02/17/2012 2:55PM

Los Alamitos: Jones sends a pair of champions in Los Alamitos Winter Championship


Their credentials are impeccable. Jess You and I was the champion aged horse and champion aged gelding in 2008. Noconi was the champion 3-year-old gelding of 2008 and champion aged gelding of 2010.

Between them, they give trainer Paul Jones a formidable team for Sunday’s $226,050 Los Alamitos Winter Championship for older Quarter Horses. At stake is an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions in December.

On Friday, a diplomatic Jones was not ready to make a prediction among his two champions.

“I think it’s a toss-up between them,” he said.

Owned by Ruidoso Downs chairman R.D. Hubbard, Noconi set the fastest qualifying time of 19.68 seconds in 400-yard time trials for the Winter Championship on Jan. 29. A 7-year-old gelding who has won 14 of 31 starts and $1,278,833, Noconi starts from post 9 of 10 in the Winter Championship.

“I really like the way he drew,” Jones said. “He’s doing really good.”

Since the trials, Noconi has been given a low-key approach to training.

“We’ve galloped him a few times and stood him in the gate,” Jones said.

Owned by Double Bar S Ranch, Jess You and I is an 8-year-old gelding who has won 19 of 36 starts and $1,810,627. A trial race winner on Jan. 29, Jess You and I is making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Winter Championship, having won the race in 2009 and finished third the last two years. Jones said the key to Sunday’s race for Jess You and I is the start.

“He can be a bit cantankerous in the gate,” Jones said. “His main thing is he has to get a good start.”

Jones has three starters, including the longshot BF Farm Boy, who was second to Senor Toby in a division of the trials. Senor Toby has won seven consecutive races and makes his first start in a Grade 1 in the Winter Championship. Jones says he has an edge over Senor Toby with his runners.

“He’s going to have to run better to beat these horses,” Jones said of Senor Toby. “He barely beat my third horse, BF Farm Boy. I think it’s time for him to get beat.”

Trained by Jaime Gomez, Senor Toby’s winning streak began after he was gelded. Gomez said last week that he thinks that Senor Toby can show further improvement from his recent trial win.

There is one 5-year-old mare in the field – Dash Back Perry, who won the Charger Bar Handicap last month and a division of the trials on Jan. 29.