Challenge: Long-Distance Dedication

Challenge: Long-Distance Dedication

Canadians Charles Stojan and William Leech are taking home champion Challenge honors.

2020 Challenge Championships

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By Andrea Caudill

In a normal year, a trip to the Bank of America Challenge Championships requires significant dedication from Canadian participants, as they have to travel more than 1,300 miles one way to arrive.

But 2020 is not a normal year.

The connections that have brought four horses to the Bank of America Challenge Championships at The Downs at Albuquerque this year have had to work hard to arrive in the time of COVID, battling both a light racing season and a heavy burden to get over the border. 

Trainer William Leech and his son-in-law and jockey Ricardo Moreno were the only ones to travel down with the horses, as they could only bring two people when crossing the border. 

Cheering them on from home is their family and the horses' owner, Charles G. Stojan. 

“In Canada, we didn’t really know if we were even going to be racing until the first of July,” Leech says. “We had our horses geared up in May, then we had to back them down a bit, then we got started up, then had to back down, but we did finally get running.” 

COVID also closed the border, and required extensive paperwork and planning to get the horses and two humans able to cross, including assistance from AQHA Racing Committee member Ross Brigden. 

“It worked out, but it was right down to the last minute,” Leech says. “It’s all worth it, anyhow.”

This year, not only did the Albertans dedicate themselves to the regional Challenge program and attending the Challenge Championships, but William also earned the Wrangler Challenge Champion Trainer award, given to the trainer that earns the most points in the Challenge program during the year, and Charles Stojan repeated as the John Deere Champion Owner. 

Leech’s horses earned 88 points during the year’s competition. As the Wrangler Champion Trainer, he will receive $5,000 and a custom trophy buckle. 

Stojan repeated his success from last year to earn his title of the John Deere Champion Owner with a runaway victory by points, and for the win, Charles receives a brand new John Deere Gator utility vehicle and a custom trophy buckle.

“With the COVID, we didn’t get started until real late in Canada, so they’re pretty lightly raced,” Leech said of his group of contenders. 

Each of them has no more than three starts this year. 

Returning for another try at the $250,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) is Stripsteak, a 5-year-old gelding bred by Dr. Steve Burns and sired by One Sweet Jess out of the Separatist mare Ruths Chris. The horse has won 11 of 19 career starts and earned $104,768 in his career. 

In this race last year, he was fifth, just over a length off the winning pace, and he comes into the race this year off a winning effort in the Bank of America Evergreen Championship Challenge.

Also returning is Getit Hot, who will contest the $100,000 AQHA Distaff Challenge Championship (G1). She is a 4-year-old daughter of Walk Thru Fire and out of the Separatist mare Getit Together bred by Martha Wells. Getit Hot has won half of her 14 career starts and earned $63,980.

Last year, she was third in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3), and she comes into this race off an allowance win at Century Mile.

“She’s a real serious campaigner, she doesn’t like to make a mistake and does her job really well,” Leech says of the mare. 

Freshman Flight Club is a Dr. Steve Burns-bred colt that Stojan bought at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale last year, a son of Foose out of the Separatist mare Separate Flight who will contest the $125,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G2). 

“He’s a nice colt,” Leech says. “We only got two races up at Grande Prairie, but he’s been training real nice here and hopefully he’ll give us a good effort.”

The gray horse won the John Deere Evergreen Juvenile Challenge and has earnings of $20,027. 

Their fourth contender is Light Footed, who will line up in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3). 

The Dr. Ed Allred-bred Stel Corona filly is out of the First Down Dash mare Chickafirst, and she has never been worse than second in six career starts and has earned $35,589. In her most recent out, she won the Adequan Evergreen Derby Challenge. 

The Canadians look to be tough in their races, and their connections are hopeful the horses will be able to bring home additional hardware in addition to the goods their humans have already won.

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