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Kool Country Man Repeats in Houston Challenge

Kite Flyer also earns trip to Challenge Championships with Red Cell victory.

April 20, 2013

Defending champion Kool Country Man was ignored by the betting public last year, paying $51.60 in the Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge (G1). This year, at much shorter odds, he ran another outstanding race to capture the $101,970 stakes.

The 5-year-old son of Country Chicks Man is owned by Texans Jose Socorro Vera Jr. and Juan Manuel G. Barbosa. He made his third start of 2013 this evening but stamped himself as a serious contender two weeks ago when he won his trial in commanding fashion, covering 440 yards in :21.766.

Trainer Jonathan Castaneda was hoping to capture the stakes two years in a row, and rider Luis Vivanco sealed the deal, guiding the sorrel gelding to victory in :21.756 in the final, earning a speed index of 101. Bred in Texas by Ramiro Lopez and Bob Gaston, Kool Country Man improved his career record to eight wins from 26 starts with earnings of $210,552.

An overflow crowd of friends, relatives and supporters entered the winner’s circle to congratulate the winner, who returned $5.60 for the win as the 9-5 second favorite.

“I guess he has a lot of fans this year,” said Castaneda.

Kool Country Man has been a gift for the 24-year-old trainer, who acknowledged that his multiple stakes winner still has room for improvement.

“He’s had more time between races and has matured,” stated the trainer.

Last year Kool Country Man won the final and ably represented Texas with a fourth-place finish in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows in October. This year, the team will ship to Los Alamitos in Southern California.

“We were expecting the best from him, being that we are home,” said Vera. “I want to thank our entire team, and especially Ramiro Lopez, who could not be here this evening.”

Junior’s Quarter Horses Inc.’s Really A Fantasy ran a game second under rider Manuel Guttierrez. The 4-year-old son of First Down Dash made his Houston debut in the trials on April 5 and ran a professional effort this evening.

“We were happy with his performance; he closed beautifully”, said trainer Shae Cox. “He’s a stud and has studly moments. We decided to put a flipping halter on him tonight and he did great. Everyone had a safe race and that’s what counts.”

Tommy Hays and Bobby Barnett’s Runaway Wagon posted the second-fastest qualifying time of :21.803 under rider David Alvarez but stumbled out of the gate in the final. He recovered but could only manage a third-place finish.

Jess A Comment completed the superfecta, followed by The Scotch Is Dun, Making Deals, Jessa Kool Perry and Feature This Cold.

Kite Flyer Takes the $23,400 Red Cell Sam Houston Distance Challenge
The $23,400 Red Cell Sam Houston Distance Challenge featured a rematch of the 2012 winner and runner-up competing at a distance of 870 yards.

This year, Kite Flyer turned the tables on defending champion Bok Man to capture his second Red Cell Sam Houston Distance Challenge. The 6-year-old Texas-bred son of Royal Quick Dash is trained by Ryan Basham and was making his 25th career start this evening. Regular rider Santos Carrizales hustled his charge from the starting gate and never relinquished the lead, covering 870 yards over a fast track in :46.500.

“He’s a great 870 horse; one of the greatest I have ever ridden,” said Carrizales. “Last year we were a little short on his training; this year we knew he was ready.”

“I want to thank Dark Horse Partnership for letting me train this exceptional horse,” said Basham. “We want to go to California to compete but make one more start here in the Governor’s Cup Marathon.”

Owned by Dark Horse Partnership, Kite Flyer won here in 2011 and advanced to the final at Los Alamitos, finishing third to Yin Your Eyes.

“We had a goal to get back to Los Alamitos to improve on our effort from 2011,” said Pat O’Neil, one of the four owners of Dark Horse Partnership. “We’re very proud of him. Our goal is to win it this time.”

Dasher Midnight ran a game second under jockey Alfonso Lujan, and Bok Man rallied for third.

Kite Flyer ($3.20) will represent Texas in the $125,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos on November 9.