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Challenge Championships: Horton Homebreds

Two 'heroic' homebreds take on the Challenge Championships.

By Andrea Caudill
Q-Racing Journal
October 25, 2012

call her hero

Call Her Hero on the track at Prairie Meadows.

The love of raising and racing a good horse is a family affair for Todd and Jodi Horton of Hudson Oaks, Texas.

On Bank of America Challenge Championship night, Heroes Heart and Call Her Hero will contest the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) and Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1), respectively. The fillies, both sired by Valiant Hero and trained by Charley Hunt, make up 66 percent of the Hortons’ racing stable, and were both proudly bred and raised on their farm from their band of only three broodmares.

The Hortons began racing American Quarter Horses 12 years ago. Both were involved with horses when they were younger – Jodi was raised with show horses, and Todd (whose family owns D.R. Horton, the largest homebuilder in the United States) grew up around the Thoroughbred business. They chose racing Quarter Horses as the best fit for their lives, and their horses are bred, foaled and raised at their farm. The two are partners: Jodi prefers the manual work of breeding, foaling and raising, while Todd focuses on paperwork such as researching breeding crosses and working with the trainers.

The morning line favorite in the Juvenile, Heroes Heart is out of the 13-year-old Sixarun mare Sweethearts Quicksix. ‘Sweetheart’ was the Hortons' first Quarter Horse, who they purchased as an unstarted 2-year-old. A winner on the track, she retired with earnings of $21,974. As a broodmare, she has been a very consistent producer, with four winners from five starters and foal earnings of $207,931.

Sweetheart’s second foal, Snow Burn, a 2005 daughter of This Snow Is Royal, proved to be a top runner. She won or placed in 12 of 21 starts while earning $124,245. She is five times stakes placed, but her crowning achievement came on none other than Bank of America Challenge Championship night in 2008. Racing in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1), the mare won by a nose to earn the Hortons their first stakes victory – a Grade 1, no less.

Heroes Heart has won two of her four career starts. Debuting at Remington Park and then moving to Fair Meadows, she finished second and third. By September, she had learned her lesson – and won her trial to the John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge. She returned to win the $50,760 final gamely by a half length and has collected earnings of $30,299.

“She’s got a great mind on her,” Todd says. “She’s one of those horses that wants to work. She wants to get out of the stall every day. Some babies you have issues with, but she was one that would almost chase you down to mess with you. She’s a real people horse.”

Call Her Hero is out of the Thoroughbred mare Shady Caller by Caller I.D. The Hortons sold her dam and nearly sold Call Her Hero as well. The yearling filly was consigned to the Heritage Place Winter Mixed sale, when Jodi made a fortuitous discovery.

“We had three fillies – a Walk Thru Fire, a Stoli and Call Her Hero,” Todd recalls. “We had them turned out one day, and my wife was watching them run up and down. She called up and said, ‘Are we still going to sell this baby at the sale?’ I said, ‘Yeah I think so,’ because (Call Her Hero) really wasn’t much to look at physically. My wife said ‘You might want to rethink that – because these other two fillies can’t keep up with her. They’re not even close to her.’ I said, OK, we’ll keep her.”

It was a good decision. Call Her Hero indicated she had talent, but she was looking for more ground. While it is unusual for a 3-year-old filly to compete in the distance division, given the space she immediately sparkled. In her distance debut this summer, she pulled an 8-length stunner at Fair Meadows, then traveled to Prairie Meadows to win her trial and the final of the $29,207 Red Cell Prairie Meadows Distance Challenge (G3) over a field that included last year’s Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1) winner Yin Your Eyes.  In her most recent start, she won the Covered Bridges Stakes (G3). She has earned $44,400.

Horton Racing is a family operation – from start to finish. Their kids Alex, 18, and Cal, 14, love visiting the babies out in the barn, and will certainly be cheering them on Saturday night. Todd and Jodi will be attending the races with family to watch their homebreds run.

“(Being a homebred) makes the horse a lot more important to you,” Todd said. “Our first homebred, when that baby ran the first time, I was standing in the paddock with our trainer, a good friend of mine. She came out and the lights hit her, and I kinda got choked up. He looked at me and said, ‘What’s your problem?’ I said, ‘Just looking at my girl.’ … When you help them to their feet (when they’re born), you help them nurse and I have pictures of my kids with them when they were just born – it’s a lot of difference.”

And when Heroes Heart and Call Me Hero are done racing?

“Our next two broodmares are hopefully these two fillies,” he said.

The 20th Bank of America Challenge Championships are October 27 at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa. Watch the festivities live on Q-Racing Video at www.qracingvideo.com and stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at www.aqharacing.com.