02/27/2013 2:52PM

Los Alamitos: Zia Park Championship winner to get berth in Champion of Champions


The field for the $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos in December may include the top older horse in New Mexico.

Los Alamitos officials announced last week that the winner of the $150,000 Zia Park Championship on Nov. 23 will receive an automatic berth to the Champion of Champions on Dec. 14. The Zia Park Championship will take the place of the Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park on the list of races with automatic qualifying berths.

Last year, the Zia Park Championship was won by Prospect to the Top, who was named the 2012 champion aged stallion.

Overall, the format of the Champion of Champions is largely unchanged from past years, with one notable exception: The race will have a $12,500 entry fee.

There are nine major stakes whose winners are eligible for automatic berths. Six of those races are at Los Alamitos: the Winter Championship on Feb. 17, the Vessels Maturity on July 7, the Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap on Sept. 29, the Los Alamitos Championship on Oct. 13, the Los Alamitos Super Derby on Nov. 2, and the Bank of America Challenge Championship on Nov. 3.

The Bank of America Challenge Championship has been held at Los Alamitos on an every-other-year basis in recent seasons. Last year, the race was run at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

Rylees Boy, who won the 2012 Champion of Champions, won the Winter Championship last month.

The three races from outside of California with automatic berths are the Remington Park Championship on June 1, the All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs on Sept. 1, and the Zia Park Championship.

The Mildred Vessels is the only race on the list of automatic berths that is restricted to fillies and mares.

In the event of a dead heat for first in one of those stakes, a random shake will determine which horse is awarded the automatic berth. The horse who loses the shake would be eligible for the Champion of Champions if another automatic qualifier declines an invitation.

At least one berth will be available to the winner of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial on Nov. 23.

If there is a repeat winner of a stakes with an automatic berth, or if a berth is declined, the winner of the Go Man Go Handicap at Los Alamitos on Sept. 15 would receive a starting spot. Any additional spots will be available to horses from the trial.