El Aguila Real Wins Vessels

Corona Czech gelding scores third Grade 1 win at Los Alamitos.

July 9, 2012

Javier Molina’s El Aguila Real cemented himself as the top older Quarter Horse in California following a hard-fought victory over Senor Toby in the $200,000 Vessels Maturity (G1) at 400 yards on Sunday at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio from post number four for trainer Francisco Vallejo , El Aguila Real hit the wire a half-length ahead of Brad Lohr and Daniel Reynoso’s Senor Toby, but the two were separated by a lot less during the race. In fact, it was Senor Toby who left the starting gate ahead of El Aguila Real and both of them trailed fastest qualifier PK Fire right at the start. El Aguila Real, which is Spanish for The Royal Eagle, quickly accelerated after the start and had a slight advantage over Senor Toby with 220 yards left in the race. El Aguila Real moved ahead by a neck over Senor Toby with 110 yards to go and from there took control of the race to the wire. He covered the distance in :19.531.

Bred by Enrique Gonzalez, El Aguila Real has now won six out of his last seven stars and three of those victories have come in Grade 1 stakes races. The gelded son of Corona Czech won the Grade 1 Southern California Derby in his final start as a 3-year-old on December 18, 2011, before returning as a 4-year-old this year to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on February 19 and now the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity.

El Aguila Real has won the first two races carrying an automatic starting berth to the Champion of Champions (G1) at 440 yards, which will be contested on December 15 at the Orange County oval. The gelding’s victory in the Winter Championship had previously given him a starting berth to the Champion of Champions. His win in the Vessels Maturity means that the Go Man Go Handicap (G1) on September 23 will now carry a berth to the Champion of Champions. Reigning world champion Cold Cash 123 is the only other horse that has also earned an automatic berth to this year’s Champion of Champions via his impressive win in the Grade 1 Remington Park Championship.

The red hot sprinter came into the Vessels Maturity after posting an easy half-length victory in his trial. His Winter Championship win was the result of a three-quarter length decision.

“When a horse reaches this level, it’s tough to make them better and better,” said trainer Francisco Vallejo, who has saddled El Aguila Real for each of his last three victories. “The key is to keep them running at the same high level that they have reached. That’s what we’ve tried to do with El Aguila Real. He’s a very noble horse and his personality lets us work with him so well. He’s a very easy going and relaxed horse and a pleasure to train. We’ll see what’s next for the horse, but the ultimate goal is the races at the end of the season like the Champion of Champions.”

The Champion of Champions is a race that jockey Eduardo Nicasio knows well. The jockey has won the last two runnings of the $750,000 classic, first with Apollitical Jess in 2010 and then with Good Reason SA in 2011. The jockey is thrilled to have an opportunity to ride El Aguila Real.

“He reminds me a lot of Good Reason SA,” Nicasio said. “They have very similar styles. After the break, you just have to guide them and wait for them to get going. Once they get going, they fly. El Aguila Real was moving around a little bit in the gate and he didn’t break as strongly as possible, but he’s a very good horse. I’m thrilled to hopefully have another opportunity to ride in the Champion of Champions. I think the 440-yard distance is perfect for this horse.”

El Aguila Real earned $84,000 in the Vessels Maturity to take his lifetime earnings to $291,616. He also improved his record to eight wins from 17 career starts.

Runner-up Senor Toby has now finished second in three straight races to El Aguila Real, including both the Winter Championship and Vessels Maturity. Senor Toby earned $34,000 for this effort to take his bankroll to $139,519.

“I have to admit that El Aguila Real is just too tough of a horse,” said Daniel Reynoso, the co-owner of Senor Toby. “That horse ran away with it tonight. We’ll move on and look for another race for Senor Toby and for my other horse, Fire Is On.”

Fastest qualifier PK Fire broke sharply from post nine, but had to settle for third-place. Jaime Gomez saddled PK Fire for owner Alfonzo Pasquel. Gomez also saddled the second-place finisher Senor Toby. Flying Fig, the champion 2-year-old filly in 2010, crossed the wire in fourth place. Buying Snow, Flaming Out, Lifes Been Good, Reina Del Fuego, Frosty Younger, and Fire Is On completed the field.

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Francisco Rubio was released from Los Alamitos Medical Center on Sunday night after being transported there earlier in the evening. Rubio was involved in a spill in Sunday’s sixth race when his mount, Strawdash Cartel, went down at the start of the sixth race at 300 yards. Rubio was complaining of pain in his wrist according to trainer Juan Aleman. Strawdash Cartel’s status will be updated on Monday.