Q-Racing Blog: The Big Challenge is Close
Time to look at some Challenge Championship contenders.
By Ty Wyant | September 24, 2015
Most sports fans have an opinion on the outcome of an upcoming event. Pro football fans have a Super Bowl pick in August. Thoroughbred fans are thinking Breeders’ Cup and who will win the 2016 Kentucky Derby. NBA fans are discussing who will be the champions next June.
American Quarter Horse racing fans are thinking 2015 champions. But, first, are the Bank of America Challenge Championships on November 7 at Lone Star Park. The weekend’s events start on November 4 with the Bank of America Challenge Championships’ draw.
The annual headlining stakes is the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at 440 yards. The winner earns a berth to the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos on December 12.
Odds are that the following list of Bank of America Challenge Championships eligibles will change. That’s horseracing. It could change up until entry time. These horses won a qualifying race and are listed chronological order.
Wagon Full Of Gold (Won Bank of America Sunland Challenge, April 11): Ezra Lee, Jill Giles and Melvin Neugebauer’s Wagon Full Of Gold qualified with a neck win and then was off the board in the $252,720 Remington Park Championship Invitational (G1) on May 30. Has not started since, but worked 220 yards on September 1 at Ruidoso Downs. Trainer Wes Giles usually holds his cards close to his vest, but Wagon Full Of Gold is entered in first running of the $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Championship on Sunday (September 27) and nominated to the $75,000 Refrigerator Handicap (G1) on October 3 at Lone Star Park.
Daytona B (Won Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge, April 18): The Sam Houston Bank of America Challenge win was Daytona B’s most recent start and his sixth win in his latest eight starts. The Gregorio Farza-owned gelding drilled 220 yards at Lone Star Park on September 16 and is nominated to the Refrigerator Handicap at the Dallas-Ft.Worth track. I’m sure his connections would like to make it a Challenge Championship exacta – last year, this horse won the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3).
Eyesa Famous Eagle (Won Bank of America Turf Paradise Challenge, April 26): Cesar Dabdoub’s Eysesa Famous Eagle has made one start since his Bank of America Turf Paradise Challenge win at 23-1 odds. He was fourth in the $38,000 TQHA Classic (RG3) on July 24. He is nominated to the Refrigerator, but does not show any works on Equibase since the TQHA Classic, as of this writing.
Rockin Disco (Won Bank of America Remington Challenge, May 30): Rockin J Running Horses and Jack Manning’s Rockin Disco ran a well-beaten 11th after a tardy start in the Remington Park Championship, his latest start on May 30, but prior to that he had a three-race win streak that saw him outrun the likes of All American Gold Cup (G1) winner Rock You twice. He is nominated to the Refrigerator Handicap. Trainer Tammy Johnson has kept him active on the work tab with two 330-yard works at Ruidoso Downs and then a 330-yard drill at Lone Star on September 19.
Sign Of Corona (Won Bank of America Les Bois Challenge, August 8): Yet another horse looking to make a return visit to the Challenge Championships, like Daytona B, Eyesa Famous Eagle and Jake Gold BR. RTM Stables LLC and Carol McKinney’s Sign Of Corona raced to at neck win in the Bank of America Les Bois Challenge over a very game Time For Jesse Lee and returned a month later to easily win the $16,000 Eastern Idaho Fair Bonus Challenge by three quarters of a length for trainer James Hanson. That September 11 start is his latest effort.
Decati (Won the Bank of America Hipodromo Challenge, August 9): Carlos Diaz de Leon Velazquez’s 10-year-old gelding earned his second edition of this race via DQ, when Volcoms Heart – winner of the Merial Hipodromo Distaff Challenge earlier this year – was taken down for interference. Decati won this race in 2012, and ran third (disqualified to ninth) last year. He has Challenge Championship experience; he contested the 2008 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship (G1) at Evangeline Downs.
Jake Gold BR (Won Bank of America Los Alamitos Challenge, August 16): Clodoaldo Miranda’s Jake Gold BR has not started since the Bank of America Los Alamitos Challenge. In that race he started on the lead from the inside post position and he held his rivals safe under an attentive ride from Cesar DeAlba. The Paul Jones-trained champion has the class, as he has been holding his own against some of the best aged horses in the world. So far this year, he was a close third to champions Matabari and Moonist in the $169,800 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) and a close fourth in the $145,500 Vessels Maturity (G1) behind Far Niente, Well And Good and Moonist.
