Those who missed December's $200,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos Race Course, which brought together some of the country's finest quarter horses, will have a chance to see a replay tonight in the $100,000 Horsemen's Quarter Horse Racing Assn. Invitational Championship.
The big names in the Champion of Champions--Dashs Dream, Indigo Illusion, Rise N High, Windy Dash, Staunchs Velvet--have been reunited for tonight's 440-yard Los Alamitos stakes race.
"It's a tough race," said jockey Steve Treasure, who rode Rise N High in the Champions and will be aboard the 4-year-old gelding tonight.
Rounding out the field are: Bandolanty, Brockmeyer, Call Caleb, Face In the Crowd and Scott Lewis.
Although Dashs Dream--considered by most to be the country's finest 4-year-old quarter horse and the likely 1984 World Champion--won the Champions by a length, the race was marred by controversy. Rise N High, the overwhelming favorite in the Champions, and Dashs Dream came into December's 440-yard contest as strong contenders for the World Champion title. But Too Tidy Sis cut off Rise N High about three-quarters of the way down the stretch (Too Tidy Sis was disqualified to eighth), and Rise N High finished seventh. Dashs Dream's victory left her alone in the lead for the title, which has not been announced yet.
Dashs Dream, trained by Mike Robbins, comes into tonight's race as the favorite after concluding an exceptional year. Dashs Dream, a daughter of Dash For Cash, went undefeated in five stakes races last year. In August, she became the first horse to win both the $1 million All American Derby and the $140,000 Los Alamitos Derby.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again," jockey Danny Cardoza says. "She's the best mare I've ever ridden."
Tonight, however, Rise N High and eight others will have a chance to challenge Dashs Dream in what is expected to be better circumstances than last December when the rainy and muddy conditions at Los Alamitos proved difficult for several horses.
"He just didn't run well. Rise N High doesn't like a muddy race track at all," Treasure said. "It was raining hard, the wind was blowing, the track was muddy and slippery and he got into a little trouble. . . . But he seems to be running well now. I hope we win, but Dashs Dream's real tough."
So are Indigo Illusion, Windy Dash and Face In the Crowd. Indigo Illusion, who was the 1983 2-year-old filly champion, recorded the second fastest 440 yards ever at Los Alamitos in her 1983 $1 million Faberge Futurity victory with a time of 21.26 seconds. In three meetings, Rise N High has never outrun Indigo Illusion, who has 20 starts, 14 firsts and 2 seconds to her record, and ran third in the Champions.
Windy Dash, a 5-year-old daughter of Dash For Cash, is the defending HQHRA champion. She has more than $300,500 in earnings and was named Horse of the Meet at the 1983 HQHRA winter meeting. The mare was sixth in the Champions.
But Face In The Crowd, the 2-year-old gelding of 1983, could be responsible for an upset tonight. The 4-year-old gelding has more than $600,000 in earnings and holds the stakes record for the $1 million Dash For Cash Futurity with a time of 19.78 for 400 yards.
"He's just training super," trainer Russell Harris said. "I think he's fast enough to do it. He's used to running against the best horses, he beat Tolltac, and won the Dash For Cash Futurity and the Dash For Cash Derby. He's a good, solid competitor."
Saturday night's rematch between Eastex and Easy Austin in the $265,200 El Primero Del Ano Derby proved to be a repeat of December's Golden State Futurity with Eastex again losing to Easy Austin. Eastex, who was the 1-5 favorite in both races, had difficulty in the gate in both races and despite large charges to the wire, couldn't overtake Easy Austin in either contest. Easy Austin's winning edge over Eastex, who has only been defeated 4 times in 15 starts, appears to come in the starting gate. Eastex frequently slams into the gate before it opens, throwing off his balance and providing for a slow, awkward start. Easy Austin, on the other hand, is known as an exceptional gate horse with fast, clean breaks. In both the Golden State and the El Primero, Eastex broke slow whereas Easy Austin broke well, moving out front quickly for the lead and the victories.