10/30/2011 4:45PM

Los Alamitos: Favorite Cartel gets up by neck in Challenge Championship

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif.- Favorite Cartel won the biggest race of his career in Saturday’s $353,500 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos in what was likely his second-to-last start.

Earlier on Saturday, a deal was finalized that will result in Favorite Cartel going to stud at Burns Ranch in Southern California in 2012. With the win on Saturday, Favorite Cartel earned an automatic berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 10, likely his final start.

Ridden by Ramon Sanchez, Favorite Cartel ($9.60) won the Challenge Championship by a neck over 6-5 favorite Rylees Boy, who closed from fourth to be nearest the winner at the wire. Favorite Cartel ran 440 yards in 21.50 seconds.

Jess a Runner finished third in the field of 11. Stolis Winner, the richest Quarter Horse in history and the winner of the 2008 All American Futurity, finished last after a poor start. Still, Stolis Winner earned $3,500, improving his career earnings to $2,235,161.

Favorite Cartel earned $161,000 and has won 9 of 23 starts and $583,069. A 4-year-old horse by the 1998 Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, Favorite Cartel is owned by Terry Thompson, R.D. Hubbard, Jim Helzer, and trainer Paul Jones. Thompson and Jones bred Favorite Cartel, and later added partners.

Until Saturday, Favorite Cartel’s career had been marked by close finishes in major races, including a third in the Rainbow Futurity and fourth in the All American Futurity in 2009, and a third in the 2010 Rainbow Derby, all at Ruidoso Downs.

There were five stakes worth $125,000 or more at Los Alamitos on Saturday, on a night of 12 stakes.

In the $125,000 Distance Challenge Championship, Yin Your Eyes ($34.20) caught pacesetter Regal Colors in the final strides to win the 870-yard race by a nose in 45.63 seconds. Yin Your Eyes was a stakes winner in Idaho in July.

Shez Jess Toxic ($5.20) and Illegal Smile ($2.40) finished in a dead heat in the $150,000 Juvenile Challenge Championship. Illegal Smile broke slowly and showed a remarkable rally to finish the 350-yard race evenly with Shez Jess Toxic, a filly who has won her last three starts. Shez Jess Toxic and Illegal Smile were timed in 17.53 seconds.

T Gold J, who raced at Hialeah, Remington Park, Fairmount Park, and Prairie Meadows earlier this year, won his California debut in the $200,000 Derby Challenge Championship. T Gold J is trained by Adan Farias, who also trains Illegal Smile. T Gold J ($19.60) ran 400 yards in 19.59 seconds.

Sheza Bad Habit ($11) won her second consecutive stakes in the $125,000 Distaff Challenge Championship, finishing a half-length in front of Fredaville. Trained by Bret Vickery, Sheza Bad Habit ran 400 yards in 19.60 seconds.

Sheza Bad Habit won the Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap at Los Alamitos in September.