Rylees Boy Rallies to Win Champion of Champions

Arizona-bred pulls off upset in Los Alamitos’ marquee race for older horses.

December 16, 2012

Owned by Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez, the 10-1 longshot Rylees Boy needed the biggest rally of his accomplished career to outfinish Robert Williams’ talented 3-year-old filly Flame N Flash by head on the way to becoming the oldest horse ever to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Champion of Champions on Saturday at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Trained by Paul Jones and ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Rylees Boy was third at the start after breaking from post 10 but was best in the final 100 yards of the race to win the sport’s most prestigious race for older horses. In covering the 440 yards in :21.382, the son of Heza Motor Scooter is the first 7-year-old to win the quarter-mile classic. The distinction of being the oldest Champion of Champions winner had previously belonged to four horses who won as 6-year-olds: Tailor Fit (2001), Mr Doty Bars (1979), Refrigerator (1994) and SLM Big Daddy (1998).

Based on his Champion of Champions win, it’s clear that there’s still spring left in Rylees Boy, as the Arizona-bred scored his fourth win of the year in seven starts and 21st in 43 career starts. To go with the Champion of Champions, his 2012 campaign also featured a win in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at 440 yards at Prairie Meadows in Iowa on October 27 and also a quarter-mile victory in a regional Challenge event at Sunland Park in April. He also came into the race as the horse with the most career victories and he leaves with not only one more victory in his resume, but with an additional $375,000. Rylees Boy has now earned $1,321,166 in his career.

“He left the gate better than when he won the Challenge,” jockey Ramon Sanchez said. “This horse just beat one of the best fields you can imagine. The first 200 yards were a little tough for him, but then he started going and he finished super.”

“It was our dream to see him in the Champion of Champions and he made it happen,” the owner said. “We know that no matter where he runs, Rylees Boy will show up and do a good job. He did a great job tonight and I can’t describe how it feels right now.”

When asked if Rylees Boy would continue racing in 2013, the owner had a quick answer: “Of course,” she said.

Now one of the leading contenders to be named world champion runner in 2012, Rylees Boy could compete in The Championship at Sunland Park (G1) later this month or his connections could wait until the Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) trials on January 27.

“He’s a star,” Jones said. “He’s eligible to race at Sunland Park. He’s traveled enough, but I’ll talk to the owner and see what happens. He’s just a cool horse.”

Jones, who was picking his sixth victory in this prestigious event, selected the outside post 10 for Rylees Boy based on the veteran’s running style.

“He likes to run at the end and he has a really good late kick,” Jones said. “I didn’t want him to be between too many horses. I figured he could do his thing from the outside. He started from the ninth hole in the Challenge Championship in Iowa and made a big move at the end. That’s when I started thinking that if I could get an outside post for him in the Champion of Champions that I would take it. The post position meant a lot. The post position is so important in this race because you know it’s going to be a close race and everything matters.”

Jones is now only four Champion of Champions wins shy of the legendary trainer Blane Schvaneveldt’s stakes record of 10 wins. Jones has won the Champion of Champions with Whosleavingwho (2002), The Down Side (2003), Cash For Kas (2004), Wave Carver (2006) and Good Reason SA (2011). Sanchez previously rode The Down Side and Wave Carver to victories in this event.

“I love this race and it is one of my favorites of all,” Jones said. “Great horses make great trainers and I’m fortunate to train Rylees Boy. He’s sound and he’s healthy. At 7-years-old he is still an awesome horse. It’s just amazing that he is still so good. I have pictures of him in a plane when he was in Iowa. He’s a great traveler and he’s never ever off his feed. He’s just a trooper. He’s been to just about every track in the country and I think he’s been to more tracks than I have.”

Trained by Elena Andrade for owner Robert Williams, Flame N Flash is now the favorite to be named champion 3-year-old filly after her near upset victory in the Champion of Champions at 26-1 odds. The winner of the La Primera Del Ano Derby (G3) and Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap (G1) against older mares, Flame N Flash led this Champion of Champions until the very end with jockey Francisco Rubio aboard.

“She came to my barn just about a month ago,” Andrade said. “When she arrived the hard work had already been done. My job was to keep her happy while making sure that she maintained her form. It was a little tough because I was changing barns so I had to make sure that she felt good about the changes she was going through and in the meantime I was also going from one barn to another. She was great through it all. She was comfortable and happy.

“It’s very tough to lose in the final strides,” she added. “It’s a heartbreaker, but how can I be disappointed with the way things have gone with her? It was a great opportunity to train a great filly and I am thankful and I hope the owner is pleased. I have always seen our barn as the underdog and that’s kind of what Flame N Flash was in this race. She’s a filly and a 3-year-old and with a woman as a trainer so we were definitely underdogs together. We ended up with the last pick for post position, but I was really happy when she ended up with the number two post. She broke great. It would have been unbelievable to have won this race. I don’t ask anyone to train their horse because I want people to come to us because of the way we work and the way we run our business. We are so grateful that her connections decided on us. Anyone could have done this job and I am so happy that we were the ones that had the chance to do it.”

Bred by Ed Allred, Flame N Flash earned $120,000 for finishing second. She has now made $419,426 in her 15-race career.

Brad Lohr and Daniel Reynoso’s Senor Toby, a 23-1 longshot, earned $75,000 for running third. The 4-year-old gelded son of Mighty Invictus has been third or better in all seven starts this year. He was second in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, Vessels Maturity (G1) and Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial and also third in the Go Man Go Handicap (G1).

“For me, I think Senor Toby ran a great race,” trainer Jaime Gomez said. “He finished ahead of the world champion and ahead of horses that had beaten us this year like El Aguila Real. All the big ones were in this race and Senor Toby ran third. I’m thrilled with that showing.”

Reigning world champion Cold Cash 123, the 2-1 favorite in the race, broke slowly and never challenged on the way to running eighth. The complete order of finish is as follows: Rylees Boy, Flame N Flash, Senor Toby, Hez Our Secret, Deniro, El Aguila Real, Jess You And I, Cold Cash 123, Charal Kid and Chivalry SR.

Sundays’ featured event at the Cypress oval is the running of the $2,108,275 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1), the richest Quarter Horse race in California this year. First post time on Sunday is 6:05 p.m. The Two Million is set for 9:17 p.m.