Preview Racing

Empressum Goes For Third Vessels Maturity, London Toby Hopes To Spoil The Bid
AQHA World Champion Empressum headlines the Grade Vessels Maturity at Los Alamitos on Sunday, looking to win the prestigious race for the third time.

Amber Mendez
Empressum Goes For Third Vessels Maturity, London Toby Hopes To Spoil The Bid

LOS ALAMITOS, CA–JULY 5, 2024– Steve Holt and Jeff Jones’ Empressum, the 2022 AQHA World Champion, will look to become only the second horse in history to win three runnings of the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity when he heads the field in the 400-yard final on Sunday, July 7 at Los Alamitos.                                                                                     

Empressum, winner of the 2022 Champion of Champions, has won the last two runnings of the $150,000 Vessels Maturity, including an amazing victory when going in :19.32 on the way to victory two years ago. The great A Ransom, the 2020 AQHA World Champion, is the only three-time Vessels winner when finishing first in 2000 to 2002.                                               

Heath Taylor trains Empressum, the winner of 22 races from 30 starts and a $2,020,623 earner. The son of Apollitical Jess has won nine of 13 starts at Los Alamitos. His last local start was a second-place finish in the 2023 Champion of Champions. His most recent career outing was a second-place finish to last year’s Champion of Champions winner, Flash Bak, in The Championship at Sunland Park. Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo will ride Empressum from post eight.

Ed Allred’s London Toby is the horse of the older horse of the moment at Los Alamitos, right now. The son of Favorite Cartel was terrific when winning the Grade 1 Brad McKinzie Los Alamitos Winter Championship in February. He was just as good when winning the Be A Bono Stakes on June 16.

 In the Be A Bono, the Scott Willoughby trainee defeated several horses that are returning for the Vessels Maturity, including Terrific Phoenix, Dont Sass KVN, Edberg Verde, and Normandy. London Toby did not finish ahead of Empressum in any of their four encounters last year, but this is the best form the California-bred has carried going into a meeting with the 2022 World Champion. Gabriel Lara will pilot the 6-year-old from post-seven.

Bobby Cox’s Jeriko, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby winner last year, is another top contender in this race. The Texas-bred son of One Famous Eagle finished fourth in last year’s Champion of Champions thanks to a terrific finish but then had a poor start on the way to finishing sixth as the favorite in the Winter Championship. Jose Nicasio will ride the Heath Taylor trainee from post nine.

Brazilian star Edberg Verde leads the rest of the field, featuring local stakes winners Terrific Phoenix, Jess Being A Friend, and Lawless Wallace, Don Lazaro, Normandy, and Dont Sass KVN.

The field will also feature the running of the $30,000 Independence Day Handicap at 300 yards. Holt and Jones’ Hes Judgeandjury, the 2022 All American Futurity winner, will head this talented eight-horse field. He’s approaching $2 million in career earnings and a victory in this race would leave him less $10,000 away from reaching the milestone. The field will also feature Cattail Cove, last year’s Independence Day Handicap winner, plus El Primero winner Hes Chickless, 2021 Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap winner You Can Run, and four other standouts.