On the last day of May, two trials were held to the prestigious $150,000 Vessels Maturity. The pair of races appeared to be highly contentious affairs on paper and they ended up as such on the racetrack. Both trials resulted in blanket finishes and had to be decided by a close examination of the photo. Two such horses involved in these photos were A Regal Choice Inc.'s Fly Bar Special and Royaltys Choice. Although they finished fourth and sixth respectively, neither horse was beaten by more than three quarters of a length. More importantly, the powerful efforts they delivered on trial night earned them the right to compete in the Friday, June 20th final.
A daughter of the classy distaffer Five Bar Molly, Fly Bar Special has begun to follow in her mother's footsteps of late. Five Bar Molly, who performed exceptionally well last year at the age of nine, won the Miss Princess Handicap and used a victory in the Vessels Maturity at odds of 13-1 to gain entrance into the storied Champion of Champions in mid-December. Consequently, Francisco Flores of A Regal Choice Inc. has taken a similar path this year with Fly Bar Special. "We've had basically the same strategy with her daughter," said Francisco. "Fly Bar Special was a nice two-year-old, but she's been really good here at five. We finally chose to retire her mom. Five Bar Molly is here at our ranch at home and doing great. We took two embryos out of her this past season. One went to A Regal Choice and the other to Corona Cartel."
Fly Bar Special, who easily defeated allowance foes by a length in mid-March and come home powerfully to win by length, has really been on top of her game in 2008. In February, she qualified to the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Championship and ran a strong second two outs ago in the Miss Princess Handicap behind Clydette Mia. Most recently, Fly Bar Special broke outstanding in the trials to the Vessels Maturity, but faded to fourth late in the race and was defeated by a half a length. "She broke as quickly as she ever has in the trials," added Flores. "She was on or close to the lead until right before the wire. We're hoping for a strong race in the finals. After that she'll probably get a break and face fillies again in the Mildred Vessels Handicap in late September."
A Regal Choice Inc.'s other finalist is Royaltys Choice, a regally-bred son of First Down Dash. Out of the brilliant broodmare Harems Choice, Royaltys Choice is a full-brother to two successful stallions in Royal Quick Dash and A Regal Choice. Royal Quick Dash won five races at two, including the Grade I All American Futurity, and amassed an impressive $1,046,980 in earnings. His younger brother A Regal Choice captured the 2003 edition of the Los Alamitos Million Futurity and earned over $700,000 lifetime. Given the colt's exceptional pedigree, he wasn't going to be let go for a paltry sum at auction. A Regal Choice Inc. had to shell out a whopping $285,000 for the right to lead Royaltys Choice out of the sale ring at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale in 2004.
Although the blue-blooded Royaltys Choice was one of the highest-regarded two-year-olds in the nation the following year, he was never able to perform to his fullest potential due to a number of soundness issues. "He had bad suspensories and a lot of hoof problems," said Francisco. "At the time he was being trained by Paul Jones and we both really liked him, but he had so many physical problems that he just wasn't able to compete at the level that we thought he was capable of."
Trainer Paul Jones chose to give the gorgeous gray the rest of the year off and bring him back at age three. "He came back and won his first start the next year, but he still wasn't quite over it yet," added Flores. "His problems resurfaced, so we gave him the rest of the year and all of 2007 off to recuperate." Just as he had before, Royaltys Choice ran a spectacular race off of the layoff, for new training connections. On March 8, 2008, he broke sharply and romped home by nearly two lengths over allowance company, earning a 94 speed index for the victory.
In his next start, he was entered in a 300-yard allowance race against a dynamite group of older horses that included the eight-time winner Cash On Corona. "He didn't break well that night, but mostly the race was just too short for him," said Francisco. "He finished fifth. We probably shouldn't have run him back so short after such a lengthy layoff."
In the trials to the Grade I Vessels Maturity, Royaltys Choice broke well and raced close to the lead for most of the race, but began to fade a bit before the wire. Nonetheless, he finished a strong sixth, only beaten three-quarters of a length by Superstar Dash. "He was right with them until 350 yards," said Flores. "I think he just ran out of gas at the end. He should really improve off of this race though. I like both of my horses chances."
In years past, A Regal Choice Inc. has campaigned runners like So Significant, who won the 2004 La Primera Del Ano Derby, and the sire A Regal Choice. Now a seven-year-old stallion, captured the 2003 Los Alamitos Million Futurity and qualified to the Champion of Champions a year later.