Millie Vessels Preview

Top mares compete for Champion of Champions berth.

Top mares compete for Champion of Champions berth.

A berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions will be on the line when an outstanding group of aged mares compete in the nation's premier race for the division, the Grade 1, $125,000 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sunday night at Los Alamitos. First post for the eight-race card is 6:50 p.m. 

The 400-yard Mildred Vessels field will be headed by a pair of stakes winning ladies from the barn of trainer Lin Melton in the form of Merial California Distaff Challenge winner Time For Jess and California Breeders Matron Stakes winner Maggie Durant. Owned by Spackman Racing, Time For Jess has been a Grade 1 performer her entire career, racing in the 2015 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and then the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby, Grade 2 Southern California Derby, and La Primera Del Ano Derby last year during her sophomore campaign.  The mare by Apollitical Jess finished out of the money in the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap earlier this year, but she'll come into this race after winning the Merial California Distaff over stablemate Maggie Durant on August 12.

“(Time For Jess) is just a good mare,” said Melton of the winner of $309,079 and six of 23 career starts. “She always gets better the more she runs. We turned her out in the winter. It takes a couple of races to get back into the swing of things. She’s not a worker. She has to race to get tight. We’re excited to run her now because she’s doing really well right now.”

Owned by Spackman Racing in partnership with Lin Melton, Maggie Durant has been razor sharp this summer. She won the Matron Stakes in upset style at 44-1 and then ran a tremendous race when finishing second to Time For Jess in the Merial California Distaff.  The homebred mare by One Sweet Jess has won seven of 20 career starts. 
"We kept (Time For Jess) and (Maggie Durant) away from each other for about three years,” Melton said. “We had them both in the Merial Stakes so we said ‘let’s go for it.’ Maggie did us proud running second to (Time For Jess). She’s a little warrior.” 

Trained by Paul Jones for Cina and John Sperry, multiple stakes winner Jess Good Reason will look for a return to form in the Mildred Vessels after an out of the money finish in the Merial California Distaff. The daughter of Good Reason SA won the Adequan Derby Challenge last October and was lights out when winning the Grade 1 Charger Bar this January, but she's finished out of the money in her two starts since then. Jess Good Reason will enter this race after a sharp 220-yard workout here on September 9.

EG High Desert Farms' Jess Ravin is a six-time stakes winner at Los Alamitos, but a victory in the Mildred Vessels would be her first ever in a Grade 1 stakes event. Jess Ravin comes in after running third when facing the boys in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity in early July, a field that included BH Lisas Boy, Time For Jess, and last year's Champion of Champions winner Zoomin For Spuds. A repeat of that Vessels Maturity performance could give the Valentin Zamudio-trained mare a Grade 1 victory and a spot in the Champion of Champions.

Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Thermonuclear Energy, a Walk Thru Fire mare with an affinity for longer distances, is another one to watch in the Mildred Vessels. The Parsons-bred runner showed a powerful late kick when winning an allowance event in her last start. You Can Fly, Jess Envision, and Strawfinders Jesse round out the field.

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