Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

No Stormy skies for Prairie Meadows' regional Challenge races.

No Stormy skies for Prairie Meadows' regional Challenge races.

Veteran Jockey Stormy Smith Ready for The Challenge
by Martha Claussen

Perfect fall weather is expected Saturday afternoon at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino when they present four regional Bank of America Challenge stakes.

Jockey Stormy Smith will pilot Shezawinesnob in the $36,720 Adequan Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge; Hals Flying Eagle in the $53,100 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge;  Bye Bye Birdy in the $32,580 Merial Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge and AJs High, the prohibitive favorite for the $74,340  Bank of America Prairie Meadows Challenge Championship (G2).

Smith has been riding professionally since 2000 and according to AQHA statistics, has won 885 races and purses in excess of $14 million. He has a solid record in the Bank of America Challenge, not just at Prairie Meadows, but at Canterbury Park, Arapahoe and Remington Park.

Of course, his most accomplished Challenge mount is Michael Teel's AJs High, the gelded son of Apollitical Jess is out of the Rare Form mare Regally Rare. Trained by Charley Hunt, AJs High qualified and won the 2014 John Deere Juvenile Challenge; 2015 Adequan Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge and has already qualified for the 2016 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos with a victory in the Bank of America Canterbury Championship Challenge on July 17.  Overall, he has won 12 of his 18 starts, winning $504,706.

Smith will once again pilot AJs High in the final race of Saturday's card and knows that age has not necessarily mellowed the talented runner.

"Well, let's just say that you can't go to sleep on him," said Smith. "The funny thing is that he's always been good in the morning. He gallops well and stands professionally in the gates. In the barn, he sleeps more than any horse I have ever seen; sometimes it’s a chore to wake him up."

But when he heads to the paddock on race days, his competitive spirit takes over.

"He is a phenomenal horse, but you never know how he will act before a race," explained Smith. "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."

Smith, 38, loves his profession, but admits it’s a challenge to be away from his home in Purcell, Oklahoma, his wife, Bridget and their three children.

"Our twin girls are nine and our son will be two in November," said Smith. "Bridget is a nurse and has a good job. In the past, we all spent the summer together in Minnesota and that was a lot of fun. It's a lot more difficult when you are not with your family."

Hopefully, a few wins on Challenge Saturday will put a smile on Stormy's face!

AJs High And Habits Secret Top Field in BOA PRM Championship Challenge
By John Hernandez

Ten relatively lightly raced older male horses will face off in the $74,340 Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge on Saturday afternoon at the classic American Quarter Horse distance of 440 yards.

The winner of the Grade 2 affair will earn a spot in the starting gate for the Grade 1, $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos on October 29.

One of the 10 entrants, Michael Teel’s talented but sometimes tempestuous gelding AJs High, has already clinched a berth at Los Alamitos by virtue of his earlier Championship Challenge regional victory at Canterbury Park in July

“Where else are we gonna run a 4-year-old?” That’s the question Teel posed when discussing the decision to run AJs High in another Championship Challenge regional final.

“Charley (Hunt) is definitely planning to take him out to California,” Teel added. “I may never get another chance with a horse as good as he is, so I’m in total agreement with him.”

Teel shed some light on the pre-race temper tantrums that have seemed to follow AJs High wherever he’s competed.

“He really gets a bad rap for the way he sometimes acts up in the paddock and at the gate,” Teel said. “If it’s not a race day, he’s easy-going and playful in the barn. But, the minute they take that feed bucket away from him, he knows what it means, and he starts to get ornery.”

The principal competition for AJs High in Saturday’s race appears to be Habits Secret, owned and trained by Ricardo Martinez. The now 6-year-old is the only other entrant besides AJs High with six-figure earnings.

“We sent him to the breeding shed after the 2014 season,” Ricardo explained. “But we could tell he was ready to get back to racing last fall.”

“We ran him three times down at Hialeah Park earlier this year and he won a couple of races,” Martinez added. “But we’re bringing him up to this one on works alone. He’s doing well and we hope that he’ll meet up with AJs High sometime along the way on Saturday and have a shot to win it.”

If there’s “a third horse” that could spring a surprise, it might be Ratliff & Tebow’s Tempting Valor, trained by Stacy Hill. The gelding ran well when fourth behind Mavara Vegas and AJs High in the Keokuk Stakes on August 20.

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Wrangler Racing Ace John Hernandez’ Top-Four Selections:
#7  AJs High
#2  Tempting Valor
#10 Habits Secret
#3  Gospel Howdy

Wrangler Racing Aces in September
The Wrangler Racing Aces will appear live at Prairie Meadows this weekend. Martha Claussen will be onsite Saturday, September 17 for their Bank of America regional Challenge card. She will offer fan education throughout the afternoon and join John Hernandez for paddock previews of each of the races. 

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, Lone Star Park, Will Rogers Downs, Indiana Grand and Zia Park.

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.