Challenge Championships: Lin Melton

The trainer will saddle three in the Challenge Championships.

Quarter Racing Journal

Lin Melton with Maggie Durant. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Lin Melton will take three shots at the Bank of America Challenge Championships on Saturday night.

The veteran trainer will take one of them with BM Casina Royale in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3), another with Maggie Durant in the $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G2), and a third with Doctor Fantastic in the $25,000 B&W Stakes on the undercard.

BM Casina Royale is a homebred racing for Bobby Myers of Jersey Village, Texas. The brown filly is one of 85 stakes winners and the earners of more than $25 million by PYC Paint Your Wagon. BM Casina Royale is the first stakes winner and one of six winners from seven starters out of the stakes-placed Royal Shake Em mare Joyalty ($23,957), who has produced the earners of more than $220,000.

“Judd Kearl sent her to me, and I’ve had her about three weeks,” says Melton, referencing the Farnam Champion Trainer. “She’s beautiful, a sweetheart, really nice to work with, really nice filly. Judd told me she does everything right and to just take good care of her, so we’re trying.”

Maggie Durant was bred by Kelly Spackman’s Spackman Racing of Preston, Idaho, and runs for the partnership of Spackman and Melton, an Idaho native who has a home at Hurricane, Utah, but spends most of his time and energy at Los Alamitos. Melton also will saddle Spackman’s Apollitical Jess filly Time For Jess in the $802,750 Los Alamitos Super Derby (G1) on November 6.

An earner of $47,674 with five wins from 14 races, Maggie Durant is one of 11 stakes winners and the earners of more than $2.2 million by One Sweet Jess. The sophomore filly is one of nine winners and the earners of more than $328,000 from 11 starters out of the stakes-winning First Down Dash mare Up Down Dash ($55,979), who also produced the stakes winners Head Bud ($99,543) and Bud Cheeks ($44,501), both by Strawflyin Buds.

Though winless in five races as a 2-year-old last year, Maggie Durant finished second in three races and third in the other two in her freshman season. She broke her maiden in January, running for a $16,000 tag on her first out as a 3-year-old, to kick off four consecutive wins. She then finished second in both the May 13 La Pacifica Handicap and the June 17 Emma Bug ’Cap, before finishing back after a rough trip in the July 30 California Breeders’ Debutante Stakes (R). On August 13, Maggie Durant scored her first stakes win in the $30,600 Los Alamitos Distaff Challenge and comes into the Merial Distaff off a sixth-place run in the September 16 Fall For It Handicap.

“Maggie Durant is a real sweetheart, real easy to handle and trains really hard,” Melton says. “She’s only had one bad race in her life – that was the last time we ran her. She won the Challenge stakes and then we ran her back in another little stakes and she didn’t run that good, ran flat, but two days later she popped an abscess out of the sole of her foot. But she’s come back good, sharp and fast now. We started her a little late and never really pressed her as a 2-year-old, but she’s run good her whole life.”

Bob and Scott Giltner’s homebred Doctor Fantastic is a sorrel gelding by Fantastic Corona Jr out of the unraced Check Him Out mare Docs Check.

“He’s a nice horse, potentially a great horse,” Melton says. “We’re running him in the 2-year-old race on the undercard. He ran in the Bitterroot (Futurity) and then they sent him down here. He actually qualified second-fastest for the Pacific Coast (QHRA Breeders’ Futurity, G2) and ran fifth in the final. But it was a good fifth, and I really think he’s a better horse than that. He’s in the Los Alamitos Two Million (Futurity, G1) trials, so instead of working him, we’re going to run him.”

In the meantime, Melton will be at his barn, keeping his horses on their toes.

“I’ve been here a long time,” says Melton, 65, who hung out his training shingle in 1974. “We’re just trying to keep going.”

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