Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
We are the champions!
By Martha Claussen and Denis Blake | December 7, 2016
Saturday is an exciting day in Quarter Horse racing with key “champions” events in both Louisiana and California. Wrangler Racing Aces Martha Claussen and Denis Blake divide and conquer the prestigious stakes at Fair Grounds and Los Alamitos:
Three Quarter Horse Stakes Kick off Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds
By Martha Claussen
Saturday’s action begins at 12:30 p.m. (CT) when the New Orleans racetrack hosts its annual Louisiana Champions Day, with 13 races for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds.
Race 1: $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic
Defending champion, #5 Open Me A Corona takes on eight rivals in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic Stakes (RG2), the 440-yard feature which kicks off the card. Bobby Martinez will saddle the 6-year-old son of Coronas Leaving You for owners Charles Forbes Jr. and Tommy Hays. Retirement was in consideration following his brilliant campaign in 2015, but the 2014 AQHA champion aged stallion returned to action this year and has three wins from six starts. David Alvarez will guide Open Me a Corona, who was installed as the 8-5 choice. Tough competition comes from TM Ranch’s #2 Heza Louisiana Dash, who has won his last two stakes at Evangeline Downs for top conditioner, Kenneth Roberts as well as #6 Heza Bell Perry. Owned and trained by Javier Contreras, the son of Heza Fast Dash runs very well at Fair Grounds and at the “classic” distance of 440 yards, with four wins from six starts.
Selections by Martha Claussen: 5-2-6-8
Race 2: $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile
A very well-matched and deep field of 2-year-olds will travel 350-yards in the second stakes of the afternoon. Owner/trainer Guadalupe Tristan’s #6 Fired Up Perry just missed in the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity at Evangeline Downs. Shortening up from 400-yards could make the difference for the gelded son of Game Patriot, who will be ridden by David Alvarez. On that same card at EVD, #11 Shatto Stoli showed tremendous improvement as he captured the LQHBA Juvenile Invitational under Antonio Alberto. Look for a driving finish from his outside post. #5 One Hot Flame did not run in the LQHBA Breeders Futurity final, but he is fast and might fire fresh. #1 Watergirl B was sensational in her Lee Berwick Futurity victory at Delta Downs in July; if she can overcome her rail draw, she could be a nice price.
Selections by Martha Claussen: 6-11-5-1
Race 3: $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Derby
A full field of 12 is set for the 400-yard Louisiana Champions Day Derby. Several of these 3-year-olds competed in the $257,788 LQHBA Breeders Derby on November 19 at Evangeline Downs and #6 Jet Black Rogue was a game winner. Owned and trained by Michael Taylor, the Jet Black Patriot filly was brilliant under Joe Badilla, Jr. Last year’s Champions Day Juvenile winner #11 Jet Black Zoomer draws another outside post and could pull the upset again with Antonio Alberto in the irons. Kelli Smith trains the gelding, who makes his second start off the layoff. #5 Jessa Louisiana Zoom is the high earner in the field and a super classy filly. The multiple futurity champion was a game winner of the Treme Stakes at Fair Grounds in August.
Selections by Martha Claussen: 6-11-5-12
$600,000 Champion of Champions (G1)
By Denis Blake
The 44th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions figures to go down as one of the best renewals in the long history of the 440-yard race at Los Alamitos with the 10 starters brining in a total of 84 wins and more than $5.5 million in earnings. Of course, all eyes will be on the 3-5 morning line favorite Heza Dasha Fire, winner of this same race last year and the reigning world champion. A victory this year would put him in elite company with Refrigerator, Dash For Cash, Tailor Fit and SLM Big Daddy as the only horses to win the Champion of Champions twice (and Refrigerator won it three times).
So will he do it? There are no sure things in horse racing, but the Washington-bred has only lost three times in his 16-race career and the last two times were to the late, great Moonist. Unfortunately, the epic showdown between Heza Dasha Fire and Moonist projected for this race did not happen after Moonist passed away in June after complications from colic.
While there is nothing creative or exciting about picking an odds-on favorite, #7 Heza Dasha Fire and jockey Cruz Mendez is our choice here. A victory could wrap up a second world champion title for the 4-year-old gelding, while a defeat would be one of the biggest upsets of the year.
One of the horses with a chance for the upset is #9 AJs High, a winner of 13 of 20 races who has spent much of his career in the Midwest and Southwest but comes off a huge race at Los Alamitos when he won the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1).
The lone female in the race is #10 Sass Me Blue, and while her last win came against fillies and mares she proved last year she can run with anyone, especially when she finished a strong second to Heza Dasha Fire in the Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1). She only has one career start at 440 yards, but it was a victory.
#8 He Looks Hot has the distinction of defeating Heza Dasha Fire, although that was almost two years ago. This gelding also ran big on Challenge Championships night with a very fast 440-yard time of :21.180, and his best effort would put him in the picture.
Selections by Denis Blake: 7-9-10-8
Wrangler Racing Aces in December
Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Evangeline Downs, Turf Paradise and Sunland Park.
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