Top quarter horse champions recognized by AQHA for standout 2022 campaign

El Paso Times Staff
Empressum (9) crosses the finish line just ahead of Valiant Stars (1) to claim the Ruidoso Quarter Horse Derby at the Ruidoso Downs on June 12, 2021.

The Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos Race Course was billed as “a race for the ages” and that proved prophetic, as its victor, Empressum, was crowned the 2022 World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse at the American Quarter Horse Champions ceremony on Wednesday at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City.

He is bred and raced by the partnership of Jeff Jones and Steve Holt and was also named champion aged gelding and champion aged horse.

Empressum was the 2021 champion 3-year-old when he dominated at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino, and he came back as a 4-year-old to win four of six starts and earned $587,896. The son of Apollitical Jess out of the First Down Dash mare Crazy Down Corona, his first start of his world champion year was a second-place run in the Jan. 2 Championship at Sunland Park, which was a 2021 race delayed until the new year by weather. His remaining starts were at Los Alamitos, and he won his Vessels Maturity trial and then won the final by nearly 2 lengths. In the 400-yard Go Man Go Handicap he clocked the fastest final eighth in more than a decade.

Other champions who were honored Wednesday, include:

Earning champion aged stallion honors was Shockinglyfamous, a 2016 stallion by One Famous Eagle and out of the Thoroughbred mare Shocktime, by Langfuhr (TB). He won or placed in eight of nine starts during the year for owners Kasey Willis and Stone Chase Stables LLC.

Kiss Thru Fire returned as the champion aged mare for breeder and owner Gentry Farms. The daughter of champion mare Fredaville, the Walk Thru Fire-sired mare won four of seven starts and earned $187,625. She was trained by Juan G. Aleman and ridden by Jesus Ayala, Diego Herrera and Ramon Sanchez during her racing season that saw her win the Charger Bar Handicap, Abigail Kawananakoa Stakes, California Breeders Matron Stakes (RG3) and Las Damas Handicap (G2). 

World Champion Empressum’s half-brother Hes Judgeandjury was named champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old gelding. Hes Judgeandjury was ridden by James Flores and Rodrigo Vallejo during his eight starts in which he earned $1,931,167. He was third in the Ruidoso Futurity and fifth in the Rainbow Futurity, won the All American Futurity and was third in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. 

Jockey James A. Flores celebrates as his horse, Hes Judgeandjury wins the 2022 All American Futurity at the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino on Labor Day  2022.

The winner of the Los Al Two Million, Cyber Attack, earned champion 2-year-old colt honors. He won four of seven starts and earned $1,151,917. In addition to his season-ending victory, he also was second in the Rainbow Futurity and second in the Golden State Million Futurity. 

The champion 3-year-old was KJ Desparado, who was also named the champion 3-year-old gelding and is a former All American Futurity winner. He races for breeders John and Kathy Lee of L&L Land & Cattle, in partnership with Ruben I. Mares. Trained by Wesley T. Giles and ridden by Adrian A. Ramos, KJ Desparado won six of eight starts and earned $667,642, highlighted by victories in the Grade 1 Texas Classic and Ruidoso derbies. The gelding is approaching the sport’s all-time earnings record, as he currently has career earnings of $2,772,603. 

KJ Desparado won the Ruidoso Derby for 3-year-old quarter horses on Saturday at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino. He has won six straight races.

Political Rose was named champion 3-year-old filly after a five-start undefeated year that included a win in the All American Oaks and Heritage Place Oaks. Bred by Stone Chase Stables LLC and owned by Dunn Ranch, the daughter of Apollitical Jess out of the Carters Cartel mare Cartel Rosie was trained by Monty Arrossa and ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala. She earned $339,841 in her championship year.

The distance champion is another repeat winner, as Rogers Farms’ (Clint, Texas), 7-year-old gelding Wascallywittlewabbit dashed to three wins from five starts and earnings of $105,810. Sired by Heza Motor Scooter and out of the Rabbits Rainbow mare Rabbits N Diamonds. His stakes wins include the Remington Park Distance Championship and Pauls Valley Stakes. 

James Flores was named the the champion jockey, Heath Taylor was named the champion trainer and Holt and Jones were named the top owners.