Q-Racing Blog: Let's Go Girls

A look at the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship contenders.

Q-Racing Journal

An early look at the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship contenders.

Get ready to do some in-depth handicapping. The $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) seems to consistently present a field that could easily produce an upset. This year’s race during the Bank of America Challenge Championships on November 7 fits that scenario.

Here are the fillies and mares expected to compete. This could change up until entry time.

Cheyenne Hero (Fills Mexico spot with second in Merial Lone Star Distaff Challenge, October 3): Canadian River Quarter Horse LLC’s Cheyenne Hero is one of those possible outsiders in the right race at the right time. She has only one win, a maiden score this spring at Remington Park, but finished second in her qualifying race at 20-1 odds over the same track.

Cartels Fortune (Won Merial Sam Houston Race Park Distaff Challenge, May 2): Throw out her latest two starts and you have a mare that won five-straight races. Rodney Verret’s Cartels Fortune capped her winning streak with a neck win in the Merial Sam Houston Race Park Distaff Challenge as the even-money choice. In her previous start she held on for a nose win in the $126,000 Evangeline Downs Derby. After those two wins, she was third as the odds-on favorite in the Develop A Plan Stakes and steadied in the Gentilly Dash at 250 yards.

Flyin Lion (Won Merial Sun Downs Distaff Challenge, May 3): Mike and Sherry Reardon’s Flyin Lion should be dangerous after finishing in the top-three runners in 15 of 20 careers outs. Plus, she is in peak form. Three starts ago, she won the Merial Sun Downs Distaff Challenge and then won her Bank of America Emerald Downs Challenge trial against males at 440 yards. She was then third in a track-record setting Bank of America Emerald Downs Challenge.

Rock Princess (Second Merial Remington Distaff Challenge, May 10): Tammy Johnson and Jack Manning’s homebred Rock Princess made a strong finish to be defeated by a neck in the Merial Remington Distaff Challenge. A year ago, the Johnson-trained filly won the Corona Cartel at Ruidoso Downs for horses that did not qualify for the Rainbow Derby (G1).

Silver Inlay (Second Merial Arapahoe Distaff Challenge, July 4): Randall and Kasey Hund’s Silver Inlay will be taking a step up in class after racing in two stakes from 16 career starts. The Zachary Quezada-trained mare gained her black type in the Merial Arapahoe Distaff Challenge when she crossed the finish line in third place and was moved up to second place.

Im Hott Ur Nott (Won Merial Evergreen Distaff Challenge, July 24): Ralph Danard’s Im Hott Ur Nott knows how to win races with 12 victories from 22 outs. However, all of those wins have come in Canada and the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship could be her career-defining race. She won the Merial Evergreen Distaff Challenge by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. The Laurie Ferguson-trained mare comes off a win in the Northlands Markel Bonus Challenge at Northlands Park. She did make her first two starts in Grade 1 futurity trials at Ruidoso Downs and was third in her Ruidoso Futurity trial in her career debut.

Betrothen (Won Merial Les Bois Distaff Challenge, August 8): RTM Stables LLC’s Betrothen is on a roll with four consecutive wins, including a pair of Distaff Challenge races, and should be one of the favorites. The James Hanson-trained mare earned her berth in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship with a one-length win in the Merial Les Bois Distaff Challenge and took the Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge in her most recent start. Zoomin Daphne was given the Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge berth after finishing second to Betrothen.

Send Me This Wagon (Second Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge, September 12): Michael Pohl’s homebred Send Me This Wagon fills the Los Alamitos spot in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship after finishing second in the Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge behind Sudden Separation. Send Me This Wagon was a $20,000 late enrollee to the Challenge program this year, and has already paid her owners back on that gamble, with a chance for much more. She has won two of her three 2015 starts, including the Canterbury Park Distaff Bonus Challenge two starts ago.

Sudden Separation (Won Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge, September 12): Duane Murphy’s homebred Sudden Separation makes a case for the favorite’s role in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship after winning three stakes races in her three most recent starts. The Larry Sharp-trained mare has won four stakes races this year. Her most important win came in Keokuk Stakes (G3) two starts ago at Prairie Meadows against males. She then won the Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge by 1 1/4 lengths as the 4-5 choice in her latest start.

Zoomin Daphne (Second Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge, September 13): K.C. Carden and Gerald Kaul’s Zoomin Daphne takes the Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge spot to attend her second consecutive Challenge Championships after she finished second to Betrothen, who had previously won the Merial Les Bois Distaff Challenge. Zoomin Daphne was claimed out of a winning effort for $20,000 at Remington Park back in March. She has earned $27,144 this year and was beaten by just a neck by Betrothen in the Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge. Last year she contested the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3).

