Challenge Championships: Callas Challenge

The former world champion seeks another Grade 1 victory.

Quarter Racing Journal

Ricardo Aguirre gives world champion JRC Callas First a bath. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Brian Stroud is bringing the 2014 world champion to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). With a career record of 30 –17 (11) –2 (1) - 3 (1) and earnings of $604,977, JRC Callas First is on the comeback trail.

Bred by J.R. Cass of Gause, Texas, JRC Callas First is a 6-year-old sorrel gelding by Winners Award out of the Dirty Coup mare Calla Missy Jane. Stroud trained the gelding for Roberts Racing Stables of Dayton, Texas, and bought him at the end of his 3-year-old year.

“I thought he was a nice horse and had some potential,” said Stroud, 49, who lives with wife Dana on their training center at Sutherland Springs, Texas. “I’m not smart enough, by no means, to see that he was going to turn out to be the horse he was going to be.

“I thought maybe he was suffering from some gastric ulcers,” he continued. “It was the end of the year and he was kind of getting sour and burned out, and causing some problems in the barn. I thought if I could sell the horse to another owner, we might turn him around. I didn’t need another horse to own, but I didn’t have any luck trying to sell him to another owner. But I didn’t want to lose him out of my barn, either. My wife had sold a Paint riding horse for $7,300 and the gentleman who owned JRC Callas First owed me a training bill of about $1,300, so I told him I would deposit the $7,300 in his account with the horseman’s bookkeeper and I’d throw the training bill in the trash if he was willing to accept that. And he did. That’s how I ended up with him.

“It was the end of the year and I thought if I’d treat him for ulcers, turn him out and just let him be a horse for a while, he might be a nice horse to play around with,” he continued. “I had no idea he’d turn out to be what he did.”

The next year, the gelding won eight out of 10 races, earned $216,530 and brought home the world title.

JRC Callas First bankrolled another quarter-million in 2015, capping his 5-year-old season with a length score in the $150,480 Zia Park Championship (G1) on November 25.

The gelding tailed off a bit this year.

“I was going to run him at El Paso – had him in The Championship at Sunland Park (G1), which was supposed to be at the end of the year,” Stroud said. “But they had a big snowstorm there, the races were cancelled and The Championship got moved to the beginning of the year (on January 3). He run a real nice race, ran second by a neck to Zoomin Effortlessly, who is on fire right now.”

Stroud took JRC Callas First to Houston, where he won his trial to the Sam Houston Championship Challenge (G2). On April 16, JRC Callas First daylighted the field in the $107,730 final.

But the gelding had rough trips and finished back in his next two races, the June 4 Remington Park Invitational Championship (G1) in Oklahoma City and the June 25 Miss Polly Classic (G3) at Delta Downs in Louisiana.

“So at that point, we stopped on him,” Stroud said. “I took him to Dr. Hayes in Elgin, Texas, to see if we could find any problems. We looked at everything – we x-rayed his knees, his hocks, his ankles. We scoped him, we looked at his flappers (in his esophagus), we drew blood and did a lot of blood work on him, we did an EKG on his heart. We really did a thorough examination to try to find a reason for him tailing off. We came up with nothing. So we rested him awhile, and then ran him in the Refrigerator (Handicap, G1).”

JRC Callas First ran sixth in the Refrigerator on October 1.

“He had a little trouble getting hold of the track and leaving there,” Stroud said. “He finished farther back than we wanted, but finally – finally – he made a run at the end, made up some ground and was closing at the end.”

So here the former world champion is now, getting ready for a run at Los Alamitos.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, what to expect,” the trainer said. “He showed some run in the Refrigerator, and we’ve done a few things different going to California. We’ve treated him a little bit different. I’m hoping that he returns to form. He’s one of those horses that has done it in the past and there’s no real reason why he’s not doing it, so you’re just hoping that the next time we take him out there he’s going to come back to what he was.”

We’ll find out Saturday night.

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