Challenge Championships: She Just Mit Go

Merial Distaff runner Corona Mit Go has a rich heritage.

By Andrea Caudill
Q-Racing Journal
November 6, 2013

corona mit go

Corona Mit Go. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Corona Mit Go was a final gift given to Christie and Mikel Donahue of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. On Saturday, she will represent her owners and breeders in the $100,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1).

The first gift was offered back in 2005, in the form of an old gray mare named Missy Mit Go. “Missy” was 20 and the years had taken their toll, with the other mares picking on her out in the pasture. Owners John and Sylvia Crain wanted the best for Missy, and gave her to their friends Christie and Mikel, who they knew would give the mare a safe and happy home.

Missy lived out her days on the Donahues’ farm in Northwest Oklahoma, pampered and enjoying the rich green grass. And in return, Missy gave the Donahues a couple of runners. Her final gift to her caretakers before she died came in the form of her last foal, a PYC Paint Your Wagon filly they named Corona Mit Go.

Carried via a recipient mare and foaled in 2009 on the neighboring farm of J. Garvan Kelly, “ ‘Sammi’ was a special-looking filly from Day 1,” says Mikel. “The day she hit the ground we were over there, and she was bigger than the foals three weeks older. She was just a big baby, and she really stood out. She had the attitude and the look. She’s always been a congenial mare, but she’s always had a little bit of attitude like her mama had.”

While a recipient mare foaled and raised Sammi due to Missy’s infirmities, the blood mother and her daughter had a special bond. Sammy was raised on the Donahue’s farm, and Missy took particular interest in the little bay filly.

“I can’t prove anything, but I knew that mare knew it was her baby,” Mikel says. “The recipient mare would not let any other mare near her baby – except Missy. It was spooky when you sat and watched them, the connection.”

Sammi has a record of six wins, one second and three thirds in 16 starts, with earnings of $115,366. She is her dam’s second-highest earner. The Crains also got a gift from Missy – she gave them her highest-earner, Mr Chivato To You, a 2002 gelding by Dash To Chivato. He won or placed in 27 of 41 career starts and earned $522,207. His nine victories include the Refrigerator Handicap (G1) and Retama Park Derby (G1).

Corona Mit Go is by leading young sire PYC Paint Your Wagon, a son of Corona Cartel who in four crops to race has sired the earners of more than $11.8 million. Her dam, Missy, offers some classic bloodlines, including her sire Himito Dancer, a half brother to Higheasterjet, and her dam, who traces to the good Midwestern sire Jaguar Rocket.  

Mikel is an award-winning western artist who paints near photo-realistic images of the cowboy life. He has always loved art, but made a career working in advertising. His wife pushed him to get serious about his art, and his career has taken off, with his work shown at prestigious western art exhibits around the country, including being a featured artist at the American Quarter Horse Association’s America’s Horse in Art exhibit in Amarillo. Mikel has won a number of awards, including the Academy of Western Artist’s prestigious Will Rogers Artist of the Year Award. He also paints racing American Quarter Horses, and a portrait of champion jockey G.R. Carter Jr. graced the cover of the July 2008 American Quarter Horse Racing Journal.

His booming art business demands a lot of his time, which has forced him to reluctantly miss several of his mare’s races. The Donahues were able to attend some of her races – including her victory in the $89,622 Altoona Derby (G3) last year. Fortunately, Sammy is in good hands with trainer Stacy Charette-Hill.

“Stacy has basically taken her as her own, and it’s funny how well they’ve bonded,” Mikel says.

One of those races the Donahues missed due to work was the $30,510 Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge on September 14. He was at an exhibition – one in which he accepted a prestigious award and sold all his offered work – when he got the call with the great news of the mare’s dominant half-length win.

“It was a really great night,” he says with a smile. “And now she’s headed to California. (Corona Mit Go) gives you 120 percent every time. She has that heart that the mare gave her, that Missy had. I just love it. She’s special.”

The Donahues will be in attendance at Los Alamitos to cheer on the mare that makes up their entire racing stable.

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Mikel says.

Trainer Juan Aleman will saddle the mare in California, with Cruz Mendez aboard.

And the green Oklahoma pastures she grew up on will be waiting for Sammi when she’s ready to retire.

“We will bring her home when she tells us she’s through running, and she’ll be our broodmare.”

The 21st Bank of America Challenge Championships are November 9 at Los Alamitos Race Course at Los Alamitos, California. 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.