LARC NEWS Posted: 6/12/2023 2:44:55 AM


      Steve Holt and Jeff Jones’ AQHA World Champion Empressum returned to action with a scintillating victory on the way to posting the fastest qualifying time to the Grade 1, $150,000 Vessels Maturity on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

       Winning for the sixth time in his eight career starts at Los Alamitos, Empressum broke just behind the leaders in the 400-yard race before accelerating in a flash to take the lead and then powering away from his rivals to a length victory while under a hold. Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo for trainer Heath Taylor, Empressum covered the distance in :19.483 while impressing as usual with a final 110-yard time of :09.30. Led by Empressum, the aged horses with the 10 fastest will return here on Sunday, July 2 for the Vessels Maturity final. Bred by his owners, Empressum is the defending Vessels Maturity winner and by the looks of his trial effort, the World Champion will strictly the one to beat in the final.

        “You just never know with these horses,” Taylor said. “We gave him a pretty good vacation and he went back to Louisiana, the farm to swim and just get turned out and have some rest and be horse for a little while. I had some plans to maybe go to Remington (Park) and kind of changed them. I didn’t plan to come back (to Los Alamitos) this early and run in the Vessels, but this track was so good to him last year and certainly the goal is to have the horse the best we can in December.”

       Empressum, a 5-year-old gelding by Apollitical Jess out of the outstanding broodmare Crazy Down Corona, was making his first start since running second to Apollitical Pence in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship on February 19. Prior to that effort, he had won his Brad McKinzie trial after coming out on top in last year’s Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions.

      “I thought he might be a little bit short on works,” Taylor added. “He had one 220 official breeze. I thought he might be a little heavy so in this instance, having trials was probably a good thing. The last time I said I would never run (him) again in any trials, but with the layoff and the way we changed the plan, I thought he got away smooth and up on his feet. He didn’t leave in front by any means. I thought for where he was at in his training that he ran a good race and hope that’s what he needed to sharpen him up for the final. It’ll be a tough group in the final. We are tickled and proud that that one is out of the way and that he’s back and got one (race) under him.”

      Empressum’s lifetime record now reads 19 wins from 26 career starts and total earnings of $1,654,567. Ed Allred’s Up And Atem, winner of the Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap, finished second in this trial with Howard Nichols’ Jess Being A Friend running third.

      Taylor also saddled Bobby Cox’s Shott Gun, who won the opening trial in the second fastest qualifying time of :19.504. With Jose Nicasio up, Shott Gun dueled with Edward and Von Zae McNelis’ multiple stakes winner Scoops Dynasty right from the start before edging his rival by a nose. Shott Gun is now a perfect three for three at Los Alamitos this year. His previous wins came in the Moonist Stakes at 400 yards and the Kaweah Bar Stakes at 350 yards.

      “That horse ran a big race and lost a shoe leaving the gate,” Taylor said. “He ran with three shoes and without a front shoe. That’s tough on them. All the respect in the world for Scoops Dynasty and the job (trainer Monty Arrossa) has done with him. The photo could have gone either way with two really, really good horses. I’m really pleased with his effort. He’s cooling out fine. He’s in the test barn. I just went and checked on him. He just pulled it off. Luckily, they have a good, safe cushion here. You never want to lose it but the horse seems fine. We’ll have it tacked back on tomorrow. He may have lost a little bit of traction during the race but (Scoops Dynasty) went in a little. This race could have gone either way.”

       The complete list of qualifiers to the Vessels Maturity is as follows: Empressum (:19.483), Shott Gun (:19.504), Scoops Dynasty (:19.509), Up And Atem (:19.653), Jess Being A Friend (:19.665), London Toby (:19.698), Fortunate Corona (:19.784), Favorite Habit (:19.926), and Apollitical Famous V (:20.111).



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