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Wave Carver matches brother in $600,000 Champion of Champions

December 11, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

(photo by Los Alamitos Race Course)
Wave Carver kept the $600,000 Champion of Champions trophy in the family, as the outstanding gray colt joined his full brother Ocean Runaway, who won this race last year, as winners of the sport's most prestigious race for older Quarter Horses Saturday, December 9, at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, California.

Wave Carver, who similarly to Ocean Runaway will now be retired to stud duty after his Champion of Champions triumph, edged 2004 World Champion Be A Bono by a nose with the classy invader Country Chicks Man finishing third by a neck. The 35th running of the Champion of Champions will be remembered as a true classic, as the top five finishers were separated by approximately 3/4 of a length. Apollitical Time, the 9-5 favorite in this race, finished fourth while Rainbow Derby winner Strawkins was fifth.

Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, who chose Wave Carver ahead of Los Alamitos Invitational Championship winner Apollitical Time, Wave Carver covered the 440 yards in :21.18 over a wet fast track. His winning time was just 1/100th of a second off the track record set by Dash For Cash in the 1976 Champion of Champions. Owned by Vaughn Cook, Dan Lucas, Muller Racing and Vessels Stallion Farm, the colt by First Down Dash and out of reigning champion broodmare Runaway Wave was 2/100th of a second faster than Ocean Runaway's clocking in last year's Champion of Champions.

In winning his 11th race in 18 starts, Wave Carver earned $300,000 to become Quarter Horse racing's 45th millionaire. The winner of the Los Alamitos Super Derby winner and Governor's Cup Derby has now bankrolled $1,005,946 in his career while becoming the fourth Champion of Champions winner in the last five years for trainer Paul Jones. All-time leading sire First Down Dash has now sired four consecutive Champion of Champions winners - all of which were 3-year-olds at the time of their big win. First Down Dash's magical four are The Down Side (2003), Cash For Kas (2004), Ocean Runaway (2005) and Wave Carver.

Lucas, who was enjoying his first Champion of Champions win as an owner, has now bred different winners of this race a record three years in a row. Lucas owns the soon to be 12-year-old mare Runaway Wave, who according to her owner is now the sport's second all-time leading dam.

"This is so unbelievably satisfying," said Lucas, the 2004 AQHA Champion Breeder. "To win three in a row as a breeder is amazing. A lot of things have to go right. I can't wait to see the replay of the race."

"I can't believe this has happened," added Vaughn Cook. "My wife Jill and I first came to Los Alamitos to watch Isaws Sugar Bear run in the 1991 Champion of Champions. Special Leader beat Isaws Sugar Bear but I told Jill on that night that I wanted to be here someday, running a horse in the Champion of Champions. Wave Carver will now stand at my place (Royal Vista Ranch in Wayne, Oklahoma). My next goal is now to be the breeder of a Champion of Champions winner. Dan Lucas has done that and so has Vessels Stallion Farm. I want to join them in the club of winning Champion of Champions breeders."

Wave Carver's victory helped give Vessels Stallion Farm an historic double. The outstanding racing operation became the first owners to win the All American Futurity and Champion of Champions in the same year. Vessels Stallion Farm co-owns All American winner No Secrets Here in partnership with Brazilian partner Benny Rosset.

"We danced in the mud in both New Mexico and California," said Vessels. "It's been a great year. The All American - my parents did it (in 1973) and I was there, but it was their deal. We didn't go there for a long time but then we started going again trying to win it. Bonnie was part of Old Habits, who ran second in 1995, and since then we've had Devons Signature, who ran third, Fishers Dash, who ran fourth, and Meter Me Gone. It was special to win that race and it's special to win the Champion of Champions. We won both races with Paul Jones. When the money is down he is awfully good."

As the owner of Ocean Runaway, Gary Muller has now won this race in back-to-back years. Muller is the fourth owner to win consecutive runnings of the Champion of Champions, but first to be back in the winner's circle with different horses.

"If you qualify to the Champion of Champions, that's special," he said. "If you have a horse that really has a chance to win the race, that's incredibly special. If you win the race, that's just unbelievable. To win the race twice, I don't have the words to describe that.

"This is it for Wave Carver. He's done. How can you top this? He deserves to be World Champion now. He hooked the best and won. What else can he prove?"

Owned by Spencer Childers, who will celebrate his 95th birthday on December 21, Be A Bono also finished second by a nose to Cash For Kas in '04. The gelding by Bono Jazz is the first horse to finish second in the Champion of Champions twice in his career.

Trained by Dan Francisco and ridden by G.R. Carter, Be A Bono was ninth at the start and fourth with 110 yards to go in the quarter mile race. He made a huge run from there and could have been the winner in another jump or two. He will settle for earning $96,000 for running second to take his career bankroll to $1,299,611. Among active horses, only DM Shicago and No Secrets Here have earned more money than Be A Bono, who has hit the board in 17 of 21 career starts. A leading contender for champion aged gelding, Be A Bono won the Go Man Go Handicap, Vessels Maturity and Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap this year.

Owned, trained and bred by Sparky Mullins, Country Chicks Man earned $60,000 for his solid third place finish in his Los Alamitos debut. The 5-year-old red horse, which won the Refrigerator Handicap in his previous start, has earned $470,034. The son of Chicks Beduino showed what he is made of, as he was always among the top three horses during this race. He now becomes the heavy favorite to be named champion aged stallion.

"He didn't break like he can," Mullins said. "He is usually two lengths in front of the pack right at the start of a race. The rain bothered him. He has a hard time relaxing on a wet track. I'll be back at Los Alamitos next year with Country Chicks Man."

Trained by Juan Aleman for owner Juan Alberto Tirado Lizarraga, Apollitical Time suffered her first loss in six starts. Prior to this race, her most recent setback was a second place finish to Texas Chatterbox in the Charger Bar Handicap on January 7. Ridden by Saul Ramirez for the first time, Apollitical Time earned $42,000 for this fourth place finish. She's now made $811,752 in her career. This was only her second out of the money finish from her last 18 starts.

Ramirez, who on Friday piloted Blues Girl Too to victory in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, was named the rider of Apollitical Time on Wednesday as replacement for the suspended jockey Alex Bautista. The latter had picked up the mount after Ramon Sanchez decided to stick with Wave Carver for the Champion of Champions.

"(Apollitical Time) missed the break a little bit," said Ramirez. "The mare just didn't get her best go away from the gate. This was my first time riding her. Maybe I didn't help her. She moved her head to the right before they kicked the gate and that's why she broke on top of the six horse (Blazin Fire). She handled the track fine. The three horses that beat us ran big races. This was a great group of horses."

The complete order of finish is as follows; Wave Carver, Be A Bono, Country Chicks Man, Apollitical Time, Strawkins, Gulfstream Five, Blazin Fire, Lindas Dasher, Like Frankie And Me and Gold Medal Jess.

The 2007 Champion of Champions will reach new heights, as it will offer a purse of $1 million. It will be the sport's only million-dollar race for older horses.