Champion Empressum and multiple Grade 1 winner Circle City will headline Sunday's 400-yard, $156,300 Vessels Maturity (G1) at Los Alamitos Racecourse.
Empressum and Circle City won their June 11 Vessels Maturity trials, with Circle City winning by one length to set himself up for a chance for a repeat Vessels Maturity win. Trained by Scott Willoughby, Circle City won last year's Vessels Maturity by three-quarters of a length before following it up with a victory in the 400-yard, $100,000 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship (RG1).
Empressum was a 2 1/4-length winner of his trial, during which the gelding covered the final 220 yards in :09.23, believed to be the fastest closing time in a 400-yard race at Los Alamitos since Chivalry SR came home in :09.21 when he set the track record of :19.067 at this distance on July 30, 2011. Empressum’s sire, 2011 world champion Apollitical Jess, is the holder of the fastest come-home time at this distance (:09.16) when he won the 2010 Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1).
“He was perfect,” jockey Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo said after Empressum's trial. “I was just guiding him down the lane. I wanted him to maintain a straight path. He did the rest. He’s a professional.”
“He ran a beautiful race,” said Heath Taylor, who trains Empressum for owners Steve Holt and Jeff Jones Jr.
Empressum won nine of his 10 starts during his sophomore season and was voted champion 3-year-old gelding. Empressum will be ridden by Rodrigo Vallejo from post 10, while Jesus Rios Ayala will ride Circle City from post 2.
The others entered in the Vessels Maturity are: Valiantt, winner of the other Vessels trial for owner Rancho AA LLC, Monopolist, Mister Tornado, You Can Run, Up And Atem, Bail Czech, Just A Dasha Hero and La Estrella Corona. Every runner in this field is either a stakes winner or a Grade 1 stakes finalist. La Estrella Corona is the only mare in this race.
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