02/15/2013 2:09PM

Los Alamitos: Distance a little short for Rylees Boy in Los Alamitos Winter Championship

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Rylees Boy won the $750,000 Champion of Champions over 440 yards at Los Alamitos in December, a career milestone that resulted in the now 8-year-old being honored as the 2012 champion aged horse and champion aged gelding.

The distance of the Champion of Champions was the key to victory, according to trainer Paul Jones, and why he is hesitant to rank Rylees Boy as his best chance in Sunday’s $171,300 Los Alamitos Winter Championship over 400 yards. The winner of the Winter Championship receives an automatic berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 14.

The slightly shorter distance Sunday may work against Rylees Boy, who was third behind Last to Fire and Bills Last in a division of the Winter Championship time trials from an inside post Jan. 27.

“He couldn’t quite catch those horses,” Jones said. “He doesn’t really do too well on the inside. He’s a true 440-yard horse. He really kicks it in in the last 40 yards.”

Rylees Boy starts from post 7 in a field of nine Sunday. A winner of 21 of 44 starts and $1,321,916, all for owner Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez, Rylees Boy must be closer to the front early to have any chance.

“He needs to get going a little quicker,” Jones said.

Jones has three of the nine qualifiers for the Winter Championship, including Bills Last, second in the All American Derby in September, and Jess You and I, a 9-year-old former champion who could make his last start Sunday.

The second by Bills Last to fastest qualifier Last to Fire in the Winter Championship trials was his first start since the All American Derby. Bills Last has never won a major stakes; he was ninth in the 2011 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs.

“I think Bills Last could be my better chance,” Jones said. “He needed the [trial] race. He should be a lot fitter this time.”

Jess You and I, who won the 2008 Champion of Champions and the 2009 Winter Championship, is owned by the List family’s Double Bar S Ranch. Dawn List said last week that Jess You and I might be retired after Sunday’s race.

“If he wins, I’ll probably talk them into running him some more,” Jones said. “If he doesn’t win, it will probably be his last race.”

Hez Our Secret, who won a division of the trials, and Last to Fire start from the outside two post positions. They will be very well backed to win their first major stakes. The field also includes Cold Cash 123, the 2011 World Champion whose form tailed off in late 2012.