Challenge: Bill's Boys

Bill Hoburg is saddling a couple of hard-trying geldings at the Challenge Championships.

Q-Racing Journal

Bill Hoburg holds his half-brothers, Bank of America Challenge Championship contender BH Lisas Boy (left) and Grade 1 winner Yin Your Eyes (right). PHOTO: Q-Racing Journal/Andrea Caudill

Standing at the stall door, trainer Bill Hoburg calls softly to Challenge Championships contender Lil Dip A Nitro, who is looking out the window in the back of his stall. The 5-year-old gelding immediately turns and comes to the front, poking his head over his stall gate. He stands contentedly as Hoburg strokes him, then gives him a hug.

“He used to not be like this,” Hoburg says. “He used to just stand at the back of the stall. But I believe in training my horses like a 14-year-old girl would. You know, a little girl will love on her horse and ask all sorts of crazy things from him, but he trusts her and you won’t see that horse quit her.”

Hoburg has three Challenge horses at Lone Star Park – although only two will be racing on Saturday night – and while he’s not asking them for anything particularly crazy, so far none of them have quit their Kennewick, Washington, trainer.

They include Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) contender BH Lisas Boy, Zoetis Distance Challenge Championship (G1) contender Lil Dip A Nitro, and Hoburg’s beloved Yin Your Eyes, who four years ago won the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos and now works as Hoburg’s pony.

Yin Your Eyes is a half-brother to BH Lisas Boy, and when he was only a few days old, the son of Eye Yin You became deathly ill from scours. Hoburg recalls how he sat for hours, holding the fragile foal in his lap, giving him medication and encouraging him to live. He did, and Yin Your Eyes went on to race 42 times, earn $147,818 and retire sound. In his 8 years of life, Yin Your Eyes has only spent a few dozen days away from the direct care of Hoburg.

Hoburg also bred and raised BH Lisas Boy, who is named in honor of his friend, Lisa Caldwell, who foaled the horse out on her farm.

“She just mothered over this baby like it was her own,” Hoburg said. “So I named him after her.”

 
 

Bill Hoburg gives Lil Dip A Nitro a little affection.
PHOTO: Q-Racing Journal/Andrea Caudill

BH Lisas Boy – nicknamed “Rafter” for his unique facial marking – last year won four of six starts, including winning the Far West Futurity (R) at Portland Meadows. This year, he’s been second or better in 5-of-6 starts, with four wins. He won the Adequan Arapahoe Derby Challenge in June, then went to at Emerald Downs in September to take on older horses in the trials and finals to the $72,090 Bank of America Emerald Championship Challenge. And not only did he take them on, he took them down – he set a track record in the trials, while defeating 2014 Emerald Challenge winner Chicks Special Angel. He returned in the final to dominate the race by 2 lengths and break his own track record, posting a career-best 113 speed index. Rafter so far has won eight of 12 starts and earned $81,320.

Qualified for both the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) and $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), Hoburg chose the latter for his colt.

“This colt’s not as sharp away from the gate,” Hoburg said. “He breaks good, but he likes that extra 40 yards….and I like that extra $150,000.”

“He’s been training really, really nice,” Hoburg said. “He just does everything right. He’s a professional, and shows a lot of class on the racetrack.”

Yin Your Eyes and BH Lisas Boy are both out of Hoburg’s 15-year-old mare Apollo Snowbound.

“I bought that mare up in Yakima, Washington, for $3,500 as a yearling,” Hoburg recalled. “She was a mediocre race mare. She qualified for a futurity, but ran eighth in the final. She showed just enough to keep trying: I had another Snowbound filly that ran 4/1000s off the world record going 870. My filly always outworked her, so I thought ‘Ohmygosh, what do I got?’ So I worked her 660 one morning, and she slabbed right at the wire.”

So ended her racing career. Once rehabilitated, Hoburg planned to sell her.

“About that time her full sister (Stars Snowbound) wins the West/Southwest Championship Challenge (G2) down in Phoenix,” he said. “So I thought I maybe better hang on to this mare.”

That was a stroke of luck, as she has subsequently produced four winners from four starters, with three stakes horses. In addition to Yin Your Eyes and BH Lisas Boy, she is also the mother of stakes-placed runner BH Country Chrome ($40,456).

“She’s done us really a good job,” Hoburg said.

He chose Rafter’s sire, Mighty Invictus, off a recommendation by his daughter, Carrie, who was taken by the horse when he was racing.

“She said, ‘Dad, I think he’s about the prettiest son of a gun I’ve seen, and you need to go look at this horse.’ ”

Hoburg is looking forward to BH Lisas Boy’s full brother, B H Apollo Ono, who is getting ready to start his race training.

“When we first take (BH Lisas Boy) to a new racetrack, he’ll go around there and whinny like a colt that’s just lost his mommy,” Hoburg said. “That’s why we got him down here a little early: We wanted him to get real comfortable with his surroundings, then he’s fine. But he’s a sweetheart, around the barn he’ll walk around like an ol’ milk cow, but get him on the racetrack and he gets about two inches bigger and a whole different personality.”

Hoburg will also saddle Lil Dip A Nitro for Dawna Jenkins and Dennis Cain of Caldwell, Idaho. He started training the 5-year-old son of Royal Miracle Dip this year, and the horse has lit the board in all five starts, including his most recent, a victory in the Zoetis Les Bois Distance Challenge.

Lil Dip A Nitro has won or placed in half of his 24 career starts, with Saturday’s race marking the first time he races outside of the Pacific Northwest.

It will be a big task that Hoburg asks of his boys on Saturday night, but as Yin Your Eyes has proven, they are willing to step up and try.

The Bank of America Challenge Championships are November 7 at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. Stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at www.aqharacing.com.

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