there were any doubts left, first down Dash dispelled them
in the Champion of Champions in December. Like nine winners of that
race before him, he parlayed the victory into the World Champion's
Not that there should have been much
doubt. The sport's most prestigious event capped an eight-race
winning streak for the sorrel three-year-old.
Down Dash is owned by
Vessels' Stallion Farm
of Bonsall, California, trained by Blane Schvaneveldt and ridden
by James Lackey. The Vessels family has been associated with a
number of Champions over the years, including Timeto Thinkrich,
Duplicate Copy, and Whataway to Go.
But this is the first time they've taken the World Championship.
Millie Vessels paid $97,000 for First
Down Dash as a yearling at the Phillips Ranch Sale. The horse was
bred by A.F. Stanley Jr. and the late B.F. Phillips Jr. He is out of
First Prize Rose, a mare from a female line that also produced
Champion Heza Charger.
The top side of his pedigree --
Dash For Cash -- needs no
introduction to Champion watchers. A two-time World Champion
himself, Dash has sired four of the last five World Champions:
Dashingly, Dashs Dream, Cash Rate, and now First Down Dash.
As a freshman, First Down Dash made
$518,000 with wins in the Kindergarten and Dash For Cash Futurities
before being sidelined by injury.
When he returned to the track in April
1987 after an eight-month layoff, he suffered his only defeat of the
year when Will Be Easy downed him in the Grade 3 Town Policy
From there, he went into Grade 1 Los
Alamitos Derby, the Grade 2 Laddie Handicap, and the Grade 1 Dash
For Cash Derby,
winning by a length
or more and shattering the stakes record each time.
Despite a bad start, he ran down
Kipscash in the Hollywood Park Championship to win by a nose.
Then he took the inaugural Quarter
Horse Breeders Classics Championship by a length after a two-month
His crowning achievement was in the
Champion of Champions, where he emulated his sire by posting the
biggest winning margin in the race's star-studded history: a length
and three quarters. His winning time of :21.39 was the second
fastest ever for a night-time Champion of Champions.
First Down Dash's 1987 record showed
nine starts for eight wins and a second, with earnings of $339,136.
In the course of his career, he started 15 times for 13 wins and a
second, earning $857,256.
Since the AQHA instituted the World
Champion title in 1940, the award has been given 46 times to 37
different individuals. Nineteen of them have been three-year-olds.
Of the sophomores that have risen to the top, only Dashs Dream and
Easy Date made more money than First
Dash during their World Champion years.
First Down Dash was the third Champion
for jockey James Lackey whole piloted Cash Rate and Leading Star in
their glamor years.
Blane Schvaneveldt has been associated
with more Champions than any other trainer. He has saddled 15 title
holders when there were at the top of their game, including World
Champions Miss Thermolark, Super Sound Charge, and Cash Rate.
First Down Dash left the track to
stand to a full book of mares at Vessels's Stallion Farm this
Harding's beautiful painting
on the cover of
the March 1988