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Ocean Runaway wins Champion of Champions

December 11, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

Champion Ocean Runaway
(photo by Los Alamitos Photo)
LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA....  They say that the key to any good story is to 'wow them in the end.' Muller Racing LLC's Ocean Runaway made sure the final chapter of his racing career had a unforgettable finish, as he scored a tremendous 3/4 length victory over 55-1 longshot Like Frankie And Me in Saturday's Grade 1 $500,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. The champion millionaire Ocean Runaway will now retire to stud at Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas in 2006 after being syndicated earlier this year.
      Interestingly, the top four finishers in the Champion of Champions were 3-year-olds, the first time that’s happened in the 34-year history of the race. Los Alamitos Super Derby winner Apollitical Time and Bayer Legend Derby Challenge winner LDS Dash For Dylan followed Ocean Runaway and Like Frankie And Me across the wire. Righteous Brother, a lightly raced 4-year-old, who bred mares this year, was fifth followed by 2002 Co-World Champion Whosleavingwho, Texas Chatterbox, three-time AQHA Champion Catchmeinyourdreams, Apollos Favorite and Latest Version.
       Reunited with Alex Bautista for the first time since their triumph in last year's Los Alamitos Million Futurity, Ocean Runaway left the gate from post eight, quickly took the lead after the start and never looked back. Trained by Denny Ekins, Ocean Runaway went on to cover the distance in :21.20, just 3/100ths of a seconds off the quarter mile record set by the legendary Dash For Cash in the 1976 Champion of Champions.
      Having missed this record, Ocean Runaway can take solace in knowing that he is the owner of the 400-yard track record, which he impressively set in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors' Trials three weeks before the Champion of Champions. The decision to run him in the Directors’ Trials was a gamble, as it came just seven days from his effort to Apollitical Time in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby. But Ocean Runaway’s connections ignored the short span between starts.
      "We felt good about it," Ekins said. "I've lived this (horse) for three years straight and I know what he's made of. It's not something I would do all the time, but it was a gamble worth taking in order to get Ocean Runaway into the greatest race in the world - the Champion of Champions. And he rose to the occasion."
      Ocean Runaway responded to the challenge by delivering two of the best efforts ever seen at the Orange County track. He won the Directors’ Trials in a time of :19.30, breaking Takin On The Cash’s 15-year-old track record and then came back to win the Champion of Champions in the  third fastest in the event's history. Bred in California, Ocean Runaway earned $250,000 in the Champion of Champions to take his lifetime earnings to $1,642,498. That sum makes him the sport's ninth all-time leading horse by money earned and the third richest colt/stallion ever - behind Mr Master Bug and Ronas Ryon. Ocean Runaway also moved ahead of Corona Cash to become the richest runner ever sired by all-time leading stallion First Down Dash.
      And the list of accomplishment does not stop there. Sent off at 9-5 odds, Ocean Runaway became the first horse to complete the Los Alamitos Million-Champion of Champions double. Last year, he became the first horse to win two different million-dollar races. Ocean Runaway leaves the game with a record of 10 wins from 19 starts. In addition to the prestigious double, he also won Golden State Million Futurity, Governor's Cup Futurity and PCQHA Breeders Derby. Daniel Lucas bred the gray colt out of the Runaway Winner mare, Runaway Wave.
    "(Ocean Runaway) is one of the most magnificent horses that's ever lived," said Ekins "His disposition is such that a 2-year-old can handle him. He loves to train. Even after the Z. Wayne Griffin, I still had to do things to keep him busy. He loves to train. You can't leave him in his stall."
      Ekins was picking up his first win ever in the Champion of Champions. It was also the first time that owners Gary and Cindy Muller had hoisted the trophy.
      "Winning this race feels better than what I dreamed," said Gary Muller, the CEO of a life insurance company in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. “He beat some of the best in the world and he showed that he is a champion. The key was to get here. Making it to the Champion of Champions had been our main objective the entire year. I'm not saying that the other races weren't important, but the Champion of Champions was the race we wanted to be part of.”      
       "He's an amazing horse," added Cindy Muller. "He's been thrilling to watch. This race was hard to watch at times because we knew it was the last time we would have a chance to see him run. I'm so proud of him. We love him."
      Francisco Gonsalez's Like Frankie And Me earned $80,000 for his second place finish. The gelding by Streakin La Jolla was saddled by Jaime Gomez and ridden by J.R. Ramirez.
      "This was the race of his life," Ramirez said. "When he went off at 55-1, no one expected much from him."
        Apollitical Time earned $50,000 for her third place finish. Jose Tirado Lizarraga of Mazatlan, Mexico owns the Apollo filly, which is trained by Juan Aleman.
       "We'll probably run her one more time before we’ll give her some time off," Lizarraga said. "We'll bring her back in the middle of the year. To me, finishing third is like a triumph. There were some great horses in that race and we finished ahead of a few of them. My filly ran her race but Ocean Runaway is just an unbelievable horse. He has all my respect and my congratulations to his connections."
      LDS Dash For Dylan earned $35,000 for finishing fourth for owner Donna King and trainer Bret Vickery. Righteous Brother was the highest placing non-3-year-old in the race. The four-year old stallion earned $25,000.
      Kim Kessinger and Jim Geiler's Whosleavingwho failed in his bid to become the oldest Champion of Champions winner at the age of 7.
     "(Jockey) Alejandro Luna said the horse was lifting his legs in the gate," Jones said. "He didn't break as well as he is able to. The two horses on either side out broke him and he doesn’t like it when he has to play catch up in between horses. He's better when he fires and takes the lead."
      The other ageless wonder in this race was three-time Los Alamitos Championship winner Catchmeinyourdreams. He never seriously contended for trainer Chris O’Dell and owner Kirk Goodfellow.
     "(Catchmeinyourdreams) was moving so much in the gate," said jockey Cody Jensen. "They caught him leaning back when they opened the gate."
     First Down Dash, the sire of Ocean Runaway, won the Champion of Champions as a 3-year-old colt in 1987... Ocean Runaway and The Down Side are the only other 3-year-olds to have won the Champion of Champions since First Down Dash.... Twenty-two of the first 33 winners of the Champion of Champions have been named World Champion....The purse for the Champion of Champions will be raised to $600,000 next year.