LARC NEWS Posted: 10/8/2023 2:19:42 AM


     Steve Holt and Jeff Jones' Empressum took a big step towards successful defending his AQHA World Champion title after defeating two-time Champion of Champions winner Apollitical Pence by 3/4 lengths in the Grade 1, $125,000 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship at 440 yards here on Saturday night.

Ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo for trainer Heath Taylor, Empressum posted in his third graded stakes in of the year, as he added the Los Alamitos Invitational to wins in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity and the Grade 2 Bank of America California Championship Challenge at 440 yards. Add to those wins his runner-up efforst in the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap and Empressum has built a 2023 resume good enough to challenge for a repead of the AQHA World Champion title.

This race was also round 4 of the rivalry between Empressum and Apollitical Pence and with Empressum's victory the series is now tied at two wins each. Empressum also defeated Apollitical Pence in last year's Champion of Champions, while Apollitical Pence got the best of him in last year's Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and in the Brad McKinzie earlier this year. Empressum covered the distance in :21.257 from post number one. Bred by his owners, the Oklahoma-bred son of Apollitical Jess also improved his career record to 22 wins from 30 starts. Just for this year, he has won five of seven starts.

Empressum earned $68,750 for the win to take his career earnings to $1,834,294. With this victory, Empressum has now won eight Grade 1 stakes races in his career and this win represents his eighth victory at the classic 440-yard distance. He’s also won a total of 10 graded stakes events.

Empressum’s victory in this race coupled with his win in the Vessels Maturity earlier this year means that there will be an extra berth to the Champion of Champions offered in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. As it stands right now, horses with presumptive berths to this year’s Champion of Champions are Empressum, Apollitical Pence, Whiskey Creek, Toxic Relationship, and Scoops Dynasty. There will be presumptive berths up for grabs in the Grade 1 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Lone Star Park on October 21 and in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby next month. As it stands right now, the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 14 will offer the remaining three berths.

Leaving the gate from post number three, Dunn Ranch’s   Apollitical Pence had the lead on Empressum at the midway point of this race but was not able to outfinish his rival in the final 100 yards. Ridden by Armando Cervantes for trainer Monty Arrossa, Apollitical Pence earned $28,125 for the win to take his career earnings to $1,848,739. A winner in 20 of 39 career starts, Apollitical Pence has finished in the top three in 33 of those outings. Since winning his first of two Champion of Champions back in 2020, Apollitical Pence has won 12 of his last 17 starts.  

Rosenthal Ranch’s Bomb Cyclone, who making his first local starts since last year’s Champion of Champions, earned $15,625 for running third. Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for trainer Chris O’Dell, the son of Favorite Cartel has earned $1,446,063 in his 14-race career. London Toby, Hooked On Gone, and Stuck In Probate completed the field.


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