06/22/2011 4:42PM

Los Alamitos: Snitcher earns spot in Champion of Champions

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By the end of January, Snitcher was an exhausted Quarter Horse.

He had two minor stakes wins to show for his 2010 campaign at Los Alamitos, but had failed to win a major race. After a dull sixth in a trial for the Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Jan. 29, trainer Adan Farias shipped the gelding to a local farm.

For Snitcher, it was a working vacation. Instead of galloping, he went swimming at Double Bar S Ranch, allowing his tender feet to recover. The payoff occurred on Sunday evening when Snitcher won the $240,200 Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos in the second race of his comeback.

Owner Armando Leon earned $100,884 of the purse. Snitcher earned an automatic berth to the $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10, a race that Farias won in 2009 with Freaky, the winner of that year’s Vessels Maturity.

“We’ve always had high hopes for this horse,” Farias said. “We knew that he was Grade 1 material, but he had feet problems. We turned him out, and he came back feeling a lot better. Snitcher is now in the Champion of Champions. That’s amazing.”

With four of the 10 finalists, Farias was expected to win the Vessels, but not with Snitcher. The Farias-trained Mark It Famous, the fastest qualifier, was the 9-5 favorite, but veered to his inside at the start and bumped with eventual fifth-place finisher Simons Wonder Choice. Mark It Famous never recovered and finished in a dead heat for eighth.

Snitcher, ridden by Alex Bautista, did not have a clean start because of a bumping incident but recovered quickly to take the lead midway through the 400-yard race. Sent off at 12-1, he won by a half-length over the Farias-trained Chivalry Jr. who finished in a dead-heat for second with Divide the Cash. Whole Lot of Karma, Farias’s other runner, finished sixth.

Snitcher becomes the third horse to earn a berth into the Champion of Champions. Good Reason SA, who finished fourth in the Vessels Maturity after a troubled start, qualified by winning the Los Alamitos Championship in February. Rylees Boy earned a berth with a win in the Remington Park Championship in Oklahoma last month.

Snitcher may not have a hectic campaign in the second half of the year to be ready for the Champion of Champions. “Now we just hope that he lands in the Champion of Champions feeling good, healthy and strong,” Leon said.