Nellie Delaney Vies Veterans in Winter Championship

Grade 1 winner Nellie Delaney faces veteran stars in Los Al's Winter Championship.

Q-Racing Journal
February 12, 2014

Nancy Yearsley and J. Garvan Kelly’s homebred 4-year-old Nellie Delaney faces a couple of battle-tested 9-year-olds – Rylees Boy and Vodka With Ice – when she tries for her fourth consecutive win in the $156,250 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) on Sunday night at Los Alamitos.

The winner of the 400-yard Winter Championship receives the first invitation to the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) in December. The Winter Championship allows the winning horse’s connections the luxury of pointing to the 440-yard Champion of Champions (G1) for 10 months.

Nellie Delaney (FDD Dynasty-Fleeting Touch by Tres Seis) rides a three-race winning streak in her first major test in the older horse division. She already has a Grade 1 victory after finishing in a dead heat for the win with Jabuti Eagle SA in the $160,850 Southern California Derby.

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The Juan Aleman-trained mare has excelled in trials during her current winning streak. She set the fastest qualifying mark to the Southern California Derby and then won the second of two Winter Championship trials in :19.564 for the top time.

While Nellie Delaney is new to the older horse division, Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez’s champion Rylees Boy (Heza Motor Scooter-Pipistrelle by Rocky Jones) and Gerardo Prado’s Vodka With Ice (Stoli-Hips So Fine by Extra Easy) fall into the been-there/done-that category. The two veterans combined have 100 starts, 35 wins, 20 seconds and 13 thirds with earnings of $1,896,597, and together have 16 stakes wins.

Rylees Boy finished second by a head to Nellie Delaney in their trial. However, with only 14 horses in the trials, it could well be a throw-out race. The second-place finish is  guaranteed a spot in the Winter Championship.

Both Rylees Boy and Vodka With Ice have blossomed with age.

Rylees Boy was the 2011 and 2012 champion aged gelding and the 2012 champion aged horse. In 2011, he won the $117,000 Bank of America Sunland Park Challenge (G2) and the $250,000 Remington Park Championship (G1). He stepped up the next year to secure his championships with season-ending wins in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) and the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1).

The Paul Jones-trained gelding won last year’s Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1). He then tried to defend his Champion of Champions title, where he ran second behind eventual 2013 world champion Last To Fire.

Vodka With Ice may be in career-best form for trainer Pablo Rabasa Jr. He won the $70,000 Bank of America Emerald Downs Challenge back in September and then thrived when he moved to Los Alamitos for the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). After a third-place run as the 17-10 favorite in the $30,000 Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap, he stepped up at 17-1 odds to surprise in the Bank of America Challenge Championship by defeating 2011 world champion Cold Cash 123 by a neck.

The gelding was then a lackluster sixth in the Champion of Champions before taking his Winter Championship trial by a neck over Rosa Barboza’s Grade 1-winner Remembering Spence (TR Dasher-Sables Bono by Bono Jazz). Vodka With Ice has the third-fastest time of :19.654 while Remembering Spence stopped the timer in :19.699.

Remembering Spence won four-straight races last year, highlighted by a nose win in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby (G1) and the $25,000 Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap. The Aleman-trained gelding then qualified for the Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1).

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