Q-Racing Blog: AJs High Heading Down Challenge Trail

The gelding opened his 4-year-old season with a victory in the March 13, 350-yard Eastex Stakes at Remington Park.

Q-Racing Journal

Michael Teel's AJs High is being pointed to the October 29, $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos.

Michael Teel’s homebred AJs High is all about winning races, with nine wins from 14 starts.

AJs High’s connections, Teel and trainer Charley Hunt, are all about pointing him down the path towards the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) on October 29 at Los Alamitos. The gelding has traveled this road the previous two years. He won the $151,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) at Prairie Meadows in 2014 and was seventh in the 2015 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) at Lone Star Park as the 5-2 favorite after stumbling to both front knees as the start.

A 4-year-old by Apollitical Jess, AJs High has earned $362,619 with those nine wins. However, he has cost himself in many of those losses and he could have attained an even more impressive record.

“He messes up in the gate,” said Hunt. “You just have to let him be himself.”

AJs High showed his talent in the $54,400 Eastex Stakes (G2) on March 13 during opening weekend of the Remington Park season.

Breaking smartly from the third position under regular rider Stormy Smith, AJs High found himself with the leaders in a 350-yard battle in a deep field of older runners. AJs High reached the lead and then held off the dangerous Bodacious Eagle, the 6-5 favorite, to win by a slender nose. AJs High was timed in :17.196.

“It was a tough race,” said Hunt in what is probably an understatement.

 
AJs High defeated a tough field that included
Grade 1
winner Bodacious Eagle in Sunday's
Grade 2 Eastex
Stakes at Remington Park.

Johnny Trotter’s Bodacious Eagle gained the favorite’s role after taking the $415,685 Texas Classic Derby (G1) and the $194,100 Dash For Cash Derby (G3) last fall at Lone Star Park. He was making his first start since winning the Texas Classic Derby by one-half length on November 14 for trainer Trey Wood.

Bodacious Eagle’s resume is loaded with class. He was third in the Ruidoso Futurity and qualified for the All American Futurity, Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, Rainbow Futurity and Rainbow Derby. He won his trials to each of those prestigious Grade 1 stakes, except for a close second in his Los Alamitos Two Million trial. That was his Los Alamitos debut.

AJs High was also coming off a layoff for the Eastex. His previous start was his very troubled attempt in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship on November 7.

“Mr. Teel took him home (after the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship),” said Hunt. “He has a very nice place. He turned him out and brought him back in January. We just breezed him a couple of times at Remington Park.

“He trains well and is good around the barn. He is just full of himself.”

AJs High, in addition to his John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship, won the $296,000 Remington Park Oklahoma-bred Derby (RG3), $106,000 Altoona Derby and the $50,000 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge. He qualified for the Remington Park Oklahoma-bred Futurity, but was fractious in the gate and finished seventh in the $791,000 dash.

It’s back on the Challenge path for AJs High’s next start. Hunt says he will run next in the trials to the $100,000-added Bank of America Remington Championship Challenge (G2) on April 30. Don’t expect to see him in the $250,000 Remington Park Championship (G1) on June 4.

 “I’m old school,” said Hunt. “We’ll let him tell us, but we’re looking at the Challenge route.

 “He’s a nice horse with a lot of people trying to buy him, but Mr. Teel is not going to sell,” Hunt continued. “We’ll run him and, when he retires, Mr. Teel can look out and see him in the pasture. Mr. Teel deserves a lot of credit. He’s a good man for the business.”

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