Top Runners in Christmas Handicap

Top older horses battle in the Christmas Handicap.

Q-Racing Journal

Atwood Ranches, Inc. and Vessels Stallion Farms, LLC’s Far Niente, the seventh-ranked horse in the AQHA weekly poll, takes on a very talented field in the $60,000 Christmas Invitational Handicap over 400 yards on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

The Christmas Handicap for older horses was placed on the stakes schedule after the 2014 running of the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) was cancelled.

Far Niente (FDD Dynasty-Shahayla by Chicks Beduino) earned his national ranking after he was a three-quarter-length winner of the $163,300 Vessels Maturity (G1) in July. He was bumped at the start and then rallied throughout the 400 yards for the convincing win.

The Jose Hernandez Jr.-trained Far Niente then finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the $100,000 Go Man Go Invitational Handicap (G1) in September after being hit twice shortly after the start. That was his most recent effort.

Abagail Kawananakoa’s Significant Heart (Corona Cartel-Jess Significant by Mr Jess Perry) sits right behind Far Niente in the national poll in the seventh position and comes off two important wins against fillies and mares.

A top prospect for the champion aged mare title, Significant Heart won the $100,000 Mildred Vessels Handicap (G1) over Check N Fetch (Check Him Out-Shyann La Jolla by Streakin La Jolla) in September. The two Paul Jones-trained mares battled for the 400 yards before Significant Heart prevailed by a neck.

Significant Heart returned in the $25,000 Las Damas Handicap (G3) and showed she is in top form with a one-half length win. Check N Fetch finished a troubled seventh in the Las Damas.

In addition to Significant Heart and Check N Fetch, Jones will also saddle Martha Wells’ New Look (Walk Thru Fire-Make Over by Separatist), winner of the $71,640 Bank of America Los Alamitos Challenge (G3). After a troubled start, he fought to a neck win in the September stakes. He was then third in the Go Man Go and fifth in the $357,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows.

Ed Allred’s homebred Once Over (Walk Thru Fire-Look Her Over by Check Him Out) looks for his first win since taking the $100,000 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship (RG1) in July. The gelding showed he may be ready to step up in the Christmas Handicap after finishing in a dead heat for second in the $35,000 Z. Wayne Griffin Invitational Handicap in his latest start.

Lila Kessinger’s Separate Interest (Separatist-A Delightful Legacy by First Down Dash) won the Z. Wayne Griffin by a head at 18-1 odds. Back in May, the Michael Casselman-trained colt fought to a neck win over Once Over in the $25,000 Kaweah Bar Handicap (G3).

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