Challenge Championships: Oh Canada

The Maple Leaf flies in Southern California.

Quarter Racing Journal

Country Boy 123 and owner Dr. Ruth Barbour. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Dr. Ruth is on for Saturday night.

Ruth Barbour, D.V.M., has a 3-year-old she started under saddle facing his biggest test yet in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3).

The veterinarian from Hillsburgh, Ontario, was the first person to throw a leg across the sophomore racehorse, Country Boy 123. Barbour relinquishes the mount to Cody Jensen, who will take the Country Chicks Man gelding to post for the $200,000 final at Los Alamitos.

“He was great from the beginning,” Barbour says. “He’s had a great mind all along.”

Bred by Carolyn Bay of Clare, Michigan (whose T-Bill Stables bred and raced 2011 world champion Cold Cash 123), Country Boy 123 is one of 18 stakes winners and the earners of more than $5.1 million by champion Country Chicks Man. The bay gelding is the first stakes winner along with three other winners from four starters out of Very Dashin 123 by Dash Thru Traffic. An earner of $44,112, Very Dashin 123 won the 2008 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge (G3) at Sam Houston Race Park and ran in Snow Burn’s Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) at Evangeline Downs.

An earner of $68,696, Country Boy 123 won the August 14 Ajax Derby Challenge at Ajax Downs near Toronto. Winless in four starts at 2, the gelding won six of seven races this year, with his only loss a close second in the trials for the Ajax Derby Challenge. The gelding comes into the Adequan Challenge Championship off a 1 3/4-length score in the September 19 Picov Derby at the track in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ontario.

Country Boy 123 was trained in Canada by Bryn Robertson, who sent the gelding to another Ontario trainer, Jason Pascoe, who was already at Los Alamitos with a 2-year-old. The gelding was vanned from Hillsburgh to Lexington, Kentucky, and then put on an airplane and flown to California on October 9.

Country Boy 123 has had one work from the gate, going 300 yards in :15.6.

“We breezed him under the lights one night,” Pascoe says. “He’d never been under lights. It’s a lot different setup here than at our track. He took it all in and he was really good. The lights didn’t seem to bother him at all. He did really well.”

Pascoe and Bryanne Sheppard – his fiancée and self-described “jack of all trades” – also have Rpainted Pistol in the $150,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2). By PYC Paint Your Wagon out of Rdustys Chick by Chicks Beduino, Rpainted Pistol was bred by Bob and Dianna Williams of Walla Walla, Washington. The brown gelding races for Milena Kwiecien of Burlington, Ontario, who purchased him privately after he finished eighth on a troubled trip in the April 9 trials to the Remington Park Oklahoma Bred Futurity (R). Put in training with Pascoe in Ontario, Rpainted Pistol won the Juvenile Challenge on July 10 at Ajax.

“So here we are,” Pascoe says of the gelding that now has earned $29,709 with three wins from four outs. “He’s a character, a feel-good little horse all the time. He’s just tiny. He’s been here about a month. We came here a few years ago with another horse for the Challenge, and we didn’t come early enough and it wasn’t as good. So we came a month early this time, and that was a good thing because ‘Pistol’ got a little sick the first two weeks we were here. But he’s bounced back and seemed pretty good today when we took him out to train.”

So here they both are, Rpainted Pistol and Country Boy 123 sharing a shed row in sunny Orange County, California.

“I bought ‘Country Boy’ as yearling at the Heritage Place sale,” Barbour says. “I liked him because he was a nice size, had a good hip and had that ‘look of eagles’ in his eye in the walking ring.”

That look of eagles and the way Country Boy 123 carried himself was very important to Barbour and her husband, Doug Jackson.

“Our farm is a couple hours west from Ajax,” she says. “We race off the farm, instead of being stabled at the track, where horses find it much more stressful. So I was looking for a horse that had a little more confidence as a baby and he had it. And he’s stayed with it.”

Barbour started the colt. She was the first person to put a saddle on him and throw a leg over his back.

“He was great,” she says. “I break all my babies. I ride them and gallop them until they go for their first work at the track. So I got on him and he just walked off when I asked him. He’s doing great.”

Dr. Ruth is ready for Saturday night.

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