06/15/2010 11:00PM

Fantastic Corona Jr eyes elusive Grade 1 win

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The consensus about Fantastic Corona Jr is that he's the best Quarter Horse in the nation without a Grade 1 stakes win. Six times in the last two years, he has qualified for such a race through time trials only to finish second, third, or fifth.

The streak of tough losses may end in Friday's $139,600 Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos. Fresh from a trial win on May 29 in his 2010 debut, Fantastic Corona Jr approaches the Grade 1 Vessels in outstanding form, co-owner Vince Genco said Wednesday.

"He's fresh and he's got good wheels under him," Genco said.

Trained by Paul Jones, Fantastic Corona Jr is making his first appearance in a major stakes since a third in the Grade 1 Southern California Derby last December. Also last year, Fantastic Corona Jr was second in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby, losing by a head, and second in the Grade 1 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs, missing by a neck. The Ruidoso trip took its toll, according to Genco, who co-owns the colt with Gianna Samaja and John Andreini.

"Going to Ruidoso takes a lot out of those horses," Genco said. "He ran okay at the end of the year, but not as good as he could.

"He's been training well, and Paul Jones is a master at bringing older horses back. He said he really needed the [trial] race. I think he'll improve in the finals over the trials. He's a lot stronger this year."

Fantastic Corona Jr has drawn post 5 in a field of 10. He was the third fastest qualifier in the 400-yard time trials, winning his division by a nose over Blues Man Too in 19.43 seconds.

"You know how Quarter Horse racing is, it all comes from the break," Genco said. "That's not my favorite [post] position, but if he breaks, we'll be okay."

A Streakinson set the fastest qualifying time of 19.27 seconds and will start from post 9. A Streakinson, co-owned by breeder Steve Burns, Andreini, and retired jockey Danny Cardoza, is seeking his fifth consecutive win and is making his stakes debut in the Vessels Maturity.

A Streakinson is trained by Adan Farias, who also trains Freaky, the reigning Quarter Horse World Champion. At stake in the Vessels Maturity is not only a Grade 1, but an automatic berth for the Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos in December.