Challenge: Zippin' On

Zip Kode comes south for a Derby Challenge.

Q-Racing Journal

Zip Kode is a big runner from a small operation. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Ontario-based Zip Kode will take on the world in the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) this weekend, and she has an excellent record backing her up.

Zip Kode has lit the board in 13 of 19 starts and earned $82,892. Spending the majority of her racing career at Ajax Downs in Ontario, her stakes wins include the Maple Leaf Futurity, John Deere Ajax Juvenile Challenge, Ontario Jackpot Futurity and Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge. She was also second in the All Canadian Futurity (R).

She is a big runner for a small operation. Owner Steve Hunter and his wife, the filly’s trainer Janet Grice, reside in East Garafraxa, Ontario. They used to barrel race, and got into strictly racing about six years ago. They breed, raise and race horses, including homebred 2012 Canadian champion Zoomin After Six ($227,456).

“Me and my wife, we do everything ourselves,” he says.

In the Challenge Championships, she is being saddled by Clint Crawford and will be ridden from Post 7 by Chelsey Willick. 

Hunter bought Zip Kode as a long yearling at the 2012 Heritage Place Fall Mixed Sale for a mere $5,500.

“She was probably the prettiest horse I’ve ever seen go through there,” Hunter remembers. “I said, if she couldn’t run, she’d make a really nice halter horse.”

Still quite a looker, it turns out the filly can run.

“Yes she can,” he agrees. “And she’s drop-dead gorgeous, too!”

Bred by a partnership of this year's Challenge champion breeder, Bobby Cox, and John Buchanan, she is by the Chicks Beduino stallion Bigtime Favorite and out of the Panther Mountain mare Fee Lion.

Bigtime Favorite is a stakes winning, multiple-Grade 1-placed earner of $324,020. From five crops to race, he has sired the earners more than $5 million.

Fee Lion is a daughter of Feefees Celebration, making her a half sister to Restricted Grade 1-winner No Fees ($166,320). Feefees Celebration is herself a half-sister to champion Brimmerton ($519,538), Grade 1 winner Gone Celebrating ($364,068) and stakes winner Mitford ($89,935).

“Oh, she’s a dream,” Hunter says of his filly. “Just a baby doll to work with. Everybody loves her.”

Zip Kode won the $27,335 Adequan Ajax Derby Challenge in July, and in her most recent start prepped for the Derby Championship with a second-place run in a tough 350-yard Ajax allowance that included past Canadian champion One Kool Wave. She has been training well in the weeks leading up to the Prairie Meadows race, with good flesh and a dappled coat.

“She’s jumping and squealing on the exerciser every day,” Hunter says. “She’s feeling pretty good.”

The Ontario filly will face the likes of last year’s John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) winner Raising Kain and three-time stakes winner Mister Big. Can Zip Kode zip like lightning to another big win? Stay tuned on October 18.

The Bank of America Challenge Championships are October 18 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. Stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at