Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Texas horsemen fired up for Refrigerator.

Texas horsemen fired up for Refrigerator.

Jessies First Down and JRC Callas First Renew Rivalry in the Refrigerator Handicap
By Martha Claussen

On April 16 at Sam Houston Race Park, two highly regarded Texas-breds, JRC Callas First and Jessies First Down faced off in the $107,730 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).  The victory belonged to  2014 AQHA world champion JRC Callas First,  who broke like a rocket from the far inside post and never relinquished his lead.

Bred by J.R. Cass, the 6-year-old son of Winners Award is owned by Dana and Brian Stroud and trained by Brian. The Strouds paid $20,000 in February to late-enroll JRC Callas First into the Bank of America Racing Challenge program, to immediate reward. He is expected to represent Texas in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos.

For the second year in a row, Ted G. Abrams Sr.'s homebred Jessies First Down, a son of FDD Dynasty, was the fastest qualifier for the Houston regional qualifier. And for the second year in a row, he had to settle for a runner-up finish, finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind JRC Callas First.

Three weeks later, it was a much happier outcome for Abrams and his family as Jessies First Down rallied strongly to capture the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2).

The 5-year-old gelding has shown a new level of professionalism this year.

"I think he has finally figured things out," explained Abrams.  "You watch him in the saddling paddock this year and he stands quietly and is extremely focused."

His maturity and the solid connection Abrams and leading conditioner Judd Kearl have formed, are two major reasons for his success.

Following the Sam Houston Classic, Jessies First Down headed to Ruidoso Downs to get acclimated and prepare for the $200,000 All American Gold Cup (G1). He dazzled in his allowance prep on August 16 before finishing second in the Gold Cup on Labor Day weekend.
"This horse has been super his whole career." said Kearl. "He has a hard time getting away once in a while and that's what gets him beat. He's got a super big finish and catches them at the end."

Stroud reports that 2014 AQHA world champion JRC Callas First is training well and ready for Saturday night.  Jockey Esgar Ramirez, who soared to new heights in his All American Derby-Futurity victories at Ruidoso Downs, will ride from post position 10.

"I like our post and our chances with the leading (money earning) rider in the nation," said Stroud.

While JRC Callas First was unplaced in his only two starts following the Bank of America Texas Challenge victory, Abrams respects the intrepid Texas-bred.

" ‘JRC’ is certainly capable and I feel he is the one to beat," stated Abrams. "We expect a very competitive race. There are no soft spots anymore, for sure."

Saturday night's 440-yard test in the Refrigerator Handicap is certainly not just a two-horse race, but does present a very interesting preview for the next stakes planned for both of these runners.

The $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos is still the plan for Stroud, who is hauling a "trailer full" of regional winners to California.  Earlier this week, Abrams was notified that Jessies First Down has also been invited to the October 29th final.

Call it a rivalry or another compelling showdown between two beloved and talented multiple stakes winners, but don't miss it! The Refrigerator Handicap will be part of the fantastic Saturday night card, which also features the $20,000 AQHA Distance Challenge and the $25,000 Merial Distaff Challenge.

Wishing the best of luck to all!

Super Field Assembled for Saturday's $75,000 Refrigerator Handicap
By Jennifer Hancock

As we enter the fall racing season, older runners are making their statement for year-end award honors. The 20th running of the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park on Saturday, October 1, has drawn a full field of talented runners. The 10-horse field includes a former world champion, and the combined earnings of the field is almost $2.5 million. Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath is stepping out of retirement to saddle his daughter’s stakes winning homebred If I Were Famous. A three-time winning trainer of the All American Futurity (G1), Gilbreath won the Refrigerator in 1997 with Six Delights for Jack and Mary Evans and again in 2002 with Champion Significant Speed for Scarlett Hill Farm. The Refrigerator will offer fans the opportunity to see some of the top older horses compete at the classic quarter mile distance.

Wrangler Racing Ace Jennifer Hancock takes a deeper look at the Refrigerator Handicap, which will be the ninth race on Lone Star’s Saturday card. With a $75,000 purse, the 440-yard race has a local post time of 10:03 p.m.

Trainer Judd Kearl is leading the nation’s training standings in both wins and earnings, and Sam Houston Classic winner #1 Jessies First Down is one of his many talented runners, who has helped Kearl distance himself from the field. With five wins and three seconds from eight starts this year, the 5-year-old FDD Dynasty gelding has raced almost exclusively in stakes company, and the 440-yard distance seems to be one of his favorite distances. 

#10 JRC Callas First, the 2014 world champion, hasn’t raced since June after a couple of rough starts where he was bumped leaving the gates. He defeated Jessies First Down in the Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge Championship (G2) in April, and the outside post position has been favorable to winners this meet with an added bonus that it will give the former champ a clear path with no rival on his outside to contend with.

Making his first start in 2016 at Ruidoso, #9 Politically Correct ran third in an extremely tough field in the All American Gold Cup on Labor Day weekend. The 4-year-old Apolitical Jess gelding seems to have found his closing kick, which helped him win five races last year.  
#5 Red Corona Warrior hasn’t finished off the board in five starts this year and comes into the Refrigerator off a stakes win at Gillespie County. He’s been racing at shorter distances, but his past performances say he can handle the classic distance and could add some value to exotic bets.   

Jennifer Hancock’s Refrigerator Handicap Picks:
#1 Jessies First Down, #10 JRC Callas First, #9 Politically Correct, #5 Red Corona Warrior

Wrangler Racing Aces Onsite at Lone Star Park on Saturday
Jennifer Hancock will visit Lone Star Park on Saturday, October 1 on behalf of the Wrangler Racing Aces, a fan education program initiated by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). She will join track handicapper Rick Lee for his pre-race show to offer their analysis the entire card, including the $20,000 AQHA Distance Challenge, $25,000 Merial Distaff Challenge and $75,000 Refrigerator Handicap (G1).

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, Ajax Downs, Lone Star Park, Will Rogers Downs, Indiana Grand, Evangeline Downs 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.