A Bono revealed a small-knee chip following last year's Champion of Champions in December, Childers did not hesitate in putting his prized champion under the surgical knife.
        "We are fortunate to live 10 miles away from a wonderful equine medical facility so that's where we sent Be A Bono," Childers said. "He had a little bitty chip and we could have gotten away with just giving Be A Bono a cortisone shot and gone on with it. We decided to have him get that cleaned up instead. Today's methods make it a simple operation so why not have it done?"
         Medical advancements aside, Be A Bono's victory in the Vessels Maturity may not have been possible without some quick thinking and smart horsemanship according to the gelding's connections.
        "Be A Bono had both of his feet planted on the breaking bar and I hate that," Carter said. "The headman did a great job helping Be A Bono step off the bar. He almost got unsettled in there but at least he was standing on the bar anymore. When the gates open he took off and was flying right along the fence. I thought we had it won easy from there but Brookstone Bay made a big run at the end. Both horses put in good performances and I am glad that Be A Bono got it done tonight."
       Be A Bono covered the distance in :19.57, the fourth fastest time in the history of the Vessels Maturity since the race was shortened to 400 yard from 440 in 1991. The owner, trainer and jockey were each winning the Vessels Maturity for the first time. Be A Bono, a winner of five Grade 1 stakes races in his career, earned $56,616 to take his lifetime bankroll to $910,287. He has won nine of 12 career starts.
      "He'll go in the Spencer Childers (Championship Handicap) next," said Childers referring to the July 30 event. "And he'll be in all the other big races for older horses."
      Chad Richard's Brookstone Bay earned $22,916 for his second place finish. Brookstone Bay previously finished third to Whosleavingwho in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and was fifth in last year's Champion of Champions. Cody Jensen piloted the son of First Down Dash.
     Latest Version held a half-length advantage at the start of this race before crossing the wire a solid third. The stallion was sixth in the Winter Championship last year. He has hit the board in 14 of 20 lifetime starts.
      Arnulfo Covarrubias' Self Assertive, the longest shot on the board at 61-1, finished fourth while fastest qualifier Planet Holland ran fifth after being bumped repeatedly. Dragon Dash, who was ridden by Sam Thompson in place of Rodrigo Aceves, finished sixth. Aceves was not seriously injured after being involved in a spill on Thursday night. He Could Be The One, Sky Lane Pie, Fed Ex Together and Dealadash completed the field.