Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Big weekend ahead in Minnesota.
By Martha Claussen and Jonathan Horowitz | July 14, 2016
Quarter Racing Journal
Antics Aside, AJs High Looms Large in the Canterbury Challenge
by Martha Claussen
Michael Teel’s AJs High has already won three stakes in 2016 and will run in the $65,000-added Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge Sunday afternoon at Canterbury Park. Should he win the 440-yard stakes, he will compete for the third time in the Bank of America Challenge Championships. This year's event will take place at Los Alamitos on October 27.
AJs High, the gelded son of Apollitical Jess is out of the Rare Form mare Regally Rare. He became the first stakes winner for the 2010 world champion when he won the
2014, jrn$50,490 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge.
Teel, who resides in Columbia, Missouri, owns Regally Rare, whose successful offspring include AJs High and Struttin High, sired by Struttin To Beduino and earner of $350,092. AJs High has been in the very capable hands of trainer Charley Hunt for the past three years.
AJs High made his debut at Remington Park in 2014, rounding into form nicely later that year at Prairie Meadows. He won three races in a row in Iowa, capping his 2-year-old season with a victory in the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2). Five more wins came in his 3-year-old campaign, where he qualified for the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) at Lone Star Park, breaking poorly and finishing seventh.
He returned to Remington Park this year, winning three graded stakes, beginning with the Eastex (G2) on March 13 and finishing the meet with a victory in the Restricted Grade 1 Sooner Stakes. To date, the handsome sorrel gelding has won 11 of his 16 career starts, bankrolling $463,261. He is currently ranked fifth on the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Poll for older horses.
However, his success on the racetrack has often been overshadowed by his pre-race antics.
"He's just a freak of nature," explains regular rider Stormy Smith. "He is an amazing runner, but you never know how he will act before a race. Last summer at Prairie Meadows, he hit his rig and knocked himself goofy. In the post parade for the Remington Park Derby, he bucked me off and ran into the vet truck. The outrider caught him, I got back on and he won by 2 1/2 lengths."
Of course, Smith is not alone in witnessing AJs High's unpredictable behavior. On August 28, 2015 in trials for the Adequan Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge, AJs High knocked over his groom in the saddling paddock and bloodied trainer Charley Hunt as he came to the rescue. Hunt needed 12 stitches, but AJs High won his trial!
Teel feels that AJs High has gotten a bad rap due to his high-strung antics in the saddling paddock.
"Granted, he does get excited on race day," admitted Teel. "But in the barn, he is as gentle as a puppy dog. We take him on a cotton lead to graze, and he hand walks very nicely."
Charlie and his wife, Starlett, lovingly care for AJs High, and have the respect of Teel.
"All I did was breed him," said Teel. "Charley does not get enough credit. He is a great horseman and has been very patient."
AJs High was shipped to Canterbury following the Remington Park meet and has settled into his new barn without any issues.
Saturday is "Extreme Racing" at Canterbury Park. The popular day features Camel, Ostrich and Zebra races throughout the afternoon card, and over 15,000 enthusiastic fans were in attendance last year.
Teel is thankful that the Canterbury Championship Challenge will be run on Sunday afternoon.
"We've been tickled to death with this horse," stated Teel. "But, our 'AJ' does not need any extra distractions!"
AQHA Challenge Races Return to Minnesota
By Jonathan Horowitz
Canterbury Park will host Minnesota’s first-ever Bank of America Championship and Merial Distaff regional finals on Sunday. They will also be the state’s first Bank of America Racing Challenge races since Derby and Distance regionals in 2010.
The 440-yard, $65,000 Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge has drawn a diverse field of eight ranging from a former Challenge Championship winner to a first-time starter.
AJs High captured the 2014 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows in Iowa. Now a 4-year-old, the Charlton Hunt-trainee bred in Oklahoma by owner Michael Teel appears to be in the best form of his career. The sorrel gelding and regular rider Stormy Smith are undefeated in three starts in 2016 – the Eastex Stakes in March, the Mr Jet Moore Stakes (RG3) in April, and the Sooner State Stakes in May at Remington Park in Oklahoma.
By contrast, Spirit Or Dash has jumped into the deep end to make his first career start in a stakes race. Stablemate Macgyver Moonflash, also trained by Manuel Campos and owned by Thomas Scheckel, is also a maiden with just one previous start this month. However, Rylees Bud, a full-brother to 2014 Championship winner Rylees Boy, did win the Bank of America Sunland Park Championship Challenge earlier this year as a maiden.
While it will be AJs High’s first start in the Gopher State, There Goes My Wallet has the benefit of a tune-up allowance victory in his Canterbury debut on July 3. The 3-year-old bay gelding trained by Kasey Willis and ridden by Roberto Valero is attempting to take a step forward in his young career after finishing just outside the top-three in the 2015 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge and Jim Bader Futurity in Iowa.
Sunday’s Challenge race has also attracted shippers from Utah and California. Fiftyshadezofgrey won the Laurel Brown Speed Index 89 & Under in May and was second in the Weber Downs Maiden Frolic in June in the Beehive State. Famous Bank, third in the 2015 El Primero Del Ano Derby at Los Alamitos Race Course, was claimed for $16,000 in his most recent start in May in the Golden State.
However, no other horse can match the credentials of AJs High. His $463,261 in career earnings are more than twice as much as his seven other rivals combined ($172,656).
Wrangler Racing Ace Jonathan Horowitz’ Top-Four Selections:
#6 AJs High
#4 There Goes My Wallet
#3 Famous Bank
Wrangler Racing Aces in July
The Wrangler Racing Aces will appear live at Wyoming Down this weekend. Jennifer Hancock will conduct a free handicapping seminar at noon and offer fan education throughout the Saturday and Sunday racing card. Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Canterbury Park, Ruidoso Downs, Indiana Grand and Wyoming Downs.
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.