Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Challenge brings out the best in horses and people.

Challenge brings out the best in horses and people.

Get a FREE Challenge Championships handicapping tip sheet, courtesy the Wrangler Racing Aces and Horseplayernow.com!

First Challenge Win on the Radar for Cesar De Alba
By Martha Claussen

Jockey Cesar De Alba is having a tremendously successful year. He is the current leading rider at Los Alamitos with 87 wins and purses in excess of $1 million in 2016. It has been a long climb for the 34-year-old rider, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved with his family to the United States in 1989. De Alba's father was a jockey, as is his uncle Eddie Garcia, the all-time winningest rider at Los Alamitos. De Alba had a brief run on Thoroughbreds in 2001, before making the transition to Quarter Horses.

But there is no doubt that the career changer for De Alba was Ron Hartley’s Moonist.
The gelded son of Separatist made nine starts as a juvenile with other riders before De Alba got his chance on December 15, 2013. A bond was formed and De Alba guided Moonist through a very successful 3-year-old campaign, winning four derbies in 2014. Since their first victory in 2013, De Alba piloted the four-time AQHA champion to 20 wins. The duo were undefeated in 2016 with his last win on June 12 when he set the fastest qualifying time to the Vessels Maturity (G1). Tragically, Moonist died on June 21, due to complications of colic.

The sudden death of Moonist was a shock not only to his connections, but the entire racing community. De Alba was at the hospital with his wife, Becky welcoming the birth of their second son, when he got a call from his agent with the devastating news.

"It was such a shock," De Alba said. "I had just visited him at the barn the day before. I wished he had been able to retire after winning another championship. To lose him like that was really hard."
 De Alba's career is soaring this year, and he acknowledges that Moonist will always remain an integral part of his success.

"He's the one that broke the ice for me," he stated. "People did not have the confidence to ride me in big races. But Moonist opened that door. I got along with him when other riders did not."

On Saturday night, De Alba will set his sights on winning his first Bank of America Challenge Championship stakes. He has three mounts in the six Challenge events beginning with Time For Jesse Lee in the Markel Bonus Challenge; Kissed By An Eagle in the John Deere Juvenile Championship and Toughie in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship.

He won the John Deere California Juvenile Challenge on August 20 aboard Mark and Peggy Brown's Kissed By An Eagle, trained by Rafael Orozco. Dismissed by the betting public at 23-1, the son of One Famous Eagle defeated both One Proud Eagle and Bannister.

"He's a nice 2-year-old, but not the fastest of breakers," said De Alba. "That night, he got a great break and ran awesome. I've worked him a few times and he's doing really well."  

A victory will be his first in the prestigious championship, but he has qualified runners in the regional races, including 2013 Bank of America Challenge Championship winner Vodka With Ice in 2013. De Alba piloted the Texas-bred to a win at Emerald Downs, but opted to ride Sparky E Boy for trainer Paul Jones in the final. Vodka With Ice, under Francisco Rubio, won at 17-1;  Sparky, sent off as the second betting choice, finished eighth.

"I was already committed to ride for Paul in the final, so I gave up the mount on Vodka With Ice," said De Alba. "Guess I messed up that decision, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
These days De Alba works hard in the mornings, rides each race to the best of his abilities, and remains positive in his profession and life away from the racetrack.

"I'm much more confident," admitted De Alba. "I don't get stressed out. It's best to let things go and move on."

Get a FREE Challenge Championships handicapping tip sheet, courtesy the Wrangler Racing Aces and Horseplayernow.com!

Bank of America Challenge Championship
By Jennifer K. Hancock

The 24th running of the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) on October 29 at Los Alamitos will feature an outstanding field of 12 horses vying to mark their names in the history books. The 10th and final race on the all-stakes card is the richest of the evening, which is offering a combined $1.1 million in purses.  

Morning line favorite #12 BH Lisas Boy, a homebred trained and racing for breeder Bill Hoberg, has won 10 of 19 lifetime starts including a wire-to-wire victory in the $74,070 Bank of America California Challenge (G3) at Los Alamitos in August. Since then, the 4-year-old Mighty Invictus gelding has finished second behind reigning world champion Heza Dasha Fire in his last two starts. His 102 class rating puts BH Lisas Boy well on top of the field, and the outside post should give him a straight path to the winner’s circle.

#10 AJs High, a homebred 4-year-old Apollitical Jess gelding owned by Michael Teel and trained by Charlton Hunt, won the $66,690 Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge at Canterbury Park in July to cap a four-race win streak. He’s added two second-place stakes finishes at Prairie Meadows before heading to Los Alamitos. In six starts in 2016, he’s not finished worse than second and has more than $500,000 in earnings from 12 wins in 19 lifetime starts.

#3 Jess A Cowboy finished second behind BH Lisas Boy in the Bank of America California Challenge (G3). The 4-year-old Dejon gelding, who is trained by Matthew Fales and owned by Larry Stark, has three second-place finishes in 2016 from four starts including a runner-up effort in the Bank of America Turf Paradise Challenge Championship in April.  

#7 JRC Callas First, a 6-year-old Winners Award gelding owned by Brian and Dana Stroud, led gate to wire in the $107,730 Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge Championship (G2) in April and has two wins and a second in six starts this year. The 2014 world champion hasn’t shown his championship form since that race, but trainer Brian Stroud gave the gelding three months off and he comes to Los Alamitos after competing in a tough Refrigerator Handicap (G1) at Lone Star on October 1 to get him back in shape.

Wrangler Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock’s $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) picks:
#12 BH Lisas Boy
#10 AJs High
#3 Jess A Cowboy
#7 JRC Callas First

Get a FREE Challenge Championships handicapping tip sheet, courtesy the Wrangler Racing Aces and Horseplayernow.com!

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.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.