ALL SET FOR 48TH RUNNING OF CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS ON SATURDAY NIGHT
A rematch between two-time Grade 1 winner Chocolatito and 2016 Champion of Champions winner Zoomin For Spuds plus the return to California of three-time Grade 1 winner Dexxter and the final start before going to stud of the standout colt Tell Cartel are among the highlights of the 48th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions on Saturday at Los Alamitos.
An outstanding field of 10 will be in action in the 440-yard race regarded as the sport’s most prestigious event for 3-year-olds and up racing Quarter Horses.
Chocolatito will look to give owner Ed Allred and trainer Scott Willoughby their second straight win in this race after He Looks Hot won last year. The gelding by Favorite Cartel comes in after a hard-fought nose victory in the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship at 440 yards on October 11. Chocolatito also won the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity at 400 yards and the Kaweah Bar Handicap on May 2 to kick-off his 2020 campaign. Willoughby, meanwhile, is on his way to winning his first Quarter Horse training title at Los Alamitos. He has saddled 53 winners during the meet, 10 more than his closest pursuer, trainer Jaime Gomez. Oscar Andrade Jr., will ride Chocolatito from post number five. Walker Family Trust’s Zoomin For Spuds will look to become the third 7-year-old to win the Champion of Champions after Rylees Boy in 2012 and He Looks Hot last year. He will start from post three.
Zoomin For Spuds will be making a record tying fifth start in the Champion of Champions while looking to join Tailor Fit as the only horses to win this race twice but in non-consecutive years. Tailor Fit scored his wins in 1999 and then 2001, while Zoomin For Spuds won this year four years ago during his sophomore campaign. The Monty Arrossa-trainee comes in after winning a division to the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials. He also won the Catchmeinyourdreams Handicap after making 2020 debut with a solid third place finish in the Go Man Go Handicap on August 30. Jose Nicasio gets the return call.
Dunn Ranch and Valeriano Racing Stables’ Dexxter was the Horse of the Meeting at Remington Park this year after back-to-back Grade 1 victories. He won the Leo Stakes by a half-length over champion Apocalyptical Jess and then came back to win the Debbie Schauf Remington Park Invitational Championship over a field that included 2019 Champion of Champions runner-up Mi Amor Secreto. He then traveled to Ruidoso Downs to win the Grade 1 All American Gold Cup and arrives here after a second place finish in the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap. Dexxter is no stranger to Los Alamitos, as he was a multiple Grade 1 finalist at the Orange County track in 2018-19. He ran in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity here two years ago and in the Los Alamitos Super Derby last year.
Powerful Favorite and Tell Cartel, both by leading stallion Favorite Cartel, come into this race after Grade 1 victories. Owned by 2019 AQHA champion owners Rosenthal Ranch, Powerful Favorite has not raced since beating a field that included Chocolatito and Zoomin For Spuds in the Go Man Go. Rested since that race, Powerful Favorite is the 3-1 morning line favorite and will start from post number eight with three-time Champion of Champions winning jockey Eduardo Nicasio up. Chris O’Dell, last year’s AQHA champion trainer, will saddle Powerful Favorite. Martha Wells’ homebred Tell Cartel will make the final start of his career in the Champion of Champions. A three-time derby winner at Los Alamitos this year, Tell Cartel will head to Fales Ranch in Arizona to begin stallion duty after this race. Ruben Lozano, who piloted Tell Cartel to wins in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby and the El Primero Del Año Derby returns to ride the colt in the Champion of Champions from post nine.
Michael Pohl and Martin Stacy’s Curls Happy Wagon is a perfect two-for-two at Los Alamitos after winning the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap and then gutting out a victory in the Grade 2 Las Damas Handicap on November 21. The 5-year-old mare by PYC Paint Your Wagon will look to become the first female runner to win this race since World Champion Blues Girl Too in 2007. The last older mare to win this race is World Champion Dash For Speed in 1990. Armando Cervantes will ride Curls Happy Wagon from post one for trainer Juan Aleman.
Dee and Gary Hoovestal’s Bos Time Machine got his ticket to the Champion of Champions at the start of the year by winning the Brad McKinzide Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February. He has been campaigned sparingly since then, running second in the Catchmeinyourdreams and then getting a good prep in a division to the Z. Wayne Griffin three weeks ago. Paul Jones, who has won this race five times will saddle the son of Bodacious Dash. Carlos Huerta will be up from post four.
In addition to Zoomin For Spuds, Apollitical Pence, Eagle Coast and Hotsempting also qualified to the Champion of Champios via the Z. Wayne Griffin trials. Ricardo Ramirez’s Eagle Coast won the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs last year, while Mauricio and Miguel Gallegos’ Hotsempting won the Ruidoso Derby this year. She’s the only 3-year-old filly in this race and as previously mentioned one has to go back to 2007 to find the last sophomore filly to win this race. Ramon Sanchez will pilot the daughter of Tempting Dash.As for the Valentin Zamudio-trained Eagle Coast, his achievements also include winning the Hobbs America Futurity in 2018.
The previously mentioned nine Champion of Champions starters are all Grade 1 winners. Grade 3 winner Apollitical Pence, who is also owned by Dunn Ranch and Valeriano Racing, is the only one yet to score a Grade 1. The son of Apollitical Jess is the third richest horse in this race with earnings of $717,391 and a slew of Grade 1 appearances that include a third in last year’s Super Derby. Cooper trains the gelding, who will be ridden by Raul Valenzuela from post six.