08/16/2013 3:45PM

Los Alamitos: Rylees Boy returns in California Challenge Stakes

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Rylees Boy, the Quarter Horse champion aged horse and gelding of 2012, starts for the first time since February in Sunday’s $79,000 Bank of America California Challenge at Los Alamitos.

An 8-year-old, Rylees Boy won his last start, the track’s Winter Championship, earning an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions in December, a race he won last year.

Despite those credentials, Rylees Boy may not be trainer Paul Jones’s best chance in Sunday’s 440-yard race. Jones has three of the seven runners, including the stakes winners Jess Featureme Quick and Sparky E Boy.

It is Jess Featureme Quick, second in the Vessels Maturity over 400 yards on July 7, who has the most recent start of the trio, a factor Jones thinks could play a key role.

Rylees Boy was rested after the Winter Championship, with the intent of focusing on races in the second half of the year. Last fall, Rylees Boy had the best span of his career, highlighted by wins in the Bank of America Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows in Iowa and the Champion of Champions.

Repeat wins in those races are goals for Jones and owner Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez. The winner of Sunday’s race receives an automatic berth to the $350,000 Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos on Nov. 9.

From a class point of view, Jones prefers Rylees Boy on Sunday, but admits circumstances may not be in the gelding’s favor. Jess Featureme Quick will benefit from his recent race and starting from post 6.

“I like the draw a lot,” Jones said of Jess Featureme Quick. “Rylees Boy, I think, is a better horse, but he hasn’t run in a while.”

Of Rylees Boy, Jones said, “He’s training unbelievable. He looked better than he did when he won last time.”

Sparky E Boy was second by a nose in the 2011 Champion of Champions. Previously trained by Adan Farias, Francisco Ramirez, and Jesse Godinez in the last two years, Sparky E Boy has not raced since finishing third in the First Down Dash Handicap at Los Alamitos last December.

The Jones-trained runners must hold off Deniro, winner of the Los Alamitos Super Derby last November. Fifth in the Champion of Champions last December, Deniro was fourth as the even-money favorite in the Vessels Maturity, his second star t of 2013.

Trainer Jose de la Torre said after the Vessels that Deniro should benefit from the start.