Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Challenge weekend at Prairie Meadows.
By Martha Claussen and Denis Blake | September 13, 2017
AJs High Extends His Challenge Tenure into the Fourth Year
By Martha Claussen
An excellent field will compete Saturday afternoon in the $70,740 Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (G2). The leading finalist by wins and earnings is Michael C. Teel’s AJs High. The gelded son of Apollitical Jess is out of the Rare Form mare Regally Rare. Teel, who resides in Columbia, Missouri, owns Regally Rare, and has watched with tremendous pride, the evolution and success of his accomplished racehorse.
Apollitcal Jess was a millionaire and 2010 AQHA world champion, and has become one of the most successful Quarter Horse sires. He has risen up the ranks from 41st in his first year and is currently the second-leading sire by winners. AJs High became Apollitcal Jess’ first stakes winner with his victory in the 2014 John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge.
AJs High has been in the very capable hands of trainer Charley Hunt for the past four years, and has an esteemed record in the Bank of America Racing Challenge. He won three races in a row in Iowa, capping his 2-year-old season with a victory in the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) at Prairie Meadows. In his 3-year-old campaign, he qualified for the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship at Lone Star Park, breaking poorly and finishing seventh. Without a doubt, his most-treasured win came last year at Los Alamitos when he defeated a very competitive field in the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1).
He was honored at last year’s Bank of America Challenge Owner’s Recognition Brunch as a three-time Challenge participant and with a win this Saturday afternoon, he will qualify for his fourth appearance in the Bank of America Racing Challenge.
He's a kinder and gentler horse these days, unlike his earlier days when he gave high energy a new meaning in the saddling paddock. His rider, Stormy Smith, dusted himself off several times from bucking mishaps in the post parade.
"AJs High was never a mean animal," explained Teel. "He gets excited on race days, but overall, a very happy horse and has always been very gentle in the barn."
It has been a journey that Teel has shared with Hunt, and the two men have become good friends.
"All I did was breed him," said Teel. "Charley is a great horseman and has been very patient."
AJs High’s win in the 2016 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos was extremely impressive. He was sent off as the third-betting choice, dueling gamely with BH Lisas Boy, scoring by a neck. It was a joyous and very emotional winner’s circle celebration. Teel acknowledges that the memories of that evening are still vivid.
“It was the biggest racing day we have ever had,” he stated.
Now 5 years old, AJs High will make his 25th career start Saturday afternoon at Prairie Meadows. Regular rider Stormy Smith will guide the multiple-graded stakes winner in an effort to clinch a berth into the $330,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship on October 14, which will be hosted by Prairie Meadows for the third time.
“He got beat in his trial, but Charley says he’s ready,” said Teel.
Win or lose, Teel will be proud of his homebred.
"Even before he ever ran a race, we had offers to buy him," said Teel. "But, I told Charley that I will never sell AJs High. When the time comes to retire him, he will have a home for life in our pasture."
Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (G2)
By Denis Blake
A strong field of older horses is set for the $70,740 Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (G2), and there’s much more on the line than just a nice purse. The winner of this race will earn a berth in the $330,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), which is October 14 at Prairie Meadows, so be sure to keep an eye out for that horse as he figures to enjoy a home-track advantage.
Even though #7 AJs High enters with a rare four-race losing streak, this gelding has been a model of consistency throughout his career and all of his recent losses are understandable. He ended last year with a close fourth in the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos and then ran a pair of good thirds against graded stakes foes at Remington Park earlier this year. In his trial for this race at Prairie Meadows, he was beaten by a neck but that was his first start in three months and should serve as a perfect steppingstone to this final. He is a proven winner at Prairie Meadows with six wins in 10 starts, so he gets the nod here.
Like the top pick, #5 The Fiscal Cliff also has six wins from 10 starts in Iowa and is as consistent as they come. Some of his success at Prairie Meadows has come against fellow Iowa-breds, but this son of PYC Paint Your Wagon has fully proven himself against open company as well and beat several of the horses in his field at Canterbury Park earlier in the season.
#8 Three Olives N Smoke had never run 440 yards until earlier this year, but the Colorado-bred seems to like the distance with a record of 3-1-1-1 at a quarter-mile.
#6 Boogies Special Dash hasn't visited the winner's circle in more than a year, but has plenty of class as he ran in last year's All American Derby (G1) and took second in the Rainbow Derby (G1). Nearly all of his career earnings have come at 440 yards, so he's worth a look at a decent price.
Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake’s Selections: 7-5-8-6
Wrangler Racing Aces in September
Visit the @AQHARacing page on Facebook or follow the Aces 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, Prairie Meadows, The Downs at Albuquerque, Canterbury Park and Indiana Grand.
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