Jessies First Down is Early Favorite in Bank of America Texas Challenge

The Grade 2, 440-yard shares Sam Houston Race Park's Saturday spotlight with the Merial Texas Distaff Challenge.

Q-Racing Journal

Reigning world champion Jessies First Down ended his 2016 season with three Grade 1 wins, including the 440-yard, $75,000 Refrigerator Handicap (pictured) at Lone Star Park. PHOTO: Dustin Orona Photography

Jessies First Down, a homebred 6-year-old son of Fdd Dynasty racing for Ted G. Abrams Sr. of Houston and the sport's reigning world champion, drew post 3 for Saturday's 440-yard, $103,320 Bank of America Texas Challenge (G2) at Sam Houston Race Park.

Jessies First Down is trained by reigning AQHA champion trainer Judd Kearl. On March 17, the bay gelding came off of a three-month freshening to score a convincing 1 3/4-length victory in the first of two Texas Challenge trials on March 31.

"He looked good in his first race back," Abrams said.

Since Jessies First Down began his career in April 2013, the gelding has won 11 of 28 starts and has banked $584,507. He ended his championship campaign with by winning three consecutive 440-yard Grade 1 stakes. In addition, Jessies First Down has won four of his six outs at Sam Houston Race Park.

Rodrigo Vallejo will ride Jessies First Down. Vallejo also qualified Dutcher, a homebred 5-year-old Apollitical Jess gelding owned by Jumonville Farms and Brian Ranch and trained by Kearl. The fastest qualifier, Dutcher won the second trial by 1 1/4 lengths in :21.429.

Dutcher has returned to Texas after spending much of last season at Los Alamitos, where he ran second, a neck behind winner He Looks Hot, in the 400-yard, $152,000 Vessels Maturity (G1) in July.

"I've had him since January, and he ran a nice race in his trial," said Kearl of Dutcher.

"He's maturing, and it seems like with Judd's training he's running strong at the end (of his race)," said J.E. Jumonville. "His trial win was very impressive, but now he has to face the world champion in the final."

The winner of this race will earn a berth in the October 14, $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows. The complete lineup, in post position order including jockey assignments:
Bullys Bad Assets (Juan L. Vazquez)
Silvers Moon Flash (Jesse Levario)
Jessies First Down (Rodrigo Vallejo)
This Is A Deal (Francisco Calderon)
Tlc Dale (Manuel Gutierrez)
Dutcher (Jose Alvarez)
Red Corona Warrior (Luciano Duenez)
Kw Cowboy (Juan F. Garcia Jr.)
My Moment Of Fame (Luis Vivanco)
On The Wagon (Santos Carrizales)

Merial Texas Distaff Challenge
Also at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, a field of 12 fillies and mares has been entered in the 400-yard, $28,440 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge.

Trainer Judd Kearl will be represented by two mares -- Barefoot Beach, a 4-year-old daughter of Ivory James owned by Samuel Martinez, and Million Dollar Kiss, a homebred 5-year-old Jess Louisiana Blue mare campaigned by Jerry D. Chapman. The runner-up to Alluring Lil Menace in the March 31, 330-yard Miss Houston Stakes (R) for Texas-breds, Barefoot Beach drew post 12 and will be ridden by Rodrigo Vallejo.

Million Dollar Kiss returns to Texas from California. The mare won five of 21 starts, including three of four at Sam Houston, and she has banked $120,345, and her local record includes a victory in the 2014 John Deere Texas Juvenile Challenge.

"I remember when (trainer) Vicki McIlvain had her in the Juvenile," Kearl recalled. "She was a little filly. Jerry sent her to me after she ran at Los Alamitos. She has put on some weight and breezed really fast here on April 7."

The complete lineup, in post position order including jockey assignments:
Mary Me Anna (Santos Carrizales)
Zenergetic (Juan F. Garcia Jr.)
Phoebesdynasty (Mauro Salcedo)
Shyza Miracle (Luciano Duenez)
Hr Chatter Wagon (Manuel Gutierrez)
Whosgonegirl (Sergio Fuentes)
Dynasty Of Habits (Luis Vivanco)
Million Dollar Kiss (Jose Alvarez)
Sr Esmeralda (Noe Villatoro)
Peyton Sawyer (Nestor Duran)
Brookside (Francisco Calderon)
Barefoot Beach (Rodrigo Vallejo)

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