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PK Fire Shines in Vessels Trials

July 8 final will award a berth to the Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos.

June 18, 2012

A third encounter between the top two finishers in this year’s Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship is set as that race’s winner El Aguila Real and the Winter Championship runner-up Senor Toby will headline the field to the Grade 1, $200,000 Vessels Maturity to be held on July 8 at Los Alamitos following Sunday’s 400-yard trials.

The fastest qualifier on trial night was 2011 El Primero Del Ano Derby (G2) winner PK Fire, who was outstanding in winning his trial in wire-to-wire fashion. Trained by Jaime Gomez and ridden Carlos Huerta, PK Fire won his trial by three-quarter lengths while covering the distance in :19.512. Owned by Alfonzo Pasquel, the son of Walk Thru Fire was making his return to the Orange County track after facing a field that included world champion Cold Cash 123 in the Leo Stakes (G1) at Remington Park on March 12. PK Fire loved racing in the cool California night, as he flew out of post number seven and was never challenged on the way to his sixth victory in 14 starts.

PK Fire will be joined by nine other rivals in the Vessels Maturity in three weeks time in a race that will award its winner a berth to the prestigious Champion of Champions (G1) to be held December 15 at Los Alamitos. Cold Cash 123 and El Aguila Real are the only two horses right now to have already earned berth to this year’s Champion of Champions.

Racing for Javier Molina, El Aguila Real broke okay, but quickly picked up speed to hold off Senor Toby by half a length in a time of :19.615 from post number seven. The gelding by Corona Czech has won five of his last six starts and two of those have been Grade 1 races. In addition to winning the Winter Championship in his last start, El Aguila Real won the $172,000 Southern California Derby on December 18.

“He ran a very good race,” said trainer Francisco Vallejo. “He was moving around a little bit in the starting gate, but he got a good start and he looked good coming down the lane. I liked our starting spot and I thought the horse ran a solid race. Senor Toby is a tough competitor. He’s a top horse and we’ll be seeing him again in the final. The challenge will now be to make sure that El Aguila Real stays at the level that he is at right now. He’s at a pretty good level.”

El Aguila Real was named the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association top 3-year-old gelding in 2011.

Racing for Brad Lohr and Daniel Reynoso, Senor Toby was named the PCQHRA’s most improved horse in 2011 after enjoying a perfect six-for-six campaign. Senor Toby extended his winning streak to seven in a row in the trials to the Winter Championship before running second to El Aguila Real in the final.

“We have to recognize that our opponent El Aguila Real is a tremendous horse,” Reynoso said. “There will be several top horses in the Vessels Maturity and the important thing tonight was to qualify to the final. It would be a dream to qualify to the Champion of Champions. I’ve had the 11th horse in the Champion of Champions the past two years, but unfortunately only 10 run in the race. My dream is the Champion of Champions. Senor Toby needed this race and I think he’ll have a good showing in the Vessels Maturity final.”

Trained by Jaime Gomez and ridden by Oscar Peinado, Senor Toby finished as the fourth-fastest qualifier with a time of :19.701. Reynoso will also be represented by Fire Is On in the Vessels Maturity final, as he qualified with the ninth-fastest time.

San Gregorio Racing Stables’ Flaming Out, who ran second to PK Fire in the trials, finished as the third-fastest qualifier with a time of :19.659.

Valentin Zamudio and Julio Encinas’ Frosty Younger won the third and final trial of the evening with a qualifying time of :19.777. The Separatist gelding won his trial by a head over Reina Del Fuego. Frosty Younger is a full brother to the mare Strict, the dam of Los Alamitos Claiming Futurity Stakes winner Short Leash.

The complete list of qualifiers is as follows: PK Fire (:19.512), El Aguila Real (:19.615), Flaming Out (:19.659), Senor Toby (:19.701), Flying Fig (:19.758), Frostys Younger (:19.777), Reina Del Fuego (:19.797), Lifes Been Good (:19.843), Fire Is On (:19.851) and Buying Snow (:19.862).