JERIKO OUTDUELS SICARIO V TO WIN GRADE 1 LOS ALAMITOS SUPER DERBY
AQHA Hall of Fame owner and breeder Bobby Cox will have a starter in the prestigious Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions on December 9 after his homebred Jeriko was sensational in the second half of the Grade 1, $935,650 Los Alamitos Super Derby to win the 400-yard race by a half-length over Sicario V here on Sunday night.
With his victory in the Super Derby, Jeriko earns a provisional berth to the 51st running of the Champion of Champions, where he’ll face the likes of AQHA World Champion Empressum, the winner of last year’s Champion of Champions, two-time Champion of Champions winner Apollitical Pence, plus Grade 1 winners Whiskey Creek, Scoops Dynasty, Tres of Eagle, Toxic Relationship plus three others to be decided in next Sunday’s Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials.
In the process of winning the Los Alamitos Super Derby, Jeriko earned $379,533 to take his career earnings to $809,179. That figure makes Jeriko the richest horse ever owned by Cox, who is a two-time AQHA champion owner and a three-time AQHA champion breeder. Ridden by Jose Nicasio from post number six for trainer Heath Taylor, Jeriko did not have the fastest of starts. Instead, he was seventh out of the gate but soon after he began his winning surge. He was fifth by the midway point and with about 100 yards left in the race, Jeriko took command and got the job done by holding off Valeriano Racing Stables’ Sicario V with JGA Racing Stables’ Party Politics completing the top three finishers. Sired by One Famous Eagle and out of the Shazoom mare Signs Zoomer, Jeriko scored his seventh win in 11 career starters with five of those victories coming at Los Alamitos. The sport’s newest Grade 1 stakes winner covered the distance in :19.609.
Cox, who is one of the Quarter Horse industry’s all-time leading breeders, was not able to attend the Super Derby at Los Alamitos. Instead, he attended a more important event back home in Peaster, Texas, as his Cox Ranch held a Celebration of Life in Honor of Patricia Melson, wife of longtime Cox Ranch general manager Bill Melson.
“I want to dedicate this race to Mr. Bill Melson and his wife Patricia, who passed away (on October 11),” Taylor said. “(Bill) has dedicated probably 40-50 years to Cox Ranch. This (win) is for the Cox Ranch team. They recouped this horse all year after surgery, and he had a rough winter. Juan Vazquez got this horse up. He’s a big part of this team and did a good job. I asked Bobby for this horse and I said ‘I think I can win a million dollar race with this horse.’ I was lucky enough that they had the confidence to send the horse back. Bill is a guy who helps Bobby breed all the mares, foal the mares, and picks the stallions. They had her celebration of life today at Cox Ranch. That’s why Bobby couldn’t come so I want to dedicate this to them.”
With Melson’s at his side, Cox has bred and campaigned a long list of stars in Quarter Horse racing. His homebreds include Grade 1 All American Derby winners Brimmerton and Dont Let Down, Grade 1 Heritage Place Futurity winner Shott Gun, who is currently stabled at Los Alamitos, and Grade 1 winners All About Ease, Zooming With Ease, and Jess Genuine just to mention a few.
Jeriko now sits at the top of this list in terms of earnings.
“Obviously, this horse has a lot of talent,” Taylor added. “Jeriko ran second last year in the Two Million and he got beat by a great horse. He just walked out of the gate and had to circle behind horses and still ran second. We really thought the horse had that kind of ability. He’s a small horse. He’s light in stature but the horse just loves distance. He really, really wants the 440 a lot more than he does the 400. We took the flipping halter off and changed the blinkers. He seems like he’s more settled in the gate. I thought he ran really good race.”
Jeriko’s potential at 440 yards will make him one to watch for the Champion of Champions, which is held at the classic quarter mile distance. Taylor is confident that Jeriko will be a horse to contend with on December 9.
“(Jeriko) if he doesn’t have to run trials, then final, you can really set this horse up and we can get him big, healthy and strong and he won’t have to do anything, he’ll really like the 440,” Taylor said. “Sometimes these 3-year-olds start peaking this time of the year. It’s tough for them, it’s tough. If the horse is healthy, he’ll definitely run in the race. I’m really excited about this horse, if he stays healthy, at 4 and 5, especially in the 440 races with no trials. Hopefully he’ll come back healthy, and we can get him in the gate for the Champion of Champions and he’ll have to run the race of his life, but stranger things have happened.
“I think when you have these bigger older horses – like they say in wrestling – to be the man, you have to beat the man.’ Until someone beats those three big older horses, Empressum, Apollitical Pence and Scoops Dynasty, they look awful daunting,” Taylor added.
Winning rider Jose Nicasio, who piloted Jeriko in the Two Million, was thrilled to win the Los Alamitos Super Derby for the first time.
“I had finished second twice before,” Nicasio said. “Jeriko broke a bit late. He’s a good horse. I had not been on him since the Los Alamitos Two Million. He’s a horse who is not the fastest leaving the gate, but we know that if there are no disruptions that he has a good chance to win the race. I had a little thorn that was left in me when we finished second in the Two Million but thank God that we are here winning this great race. I felt (Ghost Witha Fire) broke easily ahead of us. I felt we had a lot competition but then I started feeling that (Jeriko) was responding. I knew I had a great horse for the end.”
Taylor also saddled Sicario V, who ran a dazzling race from post number one and came just short of winning his second Grade 1 derby of the year. Ridden by Francisco Calderon, the Rainbow Derby winner earned $153,620 for his runner-up effort to go over the $1 million mark in career earnings. Bred by Ed Allred, the son of Favorite Cartel out of Nymph took his career earnings to $1,051,398. He’s finished first or second in 10 of his 14 career starts.
“Francisco Calderon, who ran second with Sicario V, said he ran super,” Taylor said, “He was on the inside by himself and got away great and ran better than in his trial. He thought he ran his race. Of course, he won the Rainbow and was the favorite in this All American Derby. We had a little bit of bad luck with Hes Judgeandjury. (Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo) said he was standing perfect. Vallejo took of Jeriko to ride Hes Judgeandjury, that’s how good he was training. He said he stepped back right when they kicked it and he slipped. He lost all chance at the start and just didn’t get away. Very pleased, very blessed and just tickled with Jeriko’s effort. I’m really glad about the team behind (Jeriko) that people don’t really get to hear about. “
With Jesus Rios Ayala up for trainer Juan Aleman, Party Politics ran a solid race throughout in route to earning $108,438 for his third-place finish. Bred by J. Garvan Kelly, the gelding by Apollitical Jess had previously won the Grade 2 Golden State Derby this year and the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity and Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity last year.
Gentry Farms’ Fearless Moon, one of two fillies in this race, crossed the wire in fourth place. Ghost Witha Fire and Hes Chickless ran fifth and sixth, respectively, while Navaja, the other filly in his event, was seventh. Future Version and Hes Judgeandjury completed the field. Apocalipsis V, the fastest qualifier on trial night, was scratched earlier on Sunday afternoon.