Challenge Championships: Bill Hoburg

The trainer has several shots at another Challenge victory.

Quarter Racing Journal

Bill Hoburg ponies BH Lisas Boy, riding previous Challenge Championship winn Yin Your Eyes.

Bill Hoburg will saddle a couple of nice horses in the Bank of America Challenge Championships on Saturday night. The trainer from Kennewick, Washington, will send out BH Lisas Boy in the $300,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) and Flyin Lion in the $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G2).

Bred, owned and trained by Hoburg, BH Lisas Boy is one of six stakes winners by Grade 1 winner Mighty Invictus ($303,137), who has sired the earners of more than $2.5 million. The 4-year-old sorrel gelding is out of the winning Snowbound (TB) mare Apollo Snowbound, who has produced five winners and the earners of more than $385,000 from five starters, including the gelding’s Eye Yin You half-brother, AQHA Distance Challenge Championship (G1) winner Yin Your Eyes ($147,818).

“BH Lisas Boy is a big ol’ gentle, kind horse, but he’s kind of a boob,” Hoburg says. “He worries about stuff. We had to school him repetitively at night, to get him comfortable under the lights. He needs to be in his comfort zone.”

Hoburg has had the gelding comfortable enough to earn $182,878 and win 10 of 19 career races, including four stakes.

“I was kind of on the fence with him this year, whether to go to Canada for the Challenge races up there or bring him down to the Challenge races in California,” he says. “I thought if I go to Canada with him, we were going to be twenty-five-hundred miles the wrong way, so I loaded up my dog-and-pony show and came down here to California.

“I brought him down here with intentions of winning a little race first,” Hoburg says. “The first time I brought him to the paddock under the lights was for an allowance (on July 23) and the way he washed out I thought, ‘Ohmygod, he’s going to run last!’ He didn’t have water dripping off him – it was running. And then he managed a really nice race, lost a photo for second and got third. I was really impressed with the horse.

“So we started schooling the dickens out of him,” Hoburg says. “He’s always been a really fast horse, but he’s terribly slow away from the gate. That actually was one of my main reasons for coming to California: to work with the really great gate crew here. We put a nose rig on him and schooled him and schooled him at the gate, and got him leaving to where he wouldn’t get shut out. Where we’d been running up north, you could leave a little late and still come and probably get ’em, but that’s not an option down here. So the crew at the starting gate has done a marvelous job, and I’ve got to give them the credit for helping this horse turn the corner. He’s leaving now.”

The gelding’s second out under the lights was the $74,070 Los Alamitos Championship Challenge (G3) on August 13, which he won by three parts of a side. He then ran second to world champion Heza Dasha Fire in his next two races, by two lengths in the September 4 Go Man Go Handicap (G1) at 400 yards and by half a length in the October 9 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Championship (G1) at the quarter-mile.

“Heza Dasha Fire beat us pretty handy,” Hoburg says. “But every time you lead one over, you learn something. After that first time against the world champion, we did a little dialing in and the next time it was a whole lot closer. This horse loves 440 – that’s his forte. My goal here in the Challenge Championship is to buy us a berth in the Champion of Champions (G1) and get us another go at Heza Dasha Fire.”

BH Lisas Boy this year has won two of six races and earned more than $85,000 of his lifetime total.

“I bred him, raised him, train him and clean his stall,” he says. “I’m his biggest fan.”

The trainer also is a fan of Flyin Lion. But it took him awhile to get to that point. A homebred racing for Mike and Sherry Reardon of Enumclaw, Washington, the 6-year-old bay mare is one of 24 stakes winners and the earners of more than $11 million by champion Panther Mountain ($459,921), sire of champion Gone To The Mountain ($458,831). Flyin Lion is one of two winners from two starters out of the winning Rocket’s Magic mare Flaming Cynthia.

Flyin Lion had already started 22 races over five seasons at the track when Hoburg saddled her the first time and sent her out to win her April 24 trial to the Merial Sun Downs Distaff Challenge at Kennewick. Flyin Lion finished a distant sixth in the final. He started her once more at Emerald Downs near Seattle, Washington, and then took her to California.

“Flyin Lion is a nice little mare,” he says. “We started her pretty quick off the bus down here and she ran a fifth in a little allowance.”

Her next race was the $30,600 Los Alamitos Distaff Challenge on August 13.

“She didn’t get away really good, but she came flying at the end and just got beat a nose at the wire by Lin Melton’s mare Maggie Durant,” he says. “But she was really rolling at the end and just barely got beat.”

With 10 wins from 28 starts, including scores in the 2013 Portland Meadows Fall Derby and last year’s Sun Downs Distaff Challenge, Flying Lion has earned $69,383. She ran in the 2015 Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) at Lone
Star Park, and comes into the Merial Distaff off a third-place run in the September 30 Blane Schvaneveldt Handicap.

“She’s a really nice little mare – now,” Hoburg says. “The first time I saw her was in Texas, where she was with another trainer, and she’d charge the gate with her teeth open. And I thought, ‘Oh man, I’m glad I don’t have that mare!’ Two months later, this past spring, she was in my barn. She was meaner than a junkyard dog to start with, but I started smothering her with kindness, loves and kisses. I think that confused the heck out of her to start with, but now she’s just a doll, an absolute sweetheart. I’m looking forward to leading her over there Saturday night. I’m not foolish enough to say she’s going to win it, but they’re going to have to outrun her.”

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