Los Alamitos Race Course, Cypress, CA - June 20, 2003 - Miami Cartel, fifth in the Champion of Champions on December 14, defeated a field that included two other Champion of Champions finalist to take the $15,000 Imperial Beach Handicap Friday at Los Alamitos.
Piloted by Saul Ramirez, who has now guided the gelding to back-to-back stakes wins, Miami Cartel held off Grade 1 stakes winner and fellow Champion of Champions finalist Dinastia Toll by a head to win the 350-yard race. Racing for James Azevedo, Charles Boyles and Paul Jones, Miami Cartel covered the distance in :17.52.
"Based on the quality of the horses in this group this overnight race could have easily been a Grade 2 race," Boyles said. "It's nice to win a race with so many good horses in there."
The Imperial Beach also featured Juan G. Aleman's Runahalf, who was making his first start since running second in the Champion of Champions, and stablemate Takin On Spoon Man, the winner of the Laguna Hills Handicap on January 17. Gotabenuts, a local allowance winner and a finalist in the Sam Houston Derby last year completed the field.
Back to Miami Cartel, the sorrel gelding by Corona Cartel picked up his eighth win in 23 starts. This was his second win of the year - the first coming in the Grade 3 Kaweah Bar Handicap on April 5. With Ramirez aboard, Miami Cartel broke on top from the rail and remained tough throughout despite the heavy challenge on Dinastia Toll on the outside.
"When this horse breaks on top, he is tough to beat," Boyles added. "He does not like to lose when he takes the lead. He has a big heart. The key is for him to get a good break. He's facing horses of high quality and if you break a half-length behind at this level, you stay a half-length behind."
Miami Cartel earned $8,250 for the effort to push his bank account to $246,699. He is expected to make his next outing in the Independence Day Handicap on Fourth of July.
Alex Bautista piloted Dinastia Toll to a second place finish in the Imperial Beach - her first appearance in a stakes race since her Charger Bar victory. Trained by Danny Cardoza for Fakri Family Ltd Partnership, Dinastia Toll was a disappointing fifth in a trial to the Los Alamitos Winter Championship in her last start. Dinastia Toll earned $3,375.
Takin On Spoon Man finished third and was followed by Gotabenuts and Runahalf.
"Runahalf false broke," said Ramon Sanchez, who was aboard the Champion of Champions runner-up. "He was leaning back right when the the gate opened. It was his first start of the year and I'm sure he'll be much better in his next race."
Bob Grimes and Paul Jones have paid $25,000 to make Los Alamitos Winter Derby winner Lock To Load eligible to the Rainbow Derby trials at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. In preparation for the July 4 trials, Lock To Load defeated champion First To Flash in an allowance on June 15.
"We wanted him to have an out to get used to the track and the high elevation at Ruidoso Downs," Jones said. "We're going to take a shot at the Rainbow. Our ultimate goal is to make Lock To Load champion 3-year-old colt."
Longshots won three of the nine races Friday at Los Alamitos. Palmer Family Investment's First Dance Dasher picked up his second win in a row in the evening's opening race at 17-1 odds. Ed Allred's She Doll scored the biggest upset, beating a nice field of 2-year-olds at 34-1 odds. Quick Moon Rising, a filly out of graded stakes winner Quick Moon Sign, and Oh So Susie were among the horses that also took part in this race.
The final race of the night went to John White Jr's Steam, an 11-1 winner over fellow longshot Jessina. The two combined to produce a $139.90 exacta.