Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino
Sunday, January 7, 2024
Flash Bak wins Grade 1, 440-yard The Championship at Sunland Park
Three of the best quarter horses in the world did battle Sunday in the 22nd running of the Grade 1, 440-yard The Championship at Sunland Park.
And once again, Flash Bak proved much the best. The 6-year-old Oklahoma-bred son of Hes Relentess powered his way to a win against Empressum for the second straight time. Last month at Los Alamitos Racecourse in California, Flash Bak defeated Empressum in the Champion of Champions.
“He broke good and in the final 200 yards of the race, he showed how powerful he can be,” winning jockey Francisco Calderon said. “He’s a great horse and he came into the race with momentum and he looked great.”
Calderon was also aboard Flash Bak in the Champion of Champions win. Flash Bak has won 12 of 30 starts, including three of his last four starts.
Heath Taylor was the winning trainer and Valeriano Racing Stables LLC of Odessa, Texas, was the winning owner.
“We’re grateful for the win, it came against a great field. We have great respect for the other horses,” said owner Sammy Valeriano. “Flash Bak is a great horse, he’s got a great heart. We were confident coming in but until he crosses the finish line first, you can’t be sure. We’re so happy though as a team.”
Empressum is also trained by Taylor and was ridden by Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo. Rc Corona King was third. The winning time was 20.93 seconds.
KJ Desparado, quarter horse racing’s all-time leading money earner, didn’t break well and was fifth in the six-horse field. Heza Party Wagon never had a chance as he broke down not long after leaving the gate.