06/16/2009 11:00PM

Farias's trio look to back up trial victories


The pressure will be on trainer Adan Farias in Friday's $150,000 Vessels Maturity for older Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos.

Farias swept the three time trials for the Vessels Maturity on May 30, winning with Freaky, who set a track record of 19.27 seconds, Fighter on Fire, and Premier Venu. They must repeat those efforts to win the 10-runner final, which features an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions in December.

While Freaky may be the fastest qualifier, Fighter on Fire is arguably Farias's best chance in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity. A winner of 8 of 21 starts and $368,244, Fighter on Fire returned from a layoff of more than five months to win a division of the trials by a neck over Really First in 19.525 seconds.

Last fall, Fighter on Fire was fifth in the Los Alamitos Super Derby and third in the Southern California Derby, both Grade 1 races. In April 2008, Fighter on Fire won the $182,600 El Primero Del Ano Derby but was later disqualified from the purse money for an excessive level of clenbuterol. Farias was fined $5,000 and suspended 30 days by the California Horse Racing Board for the infraction.

Freaky has won 2 of his last 3 starts, but has not started in a Grade 1 stakes since a fifth-place finish in the Governor's Cup Derby last July. He has set track records in his recent wins, including 350 yards in 17.14 seconds in an allowance race March 19.

A win by Premier Venu would be a surprise. The 9-year-old gelding was 53-1 in the Vessels Maturity time trials, a win that ended a seven-race losing streak.

Aside from Farias's runners, A Mere Splash and Stylish Jess Br merit consideration.

A Mere Splash, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Jesus Nunez, was second to Freaky in the time trials. A winner of 6 of 12 starts, A Mere Splash qualified for two derbies last year, with his best result a fifth in the Super Derby.

Stylish Jess Br, a 4-year-old filly trained by Paul Jones, won the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Handicap at Los Alamitos last September and was later second in the Super Derby and a troubled seventh in the Champion of Champions.

Stylish Jess Br was beaten two lengths by Freaky in the time trials, the filly's first start since a fourth in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February.