Challenge Championships: Mike Robbins
He's back and getting even.
By Richard Chamberlain | October 27, 2016
Quarter Racing Journal
In case you hadn’t noticed, Mike Robbins is back. And he’s already getting even with where he left off.
The Texas-based trainer has four starters ready for the Bank of America Challenge Championships on Saturday night.
He’ll send out Mike Amburn’s Freakin Runaway in the $25,000 Nutrena Stakes on the undercard. The Grade 2-placed 4-year-old gray gelding by Ocean Runaway out of Freakin Streakin by Streakin La Jolla has earned $90,657.
“He’s a really nice horse, just one of those easy-training horses that does everything you want him to do,” Robbins says. “We’ve started him 15 times and he’s won seven, with four seconds and three thirds, so he’s right there every time.”
Robbins conditions two starters for the McKinney family’s Reliance Ranches. Keyper, a bay filly by First Moonflash out of This Chicks Stylish by Chicks Beduino, will go in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3). An earner of $14,306, Keyper has won one of seven races, with two seconds and a third-place finish in the October 9 Will Rogers Derby Challenge in Oklahoma.
“She’s good to be around, has a real nice disposition and attitude,” he says. “There’s nothing special about her, other than that she tries every time. She’s got a good temperament and she’s good to be around.”
The other Reliance horse is in the $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G2). A 4-year-old bay mare by Apollitical Jess out of A Delightful Legacy by First Down Dash, Political Nonsense has earned $26,668 in nine races, with two wins, two seconds and a third. On July 17, trainer Casey Black sent Political Nonsense out to finish third in the Merial Canterbury Distaff Challenge in Minnesota.
“She’s pretty hot and she can get a little silly on you at times,” Robbins says. “But we’ve got her going pretty good right now – she’s coming around and doing really good. If you can keep her as quiet as you can and not get her stirred up, she’s really good.”
And speaking of getting even. . . .
There’s Getting Even, who Robbins also will send out in the Distaff Challenge. Bred by Scarlett Hill Farm and racing for Christine Hudson (whose husband, Ben, publishes Track magazine), Getting Even is a 3-year-old red roan filly by One Famous Eagle out of the Grade 1-winning Dash For Destiny mare Dash Master Miss. An AQHA Dam of Distinction, Dash Master Miss earned $249,430 on the track and has produced champion Significant Speed (an earner of $517,605 by Duel Fuel), six other stakes winners and the earners of more than $2 million.
Getting Even has a record of 7 – 2(1) – 1 – 1 with bankroll of $30,721. The filly won the May 22 Remington Distaff Challenge (G3) and comes into the Merial Distaff off a second in allowance company on September 30, her first start at Los Alamitos.
“I think she’ll be the one to outrun in the Distaff,” Robbins says. “She’s a really, really nice filly. When she won the Distaff at Remington Park, she really ran a big race and beat those older mares a length. There was only one other 3-year-old in the race, and she finished last. I look for her to run a big race here.
“Now, I will say this: Getting Even can be a little testy at times,” he admits. “She’s really good around the barn, but she can get a little testy out on the racetrack. She’s just full of herself. Getting Even is kind of the same way as Political Nonsense: The less stress you put on them and keep them as quiet as you can, the better they are. And other than that, they are both really good.”
For those who weren’t around or might not remember, Robbins was at the very top of the trainer hierarchy through the 1980s and early ’90s, when he conditioned three world champions: Sgt Pepper Feature in 1982, Dashs Dream in ’84 and Special Leader in ’91, the last two homebreds racing for American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Joe Kirk Fulton. Then Robbins hung it up and walked away, in favor of making western-themed furniture out of horseshoes and floating teeth in an equine dental business he set up at Pilot Point, Texas (which is where he met his wife, Vikki, a barrel racer who brought her horse in for teeth work).
Now 67, Robbins returned to the track in 2012. He didn’t take long to re-establish himself at the top rungs of the trade. In 2014, Robbins developed the Grade 1-winning Walk Thru Fire filly Jess Walkin Thru ($447,266) into the AQHA champion freshman distaffer.
Now he’s back at Los Alamitos, waiting to saddle four starters in the Bank of America Challenge Championships.
“It’s been pretty good since we started back,” he says, with a quiet laugh.
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