Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
A special racing ambassador and horses in Sooner country.
By Martha Claussen and John Hernandez | May 2, 2016
Quarter Racing Journal
|Chris Kotulak - camel jockey!
PHOTO: Dustin Orona Photography
Catching Up With Chris
By Martha Claussen
Chris Kotulak, the popular multi-tasking racing expert at Remington Park, was not born in Oklahoma, but shows his "Sooner" pride in many ways!
He joined the Oklahoma City racetrack in a full-time capacity in 2011. Whether he is hosting paddock previews, interviewing winning connections or serving in other broadcasting and communication roles, his knowledge of both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing shines brightly.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Kotulak has called races at many racetracks across the country and worked for TVG as an anchor and reporter. His gig at Remington Park is a perfect fit for the talented communicator and true horse lover.
Plus, life away from the racetrack is pretty good as well!
Kotulak and his beautiful wife, Kay, a reproductive specialist veterinarian, have settled into a five-acre property in Purcell, Oklahoma. Their "K Acres Ranch" is quiet and peaceful.
That's important as Kotulak is a very busy guy. He is often asked to serve as emcee for functions that are "not centric to Remington Park", but generally within the realm of racing, such as the annual AQHA Awards Ceremony at Heritage Place. Kotulak penned a biography about the legendary Thoroughbred horseman, Jack Van Berg, entitled "JACK, From Grit To Glory."
Kotulak garnered attention on the racetrack over the years as a celebrity rider in the extremely popular camel races. He has a record of two wins and two seconds from his four starts, but hung up his tack last year.
"The rumor was that G.R. Carter Jr. was going to come out of retirement," Kotulak said. "As long as I'm spotting him 70 pounds, there would be no match there."
He is the leading handicapper this meet at Remington, out picking winners in the outstanding quartet of analysts who offer free selections nightly to racing fans. He logs plenty of hours handicapping the races, which almost always have full fields with multiple contenders.
"I watch a lot of replays of both live and schooling races and research pedigrees," acknowledges Kotulak. "It's great to pick winners, but I learned a long time ago not to moan about losing a tight photo. It's part of racing."
Kotulak has seen some excellent performances in the current racing season, but mentions two standouts so far. He is a fan of AJs High, who will run in Saturday night's Sooner State Stakes (RG1) as well as Paint champion Painted Turnpike.
"It's hard to put a limit to AJs High," said Kotulak. "With the great combination of Charley and Charlton Hunt, I think he can evolve into any kind of racehorse."
He also has tremendous admiration for Painted Turnpike, winner of 10 of his 11 starts for owner/breeder Nolan D. Pevehouse.
"Some of my most memorable races have involved Paints and Appys," he stated." The way Painted Turnpike routinely dismantles his competition is very entertaining!"
Perhaps his most cherished role is going the extra step to ensure that a first-time visitor becomes a fan of racing. Such was the case with Victor Chamberlin, a retired aircraft repairman from nearby Tinker Air Force base. Chamberlin, who served his country for 37 years, brought his family and camera to Remington Park. Kotulak struck up a conversation with the group, gave them a guided tour of the track and capped their experience with a photo in front of the Jack Brooks statue. Chamberlin sent the photo to Kotulak with a very special message.
“Thanks for your generous guided tour and great company yesterday at Remington Park," he wrote. "We all had a very special and memorable day because of your kindness."
There are lots of compliments that can be given to Chris Kotulak, but I think Victor Chamberlin said it best!
|AJs High wins the Mr Jet Moore.
PHOTO: Dustin Orona Photography
AJs High and Sam Crow Renew Rivalry
by John Hernandez
A pair of well-proven Oklahoma-breds, Michael Teel’s AJs High and Terry Baber’s Sam Crow, renew their rivalry in the $100,000 Sooner State Stakes (RG1) at 400 yards, the feature race on Saturday night’s card at Remington Park.
AJs High, the gelded son of Apollitical Jess out of Regally Rare, became a two-time stakes winner in the early part of the Remington Park meet when he bested Sam Crow, a gelding by Valiant Hero out of the Chicks Beduino mare Bourbonstreetchick, by a half-length in the Mr Jet Moore Stakes (RG3) at 350 yards on April 7.
As “an Iowa guy,” I have always had a soft spot for AJs High, who has enjoyed some of his finer moments at my home track Prairie Meadows.
He qualified for the season-ending Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) last November at Lone Star Park, went to the post as the 2-1 favorite, but saw his chances for a win go up in smoke because of a poor start.
AJs High returned to action March 13 for trainer Charley Hunt and turned in a solid effort in winning the $50,000 Eastex Stakes (G2) by a nose under regular rider Stormy Smith, before taking on Sam Crow in the Mr Jet Moore. He’ll have to be at the top of his game once again if he plans on posing for the win photo after the Sooner State Stakes.
Sam Crow is back for another shot at him, and like AJs High, makes his third start of the year in the hands of trainer Trey Wood and regular rider Ricky Ramirez.
“The Crow,” of course, was the runner-up to Apollitical Blood in the $2.3-million All-American Derby at Ruidoso Downs last September in the final start of his 3-year-old season. Those two, AJs High and Sam Crow, are the marquee attractions in the Sooner State, but –as the old saying goes– “contention runs deep.”
Duane Murphy’s 5-year-old mare Sudden Separation, odds-on winner of the $126,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) last fall, will also make her third start of 2016 as she searches for her first victory of the year.
Bringin The Gray and Specials Jess, beaten just a half-length each by AJs High as the 3-4 finishers in the Mr Jet Moore Stakes, add depth and quality to the nine-horse Sooner State field.
Figure on AJs High and Sam Crow battling it out for the win.
Wrangler Racing Ace John Hernandez' Top Four Selections: 7-9-6-8.
Wrangler Racing Aces in May
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, Remington Park, Sam Houston Race Park, Turf Paradise, Indiana Grand and Delta 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.