01/27/2012 3:12PM

Los Alamitos: Jess You and I still going strong at 8

Email

Jess You and I is 8 this season, six long years removed from his first major stakes win in the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity at Los Alamitos in 2006.

Jess You and I has won seven Grade 1 races in his career, the most recent of which was the Los Alamitos Championship in October. It would be no surprise if he scores an eighth in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Feb. 19.

“He’s still pretty capable for his age,” trainer Paul Jones said Thursday.

Jess You and I’s first race of the year is Sunday’s trials for the Winter Championship. The top 10 times from the four trials, regardless of finishing position, advance to the 400-yard final.

Jess You and I was the beaten favorite in the $750,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 17, losing by a length to stablemate Good Reason Sa.

“He got a bad start and got rolling a little too late,” Jones said. “A race like that with all those good horses, you can’t overcame a bad start. He came out of the race well and is happy.”

Owned by Double Bar S Ranch, Jess You and I starts in Sunday’s fifth race, the first division of the trials. Befitting a major race such as the Winter Championship, each division of the trials features a major stakes winner.

In the sixth race, the Jones-trained Noconi, winner of the All American Gold Cup at Ruidoso Downs in September, faces Sheza Fast Habit, who was third in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Breeders’ Association Derby in October. Noconi has raced primarily in New Mexico, but was fifth behind Jess You and I in the 2008 Champion of Champions in his last Los Alamitos start.

“I wish he had an allowance race for an out,” Jones said. “Hopefully, this will be a good outing and he’ll be ready for the final.”

Sparky E Boy, beaten a nose by Good Reason Sa in the Champion of Champions, will be favored in the seventh race. He faces Snitcher, winner of the Vessels Maturity last June but eighth in the Champion of Champions after a poor start.

Sparky E Boy is trained by Francisco Ramirez, the farm trainer at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif. Sparky E Boy does not reside on the farm, but stays at Los Alamitos.

“He trains better there,” Ramirez said. “I think he’s going to be tough. He feels good.”

Senor Toby, winner of six consecutive starts, is part of the seventh race field. He won a division of the Champion of Champions trials, but did not run fast enough to qualify for the final.

“He was unlucky not to get in,” trainer Jaime Gomez said.

The final division includes El Aguila Real, winner of the Southern California Derby in December; and Dash Back Perry, who won the Charger Bar Handicap earlier this month. The 8-year-old gelding Little Bit of Baja, second to Jess You and I in the 2008 Champion of Champions, starts in the final trial, his first race in 25 months.