12/21/2010 12:59PM

One Quick First Down, Harems Last Dash exceed expectations

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Nothing went as predicted in December for Quarter Horse trainer Adan Farias.

He began the month expecting a win from defending champion Freaky in the $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos on Dec. 11, and hoped that One Quick First Down could hit the board in the Los Alamitos Two Million on Dec. 10 and Harems Last Dash would do the same in the $202,500 Southern California Derby last Saturday.

All roles were reversed. Freaky finished sixth in the Champion of Champions after a poor start. Meanwhile, One Quick First Down pulled a 28-1 upset in the Los Alamitos Two Million and Harems Last Dash was the 20-1 surprise winner of the Southern California Derby.

The two winners are owned or co-owned by Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., which has had a 2010 marred by family sadness. Farm owner Scoop Vessels died in a plane crash in August; his widow and sons continue to operate the farm.

“Everything they run, wins,” Farias said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s nice for them, especially with the tragic loss of Scoop.”

One Quick First Down was a maiden as recently as October, but won a division of the Los Alamitos Two Million trials and had the 10th and final qualifying time for the final, which he won by a nose over Flying Fig.

“He’s in really good shape,” Farias said over the weekend of One Quick First Down’s condition.

Farias had five of the nine finalists in the Southern California Derby and Harems Last Dash was the third choice among those starters. In the 400-yard race, Harems Last Dash outfinished the Farias-trained Sparky E Boy, the 3-5 favorite, by a half-length. Harems Last Dash was making just his second start for Farias, having been previously trained by Cody Joiner.

“I thought Sparky would be the winner, but since I got [Harems Last Dash] he’s shown ability,” Farias said. “The three weeks between the trials and finals helped a lot.”

Harems Last Dash may start in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, which has time trials in late January. Plans are not certain for Freaky, who sustained cuts on his legs in the Champion of Champions.”

“We had to put eight stitches in a front leg and five in a hind leg,” Farias said. “He got banged up pretty hard. He still has the stitches.”

A defense of his title in the Winter Championship is a possibility for Freaky, Farias said. “We’ll point for that race,” he said. “If he’s not 100 percent, we won’t run.”