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Champion of Champions - Empressum on the way to victory

Champion of Champions - Empressum on the way to victory



To be held for the 51ST time in its history, the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions at 440 yards will bring together one of the greatest collections of Quarter Horses to face off in 2023. The superstars and storylines in this year’s running are outstanding:

Reigning AQHA World Champion Empressum, owned and bred by Steve Holt and Jess Jones, will look to strengthen his case for a second consecutive world title with a repeat victory in the Champion of Champions. Empressum’s 2023 resume already features wins in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity, Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship, and the Bank of America Los Alamitos Challenge Championship. Empressum will also look to become the sixth horse to win multiple Champion of Champions runnings.

Empressum’s most familiar rival in two-time winner Apollitical Pence, as they’ve faced off four previous times. The two superstars have split those two meetings, Empressum winning the Champion of Champions and this year’s Los Alamitos Championship, while Apollitical Pence won last year’s Los Alamitos Championship and this year’s Brad McKinzie. 

After becoming the first back-to-back winner in the Champion of Champions since SLM Big Daddy in 1998-98, Dunn Ranch’s Apollitical Pence will look to become only the second three-time winner of the Champion of Champions. He’ll hope to join the legendary Refrigerator in this most exclusive of clubs. He’ll also be making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Champion of Champions.

Bobby Cox will be represented by two Grade 1 winning standouts in the Champion of Champions in Jeriko and Shott Gun. For Cox, who is one of Quarter Horse racing’s all-time leading owners and breeders, Jeriko and Shott Gun are his second and third starters ever in the Champion of Champions. This is the first time that Cox will have horses in this great race since 1992.

All American Derby winner Whiskey Creek will look to become the first horse since See Me Do It in 1989 to win the All American and the Champion of Champions in the same year. The last All American Derby winner to win the Champion of Champions is Dash For Speed, who won the All American in 1988 and the Champion of Champions in 1990.

Ed and Von Zae McNelis’ Scoops Dynasty has been iron tough this entire year. He’s knocked heads with Empressum and Apollitical Pence in stakes race after stakes race. He got the best of Empressum in the Go Man Go Handicap and will now look for his 6th stakes win at Los Alamitos.

Valeriano Racing’s Flash Bak finished second to Apollitical Pence in the 2021 Champion of Champions and will now look to get to highest step on the podium two years later. Only one horse in Champion of Champions history, Sgt Pepper Feature, ran second in this race before eventually winning the Champion of Champions. 

Take A Swig Of This, winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby, Tres of Eagle, who arrives via Lone Star after winning the Bank of America Challenge Championship, and Hooked N Gone, third in the All American and winner of the Z. Wayne Griffin, will complete the field. 

The Champion of Champions will be held on Saturday, December 9. The next night on Sunday, December 10, Los Alamitos will host California’s richest race, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.


The Champion of Champions was first contested at Los Alamitos in 1972 when Mr Jet Moore edged champions Kaweah Bar and Charger Bar. Since then, 29 of its winners have been crowned World Champion by the AQHA, including Empressum. He Looks Hot, Heza Dasha Fire. Easy Date, Dash For Cash, Refrigerator, SLM Big Daddy, Tailor Fit and Blues Girl Too are among the World Champions that have won the sport's most prestigious race for older horses.

For more on the Champion of Champions please visit the updated Los Alamitos Stakes book at or call 714-820-2788.