Mr Victory Six (Won Bank of America Ajax Challenge, August 16): Ivy Lane Racing’s Mr Victory Six returned from a neck win in the Bank of America Ajax Challenge to win his trial to the $100,000-added Alex Picov Memorial Championship with the second-fastest qualifying time. The finals will be held on September 28 at 440 yards. He has raced at Lone Star Park before; he qualified to the 2013 Dash For Cash Juvenile Stakes (R).
BH Lisas Boy (Won Bank of America Emerald Downs Challenge, September 6): The Bill Hoburg bred-, owned- and trained- BH Lisas Boy was a prompt winner of the Emerald Downs Bank of America Challenge by one-half length at 3-2 odds, his most recent start. He pulled out to an easy 2-length score on September 6 and set a track record of :21.376 while doing it. Also in the field were the likes of Flyin Lion, winner of the Merial Sandy Downs Distaff Challenge earlier this year; Les Bois Challenge runner-up Time For Jesse Lee; and Chicks Special Angel, who from 2011-2014 did nothing but win 10 straight races in the Pacific Northwest. Incidentally, BH Lisas Boy also won the Adequan Arapahoe Derby Challenge earlier this year, so it should be interesting to see where Hoburg chooses to place his gelding.
Diamonds Edge (Won Bank of America Prairie Meadows Challenge, September 12): The Hipolito Bueno-owned and –trained Diamonds Edge stepped up at 21-1 odds to win the Prairie Meadows Bank of America Challenge by one-half length in his latest start. Diamonds Edge started from the outside post position and was racing in the pack behind front-runner Mister Big. But Diamonds Edge proved best in the final 100 yards when he raced to the one-half length win in his latest start.
Time to start thinking about a pick.
*A note from Wrangler Ace Martha Claussen:
Trainer Brian Stroud Revises Schedule for JRC Callas First: Trainer Brian Stroud was going to follow the same fall game plan as last year for world champion JRC Callas First. The Texas-bred son of Winners Award, co-owned by Stroud and his wife, Dana, won the Refrigerator Handicap (G1) and B. F. Phillips Handicap (RG3) at Lone Star Park before heading west, where he won the Zia Park Championship (G1).
Instead of defending his title in the Refrigerator, Stroud opted to send the 5-year-old to New Mexico for Sunday's $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Fall Championship.
"We decided to take a different path this year," said Stroud. "Both the purse and the opportunity to get some national attention for the horse figured in the decision."
The field for the 440 yard stakes is deep and contentious with several champions and Grade 1 winners, including Jesscuzican, Too Flash for You, Jess Featureme Quick and Handsome Jack Flash.
JRC Callas First won two stakes at Retama Park earlier this year and is doing well, according to Stroud. Regular rider Damian Martinez will be aboard when he breaks from Post Seven on Sunday. This will be the 23rd start for the bay gelding, who has won 13 races to date.
Born and raised in Stockdale, Texas, Stroud remembers falling in love with horses when he was just 14. His dad, Wayne, bred and owned racehorses. After school, Stroud would gallop for his father before heading to football practice. He attended college with the goal of coaching, but opted for a different classroom and has been training Quarter Horses since 1991. His life changed dramatically in 2014 with the success of JRC Callas First.
"We call him our once in a lifetime horse," admitted Stroud. "There are not many opportunities for older horses, so we thought sending him to Albuquerque was the right move."
Tom Harris Shifts to Zia Park: Tom Harris, who has been the track announcer at Sam Houston Race Park and Retama Park has taken over race calling at Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico.
"This was a good opportunity," said Harris. "Zia has big purses and 33 stakes races, plus I also like this schedule."
Harris was probably not just referring to the longer meet, but to the added plus of day racing. Both Texas tracks have nighttime cards, so getting off in time for dinner is an added benefit!
He is planning on returning to Sam Houston in January, 2016.
Wrangler Ace Jennifer Hancock Live at Lone Star Park: The 2015 Fall Meeting of Champions at Lone Star Park is underway and will host trials Friday night for the Dash for Cash Derby. Saturday's post time has been moved up to 6:05 p.m. to accommodate the 14 trials for the Dash for Cash Futurity.
Wrangler Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock will be on hand on Saturday evening. She will join Lone Star Park handicapper Rick Lee in his pre-race televised preview show, and will greet fans throughout the evening with informative Quarter Horse materials, courtesy of AQHA. Get her free tipsheet here.
Martha Claussen will be onsite on Saturday, October 3, for the Merial Distaff Challenge, Zoetis Distance Challenge and Refrigerator Handicap and Hancock will return on Saturday, October 10, for the final of the Dash for Cash Derby and Futurity.
For the fifth time, the Grand Prairie racetrack hosts the 2015 Bank of America Challenge Championships on November 6-7.
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.