In a career filled with top stakes finals, Jesus Avila and Jesus Cuevas’ Last To Fire needed 17 starts to earn his first Grade 1 victory. The son of Walk Thru Fire needed only one more outing to add Grade 1 victory number two to his record following a scintillating victory against one of the year’s best fields of older horses in the $100,000 Go Man Go Handicap on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for trainer Jose De La Torre, Last To Fire scored the most impressive win of his career, as he daylighted a field loaded with major stakes winners and four AQHA racing champions in the Go Man Go. Bred by the Estate of Spencer Childers, Last To Fire posted a 1 ¾ length victory while covering the 400-yard distance in a time of :19.357. The 4-year-old gelding is now a two-time Grade 1 winner as this victory followed his win in the Vessels Maturity back on July 7. His Go Man Go earnings of $50,000 take his career earnings to $712,545 and his record now stands at seven wins from 18 career starts.
Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez’s Rylees Boy and Reed Pierson and Brad Stevenson’s Sparky E Boy finished in a dead heat for second place. Named the champion aged horse last year, Rylees Boy won last year’s Champion of Champions, while Sparky E Boy won last year’s Bank of America California Challenge and was runner-up in the 2011 Champion of Champions. Ed Allred’s Check My Thoughts, the winner of the Grade 1 Golden State Derby, Grade 1 Southern California Derby and Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap, was finished fourth, while 2012 Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship winner Chilvalry SR, ran fifth. Melissa Miller’s Jess Featureme Quick, who won this year’s Bank of America California Championship and the Hobbs America Derby last year, crossed the wire sixth with 2012’s champion 3-year-old colt Hez Our Secret, 2011 world champion Cold Cash 123, rising star JM Blue Light and 2012’s champion 3-year-old filly Flame N Flash completing this outstanding field.
“This race had a Champion of Champions type of a field,” said Jesus Avila. “Last To Fire just faced the type of runners that he’ll have to deal with in the Champion of Champions. He was impressive against a great group.”
“He’s always run so well fresh,” added Avila’s son, Jose. “Jess Featureme Quick was right there with us in the Vessels trial and in the Vessels final and Check My Thoughts is a very tough horse that has beaten us before. Cold Cash 123, who is another great horse, and Rylees Boy, the winner of the Champion of Champions, were two other great horses in this race. There were so many great runners in this race. My heart was beating at 100 miles per hour when I saw Last To Fire taking the lead. He’s always given us great races and this was one of them.”
Last To Fire will be racing in the Champion of Champions this year because of his victory in the Vessels Maturity. Over his career, the classy sprinter has also made the finals of the Golden State Million Futurity and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity plus the Los Alamitos Super Derby, Golden State Derby, Southern California Derby and Los Alamitos Winter Championship.
The next major race for older horses at the Orange County oval is the Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship on October 13.
“The Championship is a question right now,” De La Torre added. “The Champion of Champions is the main priority with this horse. We’ll have to think about the Championship. He can do it, but we have to decide what’s best for the horse. He made it look easy tonight, but these Grade 1 races do take a lot out of a horse. His time tonight was also about the same as his time in the Vessels Maturity. He has a ton of heart.”
Last To Fire won the Vessels Maturity in a time of :19.34.
The 8-year-old Rylees Boy finished fourth in the Bank of America California Championship in his last start, but trainer Paul Jones was confident that the veteran sprinter would come back with a strong effort.
“This horse is special,” Jones said. “When he runs one bad race people start forgetting about him, but then he always runs great in his next start. He’s 8-years-old and he just finished second in a Grade 1 against a lot of stars. Second place is pretty good considering that he got into tight quarters. All the outside horses were coming in on him and had him in tight quarters for a long time. Sparky E Boy ran incredible as well. He looked like he was beaten by over a length for second and then he made a big run to finish in a dead heat.
“The winner was just too tough tonight,” Jones continued. “There was no beating him. We were all running for second place, but it was a blanket finish for second.”
Rylees Boy and Sparky E Boy each earned $13,500 for running second. A son of Heza Motor Scooter, Rylees Boy has now bankrolled $1,412,339 in 47 career starts. Like Last To Fire, Rylees Boy also holds a berth to the prestigious Champion of Champions, which he won last year. Rylees Boy captured the automatic berth by winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship. The 6-year-old Hawkinson gelding Sparky E Boy has earned $335,924 in 33 career starts. The Utah homebred came into this race after running second to Jess Featureme Quick in the Bank of America regional stakes.
“One of these times we’ll get first in one of these races,” Pierson said. “It’s tough to lineup against this level of competition and pick up many wins. He ran so well. We’re proud to just be in this kind of a race, let alone where he finished.”
Check My Thoughts, who has competed in six graded stakes finals in his last nine starts, had the early lead before settling for fourth place.
“Check My Thoughts, Rylees Boy and Sparky E Boy were together at the end, but we got the worst head bob out of the three,” said James Glenn, Jr, who saddled Check My Thougths. “If he comes out in good shape from this race we’ll look to run in the Los Alamitos Championship.”
Eulices Gomez piloted the son of Check Him Out.
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