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February 17, 2012
A pair of veteran champion geldings from the Paul Jones barn, Noconi and Jess You And I, meet over 400 yards in an intriguing running of the $226,050 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) on Sunday, February 19, at Los Alamitos.
The winner of the Winter Championship receives the year’s first invitation to the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) in December.
R.D. Hubbard and Johnny T.L. Jones Jr.’s homebred Noconi (Mr Jess Perry-My Dashing Lady by Dash For Cash) has amassed his career earnings of $1,278,774 while competing primarily in New Mexico while the Double Bar S Ranch’s Jess You And I (Feature Mr Jess-Gold Daze by Tolltac) has earned $1,810,627 with 32 of his 36 career starts coming at Los Alamitos.
The two geldings have met one time, in the 2008 Champions of Champions, with Jess You And I gaining the win to secure the 2008 champion aged horse and champion aged gelding titles. The then 3-year-old Noconi finished fifth in his only start at Los Alamitos until he raced in the Winter Derby trials on January 29. He earned his starting spot in the 2008 Champion of Champions by winning that year’s All American Derby (G1) and was named the 2008 champion 3-year-old gelding.
Noconi made a stunning return to Los Alamitos in the Winter Derby trials when he won by three-quarters of a length. His time of :19.685 was the fastest time from the four very deep trials.
The winner of 14 of 31 career starts, Noconi won the Higheasterjet Handicap (G3) and the All American Gold Cup (G2) last summer at Ruidoso Downs before turning in a lackluster performance in the Zia Park Championship (G1).
Back in 2010, Noconi secured the champion aged gelding title when he reeled off four-straight stakes wins in the All American Gold Cup, Lovington Handicap (G2), Zia Park Championship (G1) and The Championship at Sunland Park (G1).
The venerable 8-year-old Jess You And I is in his final year of competition and has put together an illustrious career, with 19 wins – including eight Grade 1 wins – from 36 starts. He was a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, 5-year-old, 6-year-old and 7-year-old.
With his half-length win in his Winter Derby trial, Jess You And I showed he is still an elite Grade 1 horse this year. His time of :19.736 was the third-fastest qualifying time.
An earner of $1,590,406 at Los Alamitos, Jess You And I is competing in the Winter Championship for the fourth-straight year. He won the 2009 running and has finished in third place the last two years.
While Noconi and Jess You And I are proven champions, Senor Toby (Mighty Invictus-Micheles Alibi by Sir Alibi) makes his Grade 1 debut in the Winter Championship after winning each of his six starts last year and starting off this year with a half-length win in his Winter Championship trial with the second-fastest time of :19.710.
Owned by Brad Lohr and Daniel Reynoso, Senor Toby moved up the class ladder without a defeat last year. He won his maiden for trainer Jaime Gomez in July and then took a conditioned allowance race. He was then stepped up to the minor stakes ranks and reeled off four-straight wins.
Johnny Trotter’s homebred Dash Back Perry (Mr Jess Perry-Dash Back To Me by Dash For Cash) chases her fourth-straight win and third stakes win during this stretch. She defeated females in the Las Damas Handicap (G3) and the Charger Bar Handicap (G2). The Joe “Bear” Bassett-trained mare then defeated Southern California Derby (G1) winner El Aguila Real by a head in their Winter Championship trial with the fourth-fastest time of :19.740.
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