02/20/2012 2:12PM

Los Alamitos: El Aguila Real wins Winter Championship


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - El Aguila Real, making his stakes debut against older Quarter Horses, won Sunday's $226,050 Los Alamitos Winter Championship, becoming the first qualifier for the $750,000 Champion of Champions in December.

Ridden by Cruz Mendez, El Aguila Real ($23.20) finished three-quarters of a length in front of Senor Toby, who was seeking his eighth consecutive win. Noconi, the fastest qualifier, finished third, a head behind Senor Toby.

Jess You and I, the 8-year-old gelding who won the 2009 Los Alamitos Winter Championship, finished fourth, but was disqualified and placed seventh for causing interference in the first half of the 400-yard race. Jess You and I was the 8-5 favorite in the Winter Championship.

El Aguila Real was timed in 19.50 seconds. A 4-year-old gelding, El Aguila Real led throughout the Winter Championship, his second stakes win. In December, El Aguila Real won the Grade 1 Southern California Derby. Owned by Bianca Mendez, 21, and trained by Francisco Vallejo, El Aguila Real has won 6 of 15 starts and $203,216.

Bianca Mendez, who oversees much of El Aguila Real's day-to-day training, said the gelding will be pointed for the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity, which has trials in June and a final on July 8. Mendez is the sister-in-law of the winning rider.