LARC NEWS Posted: 8/29/2022 4:04:20 AM


              It was another masterful performance by Jeff Jones and Steve Holt’s Empressum in the running of the Grade 1, $100,000 Go Man Go Handicap, as the gelding by Apollitical Jess dominated from gate to wire on the way to an imposing 2 ½ length victory on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

                Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo and trained by Heath Taylor, Empressum’s latest tour de force may have been his best race yet at Los Alamitos, as he defeated a field that included 2021 Los Alamitos Super Derby winner Flash Bak and five other stakes winners while posting the meet’s fastest 400-yard time of 19.312. In doing so, Empressum also posted the second fastest time ever in the 62-year history of the Go Man Go, only behind Jess You And I’s :19.29 in 2009. Empressum’s powerful finish was even more impressive, as he covered the final 220 yards in :09.19, the fastest closing time in a 400-yard race at Los Alamitos since his sire, Apollitical Jess, covered the final 1/8th in :09.16 when winning the 2010 Los Alamitos Super Derby.

                Bred by his owners, Empressum has traveled faster in each subsequent start at Los Alamitos. His local debut was a dazzling display, as he won his 400-yard trial to the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity in :19.44 with a closing time of :09.23, which was the fastest here since July of 2011. Empressum returned in the final with an even more astonishing victory, as he crossed the finish line in a time of :19.32 with a final fraction of :09.21. His gem of a race in the Go Man Go toppled both of those time figures, this time without ever being asked by jockey Sigala Vallejo.   

                “He broke a little bit to the outside, but that’s normal with these horses,” Sigala Vallejo said. “Depending on where their head is pointing to, that’s where they’ll come out. He’s very professional. He always runs his race. There was no need (to ask him for more). He was already winning comfortably and running his race. I didn’t want to bother him. He’s just so professional in everything. He gives you what he is and he’s one of the best.”

               Three races, three incredible victories at Los Alamitos for this Oklahoma-bred out of the First Down Dash mare Crazy Down Corona.  

           “He really just got away from there clean and on his feet,” Taylor added. “Once he gets going and accelerates, the farther he goes the faster he gets. He’s really a wonderful horse.”

           Empressum is one of three horses to have already been invited to the $750,000 Champion of Champions to be held here on Saturday, December 10. The other two are AQHA World Champion Danjer and two-time defending Champion of Champions winner Apollitical Pence. So far in his California starts, Empressum has proved that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the 440-yard Champion of Champions.

            “The main thing is to keep the horse healthy and happy and not over do it,” said Taylor about preparing Empressum for the Go Man Go. “We ponied him some, galloped him some. There was just enough time frame that he needed a bit of a sharpener. We gave him a 220 breeze about 21 days ago just to keep him sharp. He was starting to get a little bit too high, a bit too aggressive but other than that, just a lot of eyes and a lot of ‘TLC’ and keep him happy. He’s been an exceptionally sound horse. We chose to run in this race instead of the (All American) Gold Cup in Ruidoso. We really made a commitment to Los Alamitos this year. The entire goal is to have the horse peaking on December 10. There might be spots where we potentially might leave a little money on the table. (Ruidoso management) added $50,000 to (next week’s) All American Gold Cup as an incentive to try to get some others to come. Anytime they can raise the purses for horsemen that’s a great thing, but we were not tempted to leave because the horse is going to have to come back. He can walk 600 yards from his stall to run in the Go Man Go.”

           Empressum has now won 16 of 21 career starts and his earnings of $49,000 in the Go Man Go take his lifetime earnings to $1,218,779. His connections are now looking at the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship on October 8 as his next race.

        “The only other (race) to consider is in Albuquerque, as there is a really nice race there with a $300,000 race for older horses,” Taylor added. “You don’t get that many opportunities, but it might be too close to the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship.

         “We were going to run in the Bank of America California Challenge Championship. I was going to do that instead of working the horse, however - even though the Challenge Championship has a lot of luster and prestige - you are talking about requiring to go all the way to Indiana and then come back. As great as the (Bank of America California) race was, it just didn’t fit with the goal of the horse, which is to try to have him ready for the Champion of Champions. I imagine that every decision (to be made) would be based on December 10. One thing I learned about this horse last year and a couple of times this year is that he puts a lot work into this horse. You can get this horse ready just fresh and off a layoff for the first race – he doesn’t need to practice - and he doesn’t need two or three races because the Champion of Champions is at 440 yards.”

         Taylor is looking forward to the opportunity of saddling Empressum to face Danjer and Apollitical Pence in the Champion of Champions.

         “I think it’s tremendous for racing,” he said. “They are all very talented horses. Hats off to them, tremendous respect and I wouldn’t even try to compare the horses. Anybody would be very grateful to have any of them.

        “We need star power in Quarter Horse racing and these horses can provide it. When you have Apollitical Pence going for three Champion of Champions in a row to potentially tie Refrigerator, who is an icon here; and you have Danjer, who has been invincible for the most part, looks great at 440 yards, and is the World Champion; and this horse (Empressum), who has obviously run well and held his own, it’s going to be a great race. There will be many more (Champion of Champions contenders) coming down the lane. The Champion of Champions has always been an iconic and prestigious race. The extra $150,000 this year to make it $750,000 as opposed to $600,000, and this being it’s 50th running, the golden running, figure all those factors together and this has the makings of a Champion of Champions from yesteryear, the heyday, where one through 10 were legitimate Grade 1 horses and you just didn’t know what was going to happen until you push that button.”

        Owned by Valeriano Racing Stable and trained by Jaime Gomez, Flash Bak earned $21,000 for his runner-up effort here. Oscar Peinado piloted the Moonin the Eagle gelding. Ed Allred’s Circle City earned $10,500 for his third-place finish with Jesus Rios Ayala up for trainer Scott Willoughby. Up And Atem, Monopolist, Cattail Cove, and Mister Tornado completed the field.


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