Q-Racing Blog: The Great Race

Q-Racing Blog: The Great Race

In its 49 year history, the Champion of Champions has had a profound influence on Quarter Horse racing.

Dash For Cash (Credit: Journal file photo)

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By Ty Wyant

The Champion of Champions was an innovative idea that has exceeded all expectations since the first running back in 1972. If a 3-year-old or older horse is a contender for world championship honors, then a Champion of Champions victory becomes a bright star on the horse’s resume.

Great races always provide performances that are etched in your memory. In collaboration with Ed Burgart, the ultimate Champion of Champions expert, we came up with a short list of top Champion of Champion races. That list could have easily stretched into a long list.

This is not a ranking, but is in chronological order.

Mr Jet Moore
Bob Moore’s homebred Mr Jet Moore won the first Champion of Champions and secured his world championship title. The 3-year-old had to earn the victory as he closely defeated older rivals Kaweah Bar and Charger Bar. The colt won 21 of 28 starts. His Champion of Champions victory concluded his career. During 1972, he also won the Rainbow Derby, Go Man Go Handicap, Vandy’s Flash Handicap and the Pomona Championship.

Mr Jet Moore set a high standard for the Champion of Champions that continues until this day. Just look at the horses he defeated.

Dash For Cash
B. F. Phillips and the King Ranch’s Dash For Cash is a prime choice to make this list as the first two-time Champion of Champions winner with his stunning victories in 1976 and 1977. Dash For Cash was named world champion during each of those years and went on as a sire to help shape the American Quarter Horse. He was the ideal horse.

Dash For Cash was unbelievable in the 1976 Champion of Champions. He raced down the rail to easily win. When his time was posted, it shocked the Quarter Horse racing world. He covered the 440 yards in :21.17,  erasing the track record of :21.49 set by Jet Deck in 1963. Dash For Cash’s track record held until 2007, when Blues Girl Too won the Champion of Champions in :21.13.

The son of Rocket Wrangler came back to punctuate his dominance in the 1977 Champion of Champions. He cruised to a daylight win and another world champion trophy came his way after winning each of his four starts that year. 

Trivia: Dash For Cash also sired performance horses. Who is his most accomplished performance horse?

Sgt Pepper Feature/Denim N Diamonds
Great races have great rivalries, and the Champion of Champions has had a few memorable rivalries. One was between R.D. Hubbard’s Denim N Diamonds and Tom Neff’s Sgt Pepper Feature.

Their Champion of Champions rivalry started in 1981, when Denim N Diamonds got the win and Sgt Pepper Feature finished second. They finished in the same order the following year in the HQHRA Championship and the Go Man Go Handicap. That set up another showdown in the 1982 Champion of Champions. This time, Sgt Pepper Feature prevailed, while Denim N Diamonds finished third in her final career start.

Each horse had superb second careers after racing. Sgt Pepper Feature retired to the Kentucky Horse Park where his endearing personality made him a star while representing the Quarter Horse. Denim N Diamonds became the fountainhead of an outstanding family that has produced major stakes winners in each succeeding generation.

First Down Dash
If Dash For Cash initiated a change in the Quarter Horse, then First Down Dash accelerated that change. Vessels Stallion Farm’s First Down Dash did everything a horse can possibly do. 

He was a champion on the track and went on to become the all-time leading race sire, with progeny earnings of $90 million. He continued the legacy of his sire, Dash For Cash. 

First Down Dash won 13 of 15 career starts with a single second-place finish.

In addition to his win in the 1987 Champion of Champions as a 3-year-old, which was his final career start, he also won the Los Alamitos Derby (G1), Dash For Cash Derby (G1), the Hollywood Park Invitational and the QHBC Championship Classic (G1).

First Down Dash’s Champion of Champions victory was a showcase to send him off to his breeding career. He got a solid start and the race was over. It was an excellent field and he humbled them with the daylight victory. Second went to the previous year’s world champion and Champion of Champions winner Gold Coast Express while champion Florentine was third.

Jim Helzer’s Refrigerator surpassed Dash For Cash’s two Champion of Champions wins when the gelding won three consecutive runnings (1992-1994). After his first two Champion of Champions victories, he was named world champion.

The three Champion of Champions victories were highlights in a bright career. He won the All American Futurity, went on to become the first Quarter Horse to surpass $2 million in earnings and retired as the then all-time leading money earner with $2,126,309. He became the all-time leading money earner when he won the 1993 Champion of Champions. He won nine Grade 1 races and 22 of 36 career starts.

Tailor Fit/A Ransom
Betty Jane Burlin’s Tailor Fit and John and Kathie Bobenreith’s A Ransom had a confrontation in the 2001 Champion of Champions, after each horse had a victory in the previous two runnings.

In 1999, Tailor Fit overcame a bump at the start to go on and win the Champion of Champions by one-half length and be named world champion.

In 2000, A Ransom had slight trouble at the start and then took control of the race to win by one-half length and he was that year’s world champion.

They did not race against each other in the 1999 or 2000 Champion of Champions, so the 2001 running was a heavyweight fight between two Champion of Champions winners and world champions.

They each started well, with Tailor Fit having a short lead. He then extended that lead to a one-half length win while A Ransom finished third as the 1-2 favorite. Tailor Fit was then named the world champion for the second time.

There are many more Champion of Champions that could easily make this list. It has been a truly iconic race. These are just a few.

Trivia Answer: National Cutting Horse Association world champion Miss N Cash

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