Field Set for Champion of Champions
Zoomin For Spuds, Rite Regal Win Z. Wayne Griffin Directors' Trials on Sunday.
November 14, 2016
The final five qualifiers to the December 10, $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) were determined at Los Alamitos on Sunday, as Jim Walker's Zoomin For Spuds and Urschel 3-D Ranch's Rite Regal won Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials at the southern California track.
Zoomin For Spuds and Rite Regal will be joined in the Champion of Champions -- American Quarter Horse racing's richest and most prestgious race for older horses -- by Militarist, Heat Warning, and Forget It. These qualifiers will join reigning world champion and 2015 Champion of Champions winner Heza Dasha Fire, Vessels Maturity (G(1 winner He Looks Hot, Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1) winner Sass Me Blue, Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) winner AJs High, and Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) winner Big Lew in this year's Champion of Champions field.
Ridden by Cruz Mendez for trainer Monty Arrossa, Zoomin For Spuds won the first 400-yard trial by a half of a length from Militarist in :19.695. The Idaho-bred 3-year-old son of Zoomin For Bux has won his last three races at Los Alamitos since his return to California from Idaho.
“I can’t even explain it,” said Arrossa. “It’s definitely my biggest dream come true. I know that for owner Jim Walker it’s his biggest dream come true as well. He wasn’t paid into anything. We decided to see how he would run on Bank of America Challenge Night and he ran great.
"I called Jim up and said ‘Let’s supplement him into the Z. Wayne Griffin Trials to the Champion of Champions,'" he added. "Jim said, 'Absolutely, let’s run him against the best in the world.’ I’m thankful Jim did that. I felt good about him coming into this race. He came out of the last race real well. It’s only been two weeks and he runs a little better when he’s fresh. I wasn’t really too worried about the time, but you’re always concerned when it’s two weeks back.”
Militarist and Heat Warning finished second and third, respectively, in the first trial.
Rite Regal won the second trial by a head from Forget It in :19.830. The 3-year-old Favorite Cartel gelding was returning to the races just one week after he finished second to Big Lew in the Super Derby. Mendez rode Rite Regal for trainer Jose Flores.
“This horse really has a heart," said Flores of Rite Regal. "He came back seven days later and just got it done. I know Mrs. Urschel, Donnie (Knight) and myself were concerned (about the quick turnaround), but we had him checked out and Dr. Rick Overly gave him the okay to go ahead and run him. I was just glad that he never stopped eating and he never gave us any hassles.
"He really showed me he has more heart than anything," the trainer added. "Even though he was unfortunate not to get in by winning the Super Derby, I know he has the ability to be a lot and we expect a lot more from him next year. Hopefully he’ll come back (well) and we’ll look forward to the Champion of Champions.”
Flores will also saddle Heza Dasha Fire in the Champion of Champions.
“It’s fun to have one, but it’s even better when you have two,” he said. “You never know. If they’re in there that means they deserve to be in there.”
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqharacing.com.