LARC NEWS Posted: 11/13/2023 12:13:18 AM


     The field to the 51st running of the Grade1, $750,000 Champion of Champions is set after Regina Laymon’s Hooked N Gone, Valeriano Racing’s Flash Bak, and Dunn Ranch’s Take A Swig Of This earned the final three presumptive berths available in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

          Hooked N Gone (photo) was the big winner of the night, as the 3-year-old gelding by PYC Paint Your Wagon upset the field to win the $20,000 Z. Wayne Griffin at odds of 14-1. Ridden by Justine Klaiber for trainer Eddie Willis, Hooked N Gone won this race by a head over Go Man Go Handicap winner Scoops Dynasty. Starting from post number four, Hooked N Gone broke sharply, took the lead past the gap and from there held off the always outstanding Scoops Dynasty while posting a time of :19.631 in the 400-yard race.

Meanwhile, Ed and Von Zae McNelis’ Scoops Dynasty used this race as a prep for the Champion of Champions as he had previously received a spot in the Champion of Champions with his victory in the Go Man Go on August 27. On that night, Scoops Dynasty outdueled 2022 AQHA World Champion Empressum, who is the defending Champion of Champions winner, to get the berth that had previously gone to the late 2021 AQHA World Champion Danjer.

          Since Scoops Dynasty already had a berth, Flash Bak and Take A Swig Of This, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Z. Wayne Griffin picked up the final two berths. Here are the 10 horses with presumptive berths to the 440-yard Champion of Champions to be held on Saturday, December 9:

  • Apollitical Pence - Winner of the Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship
  • Empressum - Winner of the Vessels Maturity and Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship
  • Whiskey Creek - Winner of the All American Derby
  • Scoops Dynasty - Winner of the Go Man Go Handicap
  • Toxic Relationship - Winner of the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap
  • A Tres Of Eagle - Winner of the Bank of America Challenge Championship
  • Jeriko - Winner of the Los Alamitos Super Derby
  • Hooked N Gone – Winner of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
  • Flash Bak – Qualified via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial
  • Take A Swig Of This – Qualified via the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial  

Eddie Willis was all smiles after the running of the Z. Wayne after finally saddling the 3-year-old gelding Hooked N Gone to a victory. The Oklahoma-bred runner had four previous victories on his resume, but two of those came with trainer Jerry Livingston during the early part of his 2-year-old campaign and his two other wins came earlier this year at Remington Park with trainer Victor Ibarra.

Willis campaigned Hooked N Gone at Ruidoso Downs in the summer of 2022 before Ibarra campaigned him at Remington Park. Willis returned to training the talented runner at Ruidoso Downs this year with a lot of success. Running second in his trials, Hooked N Gone qualified to both the Grade 1 All American Derby and the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby. He was third to Whiskey Creek in the All American Derby.

“He won finally for me,” Willis said. “It’s the first race we’ve won together but he’s made a lot of money. I known (Regina) for a long time and I’ve trained a couple for her during the last couple of years. She’s a real good lady and raised this horse. He’s her baby. If he runs that kind of race, he’ll be in front (in the Champion of Champions). He can run the distance and he only got beat by a little bit in the All American Derby. He’s just a really good horse.”

“He left really good,” Klaiber said. “He stayed on top of the ground and just kept getting faster.”

Willis and Klaiber teamed up to win the Golden State Million Futurity with Apollitical Gold here in 2020. A chance to win the Champion of Champions is next for their team. Klaiber will look to join Tami Purcell as the only women jockeys to win the Champion of Champions. Purcell’s victory came aboard Dashing Folly in 1996.

Flash Bak arrived at Los Alamitos after defeating KJ Desperado, Quarter Horse racing’s all-time leader in earnings, in the Grade 1 $350,000 Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship on October 15. Bred by Jim Streelman and Bill Dale, Flash Bak has enjoyed much success at Los Alamitos. In 2021, the gelding by Moonin The Eagle won the (G1) Los Alamitos Super Derby, (G1) Los Alamitos Winter, and finished second to Apollitical Pence in the Champion of Champions. He was also second to Apollitical Patty in the 2020 (G1) Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. Francisco Calderon was aboard Flash Bak in the Z. Wayne for trainer Heath Taylor.

Take A Swig Of This will join stablemate Apollitical Pence in the Champion of Champions field. The Texas-bred gelding by A Revenant dominated the Winter Derby by two lengths and then took the (G2) Heritage Place Derby by a half-length at Remington Park. He took the summer off and returned with a fifth-place finish in his Super Derby trial before posting this solid effort to earn his Champion of Champions berth. Eduardo Nicasio piloted him for trainer Monty Arrossa.

     Here’s the order of finish in the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial: Hooked N Gone, Scoops Dynasty, Flash Bak, Take A Swig Of This, Shott Gun, One Sweet Boss, and Cattail Cove.


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