Feature Jess Rockin Sets Track Record in Bank of America Challenge Championship

November 19, 2010

Feature Jess Rockin upset a tremendous field in the $353,500 Bank of America Challenge Championships (G1) on Friday night at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, going gate-to-wire in track record time.

Feature Jess Rockin defeated an 11-horse field that included four champions by a half length, covering the 440 yards in :21.262. Sent off at 10-1, she broke her own record of :21.397. Feature Jess Rockin is a 5-year-old mare by Feature Mr Jess and is a homebred for Reed Land and Cattle Co. LLC. Ridden by John Hamilton, the mare was trained by Donnie Strickland.

“The track surface here and the starting gates are a little different than the others are used to, so I think that helped her,” Hamilton said. “She’s just automatic and swallows everything up.

“She outran horses that weren’t quite this caliber (in her last start at Fair Grounds),” Hamilton continued. “I thought I was live until I saw the past performances in the program and I just thought, ‘Wow this is a tough race.’ I didn’t realize this would be such a tough field. But in the paddock, she was staring everybody down. She gets near horses and she can intimidate them. I’m excited to go to California. She’s the best thing I’ve ever ridden. She’s unbelievable.”

Arizona-based Rylees Boy was second, followed by Stolis Winner, Time For A Cigar, Jess You And I, Jess A Runner, A Royal Dervish, XO Kate, Splash To Paradise, Illegal Memories and Global Exciter.

“When you come to this kind of a race and you have a chance at the Champion of Champions, anything else is disappointing,” said Rylees Boy’s jockey Joe Ruiz. “He ran a good race, but I was expecting to win, so I’m not a very good sport. (Feature Jess Rockin) just beat us. You come for one purpose: To get the win and go to the Champion of Champions. But as long as we all walk away, it's a good day.”

Feature Jess Rockin earned her sixth win in 28 starts and the winning purse of $161,000 boosted her lifetime earnings to $270,446 . This year, the mare has won three of five starts. She started the year with a victory in the January 17 Sawgrass Stakes at Hialeah, then in March was second to Spit Curl Diva in the Decketta Handicap (G3). Rested over the summer, she returned to run second to Jess A Runner in the Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (G2), then won the Fair Grounds Challenge Stakes on September 25.

“We were trying to get her qualified to this deal and we went all the way to Prairie Meadows with her (to compete in a regional qualifying race) and tried to do good up there,” said owner Heath Reed. “We got beat up there. Donnie said we need to haul here down there (to Fair Grounds for a regional qualifying race on September 25). I said, 'Do what you gotta do.'

“We talked about it (her running in the Champion of Champions) on Monday. Most people probably thought we were crazy (for already making airline reservations for her to fly to Southern California in anticipation of running in the Champion of Champions), but Donnie said this mare has run big down here. She ran huge again this time. About Monday or Tuesday, she'll be going to California.

“When we sent her to Donnie in Florida (at Hialeah Park) last year, and she won a stakes and broke the track record. Then I ran her at Remington and she got beat to Spit Curl Diva by a nose and Donnie said, 'I'm stakes-winning Donnie and you're stakes-placed Heath.' I said, 'I understand. Will you take her back so I don't get her beat again?'”

Feature Jess Rockin is out of the Meter Me Gone mare Meter Me Rockin, and is a half sister to the Grade 1 finalist Rock N Zoom (by Shazoom, $69,472).

“You know what? This might be her track,” said Strickland. “She really loves the mud; I was hoping for a muddy track, but it doesn't matter. I'd like to thank the Reeds for giving me the opportunity to train this mare. There can't be a better horse.”

The race marked a milestone in American Quarter Horse racing history, as third-place finisher Stolis Winner broke world champion Refrigerator’s all-time earnings record. Jerry Windham’s gelding earned $35,000 for finishing third, bringing his earnings to $2,153,981. Refrigerator was a two-time world champion and earned $2,126,309.

Feature Jess Rockin earned a berth to the December 11 Champion of Champions (G1), and heads to Los Alamitos.