Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Excitement builds for the 2016 Champion of Champions.
By Jonathan Horowitz and Martha Claussen | October 6, 2016
One Year Later, Sass Me Blue Is Ready
By Jonathan Horowitz
Heza Dasha Fire defeated Sass Me Blue in the 2015 Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) to earn a berth that ultimately led to a victory in the track’s prestigious Champion of Champions (G1). While Heza Dasha Fire was on the way to becoming World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse, Sass Me Blue went on to play a Quarter Horse bridesmaid with two more second-place finishes in stakes in Los Alamitos’ 2015 Southern California Derby (G1) and to eventual AQHA Champion Aged Mare Quirky in the 2016 Charger Bar Handicap (G1).
But following a six-month layoff, Sass Me Blue has caught the proverbial bouquet and is poised for her time in the spotlight. The 4-year-old black mare turned the tables on Quirky for her first career stakes victory in the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap at Los Alamitos on September 25 to qualify for the $600,000 Champion of Champions on December 10. Over the next six weeks, more than half the field will be set for the race that has historically had major implications for determining AQHA’s racing world champion. There will be qualifying races in the Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship (G1) on Sunday, the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) on October 29, the Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) on November 6, and the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials on November 13.
A total of 28 Champion of Champion winners have gone on to be named that year’s world champion since Mr. Jet Moore in the race’s first year in 1972. Sass Me Blue will try to emulate Blues Girl Too, who is also owned by the Lucky Seven Ranch and was the last filly or mare to win the Champion of Champions in 2007. Blues Girl Too’s final time of :21.132 for 440 yards was the fastest in the Champion of Champions since Dash For Cash in 1977.
“Blues Girl Too was the last horse we had in the Champion of Champions, so qualifying to another Champion of Champions is pretty special for us,” Lucky Seven Ranch’s Russell Stooks said in Los Alamitos’ recap of the Mildred Vessels.
Sass Me Blue’s competition in the 2016 Champion of Champions currently includes Los Alamitos’ Vessels Maturity winner He Looks Hot and Remington Park Championship winner Moonin The Eagle, as well as a potential rematch with reigning world champion Heza Dasha Fire.
Heza Dasha Fire Headlines Sunday's $125,000 Robert Boniface Invitational
By Martha Claussen
It will likely be an emotional evening Sunday at Los Alamitos when the gates open for the running of the $125,000 Robert L. Boniface Invitational Championship (G1). Last year's winner, Ron Hartley's Moonist, one of the most beloved Quarter Horse champions, lost his battle with colic and died in June.
However, another great ambassador for our sport, reigning world champion Heza Dasha Fire leads a compact but solid field in this year's edition of the 440-yard stakes. Owned by S-Quarter K LLC of Kennewick, Washington, and trained by Jose Flores, Heza Dasha Fire was a perfect 5-for-5 in his 3-year-old campaign. He underwent surgery to remove chips from his knees earlier this year, but came back as a winner in the $100,000 Go Man Go Handicap (G1) on September 4. Cruz Mendez, his regular rider, will guide the gelded son of Walk Thru Fire from post position two. The winner will advance to the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) on December 10, the prestigious stakes, which Heza Dasha Fire won last year.
Ed Allred's homebred He Looks Hot will break directly to the inside of Heza Dasha Fire, but this 4-year-old is in very sharp form this year and has to be respected. Trained by Scott Willoughby, the sorrel gelding has won four of his 11 starts, including the Mildred Vessels on July 3. He is nearing the one million dollar mark in career earnings and will be ridden by Carlos Huerta.
Two Feathers Series LLC’s Stevie B First Cash returns to Los Alamitos off a successful summer at Ruidoso Downs. Just 3-years-old, the Oklahoma-bred ran third in the Rainbow Derby in July and closed out the meet with a victory in the $100,000 First Down Dash on September 4. Trainer Bret Vickery will give a leg up to Jose Alvarez, who won the $2.4 All American Derby, and has a good record in stakes at Los Alamitos as well.
BH Lisas Boy ran second to Heza Dasha Fire in the Go Man Go and drew post position six for owner//trainer Bill Hoburg. The Idaho-bred son of Mighty Invictus qualified for the 440-yard Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) on October 29. While he may not have the credentials or earnings of Heza Dasha Fire, this will be an excellent prep for the Challenge final in three weeks. Jesus Ayala has the mount.
Martha Claussen's Top Four Selections:
#2 Heza Dasha Fire
#1 He Looks Hot
#5 Stevie B First Cash
#6 BH Lisas Boy
Wrangler Racing Aces in October
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, Ajax Downs, Lone Star Park, Will Rogers Downs, Indiana Grand, Evangeline Downs and Zia Park.