Sam Houston Closes with Challenge Races

Texas track wraps up meet with stakes tripleheader.

May 19, 2012

Sam Houston Race Park's American Quarter Horse meet concluded on Saturday with an excellent card featuring three stakes races, including two Bank of America Racing Challenge events. Fastest qualifiers were denied in both the $72,901 John Deere Sam Houston Juvenile Challenge (G3) and the $54,450 Adequan Sam Houston Derby Challenge as each produced a mild upset.

RC Had To Be My Day recorded the second-fastest qualifying time in the nine trials for the John Deere Challenge on May 3, and this afternoon the sorrel son of Hadtobenuts produced his best effort, covering 350 yards in :17.563 under jockey Luis Vivanco as the 9-2 third choice.

Bred in Texas by R C Running Horses, the colt is owned by Jesus E. Longoria of Austin, Texas. Trainer Alex Villarreal felt that the afternoon post time made the difference as his colt did not run well under the lights in the final of the Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on April 14, finishing eighth.

“He’s a fantastic horse,” said Villarreal. “It is a different story when he runs in the daytime. He has always had good works, but the lights might have scared him and cost him a couple of races.”

RC Had To Be My Day is out the winning Jodys Glory mare Make It My Day, who has produced 10 winners from 11 starters, including stakes winner Days Win, by Runaway Winner.

Rightamountofwrong, a filly by Fly Jess Fly, was one of three horses saddled by trainer Cindi Keeton. She registered the tenth-fastest time of :18.028 in the trials, and despite being bumped in the final she rallied for second for the ownership group of Potts, Powers, Smith and Stanfield.

“She got out of the gates real quick,” said jockey Jorge Roman. “It was my first time to ride her; she ran a good race.”

Villarreal indicated that RC Had To Be My Day is paid into the TQHA Sale Futurity (RG2), which will be run the final weekend of July at Retama Park.

Iknow HeKnows I Know, a Tres Seis gelding owned by T I Cattle Company and part of the entry trained by Guy Hopkins, was third. Fastest qualifier Bobcat Moon, Jody Pops Zoomer, Leading Version, Austinista, Catcha Corona, Bottichelli and Dashing Alibi V completed the order of finish.

This victory earned RC Had To Be My Day an invitation to the $150,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) on October 27 at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

In the Adequan Challenge, A Game Dame overcame a stumble out of the gate and came flying under rider Luis Ramirez to win by three-quarters of a length.

The daughter of First N Kool, bred by in Texas by Bob and Jerry Ann Gaston, is trained by Guy Hopkins. She was the third-fastest qualifier, and she had an exceptional record of four wins from five starts in her 2-year-old season, including a win in the TQHA Sires’ Cup Futurity (RG2). Despite the difficult start in this race, A Game Dame earned a speed index of 97, winning the 400-yard final in :19.884.

“When she fell out of the gates, my heart just fell into my shoe,” said Hopkins. “She gathered up horses and I thought she was going to run second. What an effort. She’s been a sweetheart from day one.”

“We are so proud of this filly,” said owner Mike Amburn of T.I. Cattle Company.

He and his wife, Libby, accepted the handsome bronze trophy and look forward to making the trip to Prairie Meadows for the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G1) on October 27.

Hopkins has enjoyed an association with Amburn for over 20 years and recounted the story of how they acquired A Game Dame.

“Mike and I bought some horses at the 2010 TQHA Yearling Sale,” recalled Hopkins. “He looked at me and asked if we had seen everything. We went back and saw this little filly. I thought she was real good looking, but a little small. For $5,000, look what we got!”

Charmin Chief Corona was the fastest qualifier in trials contested on May 5. The talented daughter of Chief Corona is owned and was bred by Gary Kurz and was seeking her fourth straight win after capturing the $180,900 Sam Houston Derby (G3) on April 14. However, she stumbled badly out of the gate and finished seventh under Francisco Raul Ramirez Jr. as the 7-10 favorite.

"She fell hard out of the gate," said rider Ramirez. "There was no way she could make up ground as bad as she slipped."

Making Deals, a colt bred by Jerry Windham and owned by Luis Delacerda, ran a big race from the rail under Luis Vivanco, finishing second. Ebelyn Rojas’ Oak Tree Corona was a game third at odds of 20-1, followed by Strawberry Kool, Streakin The Edge, My Classic Zoomer, Charmin Chief Corona, Fierce Runaway, Gravity Defied and Giga Man.

A Game Dame, sent off as the second choice behind the heavily favored Charmin Chief Corona, returned $9.00 for the win. She earned $25,047 today, increasing her career bankroll to $81,557.

Also on the card, the 870-yard Governors' Cup Marathon brought a competitive battle of two stellar distance specialists, Kite Flyer and Bok Man. The two returned to action today after Bok Man won $22,500 Red Cell Sam Houston Distance Challenge on April 28. But today, the Red Cell runner-up Kite Flyer, ridden by Santos Carrizales, held off a strong late run from Bok Man to capture the Governors’ Cup.

The final time of the 870-yard stakes was :45.902 over a fast track.

Trainer Ryan Basham saddled Kite Flyer for the 19th time today for the Dark Horse Partnership. He was proud of his sixth career win.

“Santos did a great job and I want to thank Dr. Pat O’Neill for giving me the opportunity to train for them,” said the trainer. “He’s a nice horse and we’ve had a lot of fun with him.”

Carrizales drew just inside of Bok Man and was able to save ground to hold off Bok Man.

“We were working with him and thought he would have been ready for his last race,” said Carrizales. “He needed that start. He’s a great 870-yard horse and I love to ride him. He gives me everything he has.”

“It was very close,” said rider Gaspar Garcia, who had the mount today aboard Bok Man.

Basham will send the 5-year-old son of Royal Quick Dash to Retama Park but is hoping to run in the Red Cell Challenge later this year at Lone Star Park.

Kite Flyer paid $4.20 as the post-time favorite. Carry On followed Bok Man and Roses Three Dancers ran fourth.

Today was the final day of live racing but beginning Sunday, May 20, Sam Houston Race Park will offer free admission through Labor Day. Simulcast racing will continue seven days a week with the third leg of racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, set for Saturday, June 9. Premier race meets including Monmouth Park, Saratoga and Del Mar will showcase top Thoroughbreds this summer, and Quarter Horse fans will be able to watch and wager on "America's fastest athletes" at Ruidoso Downs, beginning May 25.