12/13/2012 12:34PM

Los Alamitos: Champion of Champions start critical to Cold Cash 123's chances

Los Alamitos
Cold Cash 123, winning the Go Man Go Handicap, has been schooling at the gate to improve his ability to break sharply.

For a reigning Quarter Horse World Champion, and the winner of three major stakes this year, Cold Cash 123 still has something to prove when he starts as the favorite in Saturday’s $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos.

Cold Cash 123 won the Go Man Go Handicap in his Los Alamitos debut in September, but was only third after a slow start in the Los Alamitos Championship on Oct. 28, his most recent start.

In the last seven weeks, trainer Denny Ekins has focused on the starting gate with Cold Cash 123.

“We’ve schooled him in the gate a few times and let him get out of there,” Ekins said. “If he breaks like he did last time, he won’t get any part of it.

“You can’t play catch-up with this talented group.”

Owned by Walter and Carolyn Bay of Clare, Mich., Cold Cash 123 is part of a field of 10, seven of whom earned automatic berths by winning major stakes around the nation through the year.

That group is led by Deniro, the 3-year-old colt who scored an emphatic victory in the Los Alamitos Super Derby on Nov. 4; Chivalry Sr, who won the Los Alamitos Championship; and El Aguila Real, who was second in the Los Alamitos Championship and won two major stakes earlier in the year – the Los Alamitos Winter Championship and Vessels Maturity.

The other qualifiers – Hez Our Secret, Senor Toby, and Jess You and I – were the first three finishers in a time trial on Nov. 24. Jess You and I, an 8-year-old gelding, won the 2008 Champion of Champions and is making a record-equaling fifth appearance in a race that annually plays a pivotal role in voting for year-end championships.

Deniro is one of three 3-year-olds in the field, and the one with the strongest chance. Deniro is winless in two career starts over the Champion of Champions distance of 440 yards, but has gained the respect of trainer Jose de la Torre with his training since the Super Derby.
“I think I’ve got the best chance to win the race,” de la Torre said. “He ran really good in the Super Derby. He’s getting better and better every time.”

Cold Cash 123, who will be ridden by Roy Baldillez, and Deniro, who will be ridden for the first time by G.R. Carter, Jr., break from posts 8 and 9.

For most observers, that is where they will focus attention at the start, to see if Cold Cash 123 can start well or whether the upstart 3-year-old will leave him behind.