Challenge Expands in Mexico

The Challenge program recieves a push in Mexico.

Q-Racing Journal

A new Bonus Challenge race for Mexico-bred juveniles will debut this year.

Mexico is a hot-bed of American Quarter Horse racing, with sprint racing ingrained in the very culture of the nation. Many of the top bloodlines have traveled to or from Mexico from the United States, resulting in increased demand for the horses.

The only sanctioned racing in the country takes place at the Hipodromo de las Americas in Mexico City. The track runs nearly year-round, and this year will conduct 111 days of racing.

The Bank of America Racing Challenge program was developed to provide more racing opportunities for American Quarter Horses, and distributes more than $5.5 million in purses and awards each year. A horse must be enrolled in the Racing Challenge to be able to compete in Challenge races, but the enrollment is good for life.

The Challenge has hosted regional Challenge races as well as Maiden Challenge races in Mexico for years. In 2013, Nain Hernandez Hernandez’s dominant mare Special Exterior  won the $46,644 Bank of America Hipodromo Championship Challenge, and returned this year to win the $20,137 Merial Hipodromo Distaff Challenge. Jose Augustin Osornio’s One Famous Episode won the $26,052 Adequan Hipodromo Derby Challenge and finished third in the $202,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G2) final at Los Alamitos on the way to becoming the Mexico Racing Champion Quarter Horse. During the same season, Enrique Carrion’s Big Bang Zoom won the $28,397 John Deere Hipodromo Juvenile Challenge, as part of the program that has yielded 42 percent of the homebred Azoom colt’s earnings. Martin Rivera Cisneros' El Dal Valle Cia won the 2014 Zoetis Hipodromo Starter Allowance Challenge.

Last year, American Quarter Horse Association staff members Darrell Hare, the director of the Racing Challenge, and Betty Berge, senior manager of international development, visited Mexico to attend the races and visit with horsemen. The ideas gathered resulted in recommendations to the AQHA Racing Council to help increase Challenge participation in that nation, and the changes approved last fall are already showing positive changes for the Challenge program.

The main result of this trip was a new race, the Mexico-Bred Juvenile Bonus Challenge stakes. Launched to provide more opportunity for racing, the Mexico-Bred Juvenile is open to 2-year-old Mexico-breds who are nominated to the Racing Challenge. Owners will make periodic payments ($350 payments due April 1 and May 1; $300 payment due June 1; $200/$7,500 late fee (plus total fees) due August 1) to qualify their horses to the race.  There were 90 original nominations and, as of June 1, has 73 sustaining payments. The race, set to be run on November 9, has an estimated purse of $120,000.

To encourage participation in the race, enrollment deadlines were extended and a fee reduction given. As a result, there were 120 new horses enrolled in the program. In addition, nominations to the 2014 Adequan Hipodromo Derby Challenge grew a staggering 122 percent over last year. This year’s John Deere Hipodromo Juvenile Challenge saw nominations rise 50 percent.

“In my opinion, this new Challenge expansion greatly benefits all of us,” said Hare. “That includes AQHA, the Challenge program, the Mexico Quarter Horse Association, but most of all the breeders and owners. More opportunity in the Challenge will offer more money for Mexican owners and breeders, as well as the U.S. breeders and sellers who sell semen or horses to race. This expansion will encourage additional Mexican breeders to support the Challenge program by enrolling more of their foals to the Challenge, and provides more quality races at the Hipodromo.”

The winners of the Bank of America Hipodromo Championship Challenge, Adequan Hipodromo Derby Challenge, Merial Hipodromo Distaff Challenge, John Deere Hipodromo Juvenile Challenge and Zoetis Hipodromo Starter Allowance Challenge are given invitations to participate in their respective championship races at the Bank of America Challenge Championships at Prairie Meadows on October 18. The Mexico-Bred Juvenile Bonus Challenge does not provide a berth to the Challenge Championships.

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