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Q-Racing JournalJune 30, 2014
Reigning world champion Last To Fire started his Grade 1-winning run to his world title in last year’s Vessels Maturity and he defends his win in the Grade 1 stakes with a $163,300 purse on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.
Jesus Avila and Jesus Cueva’s Last To Fire (Walk Thru Fire-Last Shall Be First by Strawfly Special) will be trying to step forward after a second-place finish in his Vessels Maturity trial, his first out since taking the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) in December. The Sergio Fiscal-trained gelding made a late rush from the outside post position to get within a neck of Howard Nichols’ Jess Being Valiant (Valiant Hero-Jess Sass Me by Mr Jess Perry).
Jess Being Valiant has the second-fastest qualifying time of :19.736 for 400 yards while Last To Fire is the third-fastest qualifier at :19.783.
After Last To Fire won the 2013 $167,900 Vessels Maturity (G1) by a half length, he returned to win the $100,000 Go Man Go Handicap (G1) by a dominating 1 3/4 lengths before his $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) victory by 1 1/4 lengths.
Last To Fire won five of six starts last year and banked $515,209 to push his career earnings to $1,089,345. In addition to being named world champion, he was the champion aged horse and champion aged gelding.
Jess Being Valiant showed his Grade 1 credentials last fall when he was second by a neck in the $232,900 Golden State Derby (G1) behind Vessels Maturity fastest-qualifier Far Niente (FDD Dynasty-Shahayla by Chicks Beduino). Earlier this season, Jess Being Valiant won the $25,000 A Ransom Handicap and his Winter Championship trial.
Atwood Ranches and Vessels Stallion Farms’ Far Niente impressed when he won his trial by three quarters of a length with the quickest time of :19.684. It was his first out since finishing fourth in the $168,500 PCQHRA Breeders Derby (G3) as the 4-5 favorite back in October.
Far Niente, trained by Jose Hernandez Jr., earned his odds-on favoritism in the Breeders Derby on the strength of a three-race winning streak that included a neck win in the $232,900 Golden State Derby (G1).
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