Visual Magic (Won Merial Lone Star Park Distaff Challenge, October 3): Turner Farms’ Visual Magic is another filly that could be the favorite. The Gilbert Aguirre-trained sophomore filly has home track advantage after winning the Merial Lone Star Park Distaff Challenge by one length as the 11-10 favorite in her latest effort. She has shown her class with a second to JM Miracle in their 2014 All American Futurity (G1) trial and this year won her Rainbow Derby (G1) trial and was third behind Apollitical Blood in their All American Derby (G1) trial.


*A note from Wrangler Ace Martha Claussen:

Dashers Midnight. PHOTO: Coady Photography

Third Time the Charm: Joe and Elaine McAnally's homebred Dashers Midnight has run second in both the 2013 and 2014 Zoetis Distance Challenge Championships (G1). The winner of the $25,390 Zoetis Sam Houston Distance Challenge on April 11, he has another chance to this time secure a victory.

The 8-year-old son of Some Dasher out of the Heza Fast Man mare Shesa Moon Bar Baby is a very accomplished distance horse. Trained by James Gerhards, the black gelding was making his 28th start around the hook in Houston and slipped through an opening on the rail under regular rider Santos Carrizales. He confidently cleared the field at the top of the stretch and drew off to an eight-length lead, covering 870 yards in :45.949.

“He was really ready,” said Carrizales. “Mr. James is a great trainer and takes care of these older horses so well.”

The McAnallys are proud of their distance specialist, who will make his 41st career start in the $100,000 Zoetis Distance Challenge Championship at Lone Star Park on Saturday, November 7.

“Well, actually, I wasn’t sure he was up for the Houston race,” said Joe McAnally. “He’s 8 now, but we wanted one more shot at it and he raced really, really well. Every big race we run in, Santos does it for us; he’s a great 870 rider. The final will be just one hour from our home. Maybe the third time will be the charm!”

Gerhards reports that "all systems are go" for Dashers Midnight, who has been stabled at Lone Star Park all meet.

"We hope to get an inside post," said Gerhards of the one-mile oval.  "He is a nice horse and the owners are good people, which is what we need for racing."

Bodacious Eagle and Ricky Ramirez. PHOTO: Dustin Orona 

Ramirez Hot at Lone Star: Jockey Ricky Ramirez is having a banner season at Lone Star Park.  The 30-year-old, who rides first call for the Trey Wood barn, is the leading rider in both wins and stakes victories this season.

Born in Odessa, Texas, Ramirez took out his jockey's license in 2003, and began by galloping for the Wood barn in Ruidoso, New Mexico, as well as their base in Lubbock, Texas.

He has had quite a bit of success at Lone Star Park, winning the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity (G1) with Bodacious Dash in 2010. He posted a rare graded stakes double on October 10, winning both the Dash for Cash Futurity (G1) with Famous Little Reba and the Dash for Cash Derby (G2) with Bodacious Eagle.
 Just last weekend, he returned to the winner's circle aboard Bodacious Eagle, the very talented son of Bodacious Dash, qualifying for the final of the $415,000 Texas Classic Derby (G1). Ramirez is a very calm and positive young man, but had to admit that the heavy rain last Friday night was far from an ideal condition.

"It's no fun," he stated.  "I was just fortunate to ride a horse that handled the off going very well."

He’s hoping for better weather conditions for next weekend's Bank of America Challenge and the final of the Texas Classic Derby and Futurity, which are set for November 14.

Wrangler Racing Aces Headed to Lone Star: Denis Blake, Martha Claussen, John Hernandez and special guest Jonathan Horowitz will be heading to Lone Star Park on behalf of the Wrangler Racing Aces.

From Thursday, November 5, through Saturday, November 7, all four Aces will be at Lone Star Park, greeting fans and providing valuable information and insights on the Bank of America Challenge Championships. They will join Lone Star's handicapper Rick Lee for his live televised racing preview show and offer tip sheets for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night's races.  In addition to appearing during live racing, the Wrangler Aces will appear at the state-of-the art sports book, the Bar & Book from 2-5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday afternoon. 

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter to learn more about the upcoming Bank of America Challenge. Excellent videos, produced by RaceView Network, are posted with recaps of the regional winners heading to Texas for the Championships!

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.