Q-Racing Blog: Texas Challenge

Champion trainer is set up for the Texas Challenge.

Champion trainer is set up for the Texas Challenge

Trainer Judd Kearl is still scorching hot. He is the reigning champion trainer and the Texas-based conditioner has the top two prospects for the $103,320 Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge (G2) at Sam Houston Race Park. Plus, one of them is world champion Jessies First Down.

The other qualifier is Jumonville Farms and Brian Ranch’s Dutcher, the top qualifier that made his first start for the Kearl barn in the second of two trials.

Ted Abrams’ homebred Jessies First Down and Dutcher dominated the two trials.

In the first trial, Jessies First Down pulled out to an easy 1 3/4-length victory and his time of :21.639 for 440 yards is the third-fastest mark.

Then, in the second trial, Dutcher won by 1 1/4 lengths for the quickest time of :21.429.

Jessies First Down won at 3-10 odds while Dutcher was 3-2 in his trial. They will be the top-two choices in the April 22 finals. “Those two are definitely the ones to outrun,” said Kearl.

Rodrigo Vallejo was on both horses and, of course, is sticking with the world champion in the finals.

Jessies First Down was making his first start as the world champion in his trial and won his fourth-consecutive race, all at the quarter-mile distance. His previous three wins came in the $350,000 The Championship at Sunland Park (G1), the $150,000 Zia Park Championship (G1) and the $75,000 Refrigerator Handicap (G1). Those wins cemented his world championship.

The FDD Dynasty-sired gelding his finished first or second in his latest 12 starts. The last time he was not in the top-two finishers was in 2015.

Now the world champion is the horse to beat. “It was a little more nerve racking,” said Kearl of the trial. “Everyone in the world was expecting it. You always feel more pressure. He just needed to do what he needed to do.”

Dutcher was making his first start for Kearl. All of his previous starts were at Los Alamitos, except for outs in the 2015 Rainbow and All American derby trials at Ruidoso Downs.

“We’ve had him since December and he’s doing really well,” said Kearl. “He’s nice to train and is a professional. It was the first time running him and he was just running down the track.”

A gelding by Apollitical Jess, Dutcher competed at the top level at Los Alamitos. He was a close second in the $148,960 Vessels Maturity (G1) and fourth in the $125,000 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Championship (G1). His Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge trial win was his first trip to the winner’s circle since taking his Vessels Maturity trial back in June.

“We galloped them both yesterday (April 10) and they each went really well,” said Kearl.

The winner qualifies for the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) on October 14 at Prairie Meadows. Therefore, that’s one of the long-term goals for either Jessies First Down or Dutcher, provided one of them wins.

Jessies First Down and Dutcher could not have been more impressive in their trials. That’s life in the Kearl barn.


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