Champion of Champions Berth On Line in Refrigerator Handicap at LSP

(October 5, 2006) - It might not be the rivalry of the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns or the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, but a tremendous showdown looms Saturday in the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap on opening weekend of Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie’s Fall Meeting of Champions for American Quarter Horses.

Grade 1 winners This Snow Is Cold and Country Chicks Man are set to clash in Saturday’s 440-yard classic. Eight others, including Sam Houston Classic winner La Jollaroid, complete the stellar 10-horse field.

On the line are a $60,000 first prize and, more importantly, a coveted invitation to the prestigious Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos on Dec. 9. The winner of the Champion of Champions will have an inside track to AQHA World Champion honors.

“That’s our goal – a championship,” said Country Chicks Man’s 55-year-old owner, breeder and trainer Sparky Mullins of Wagoner, Okla.

Country Chicks Man, a 5-year-old Oklahoma-bred son of Chicks Beduino out of the productive mare Country Zevi, has won nine of 28 starts and $355,034. This spring, he won three of four starts against stakes company at Remington Park, including a 1 ¾-length romp in the Grade 1 Sooner State Stakes.

His last out on June 4 was a runner-up effort to SLM Snowman in the Remington Park Invitational Championship. “That loss was my fault,” Mullins said. “I screwed up his shoes and he slipped coming out of the gate.”

Since then, Country Chicks Man has been rested and pointed to Saturday’s Refrigerator with a trip to Southern California the next step.

“The only reason we’re here is because they moved the Refrigerator to the start of the meet and it’ll give us more time between starts,” Mullins said. “If it was in it’s old spot (on closing weekend in years past), we would have tried to qualify to the Champions of Champions in California. I’m glad to try and qualify in our backyard.”

The Refrigerator won’t be an easy spot. This Snow Is Cold, who was fourth in the Remington Park Invitational Championship and a half-length behind Country Chicks Man, won the Grade 1 MBNA America Texas Challenge in July. Last month, La Jollaroid rallied to out-finish This Snow Is Cold in the Grade 2 Sam Houston Classic.

“It’s a tough race,” Mullins said. “If we get beat, the horse that beats him is going to have to run the race of his life. My horse is rested, has been pointing for this and is sitting on ‘go.’”

The Refrigerator field from the rail out (with jockey, assigned weight and morning line odds): Royal Ligigation (Santos Carrizales, 117, 30-1); Mitowilard (Alex Baldillez Jr., 119, 20-1); Valdasher (Rodger Smith, 123, 10-1); Get Down Perry (Roy Baldillez, 122, 15-1); Keep the Strawflying (Rodrigo Vallejo, 116, 30-1); Conner Can (Larry Payne, 123, 5-1); This Snow Is Cold (Armando Andrade, 126, 5-2); Country Chicks Man (G.R. Carter Jr., 126, 3-1); La Jollaroid (Russel Hadley, 124, 7-2); and First Down Pay (Jeff Jerman, 118, 20-1).

The Refrigerator will be run as Race 10 at approximately 10:38 p.m. CT on an 11-race program that begins at 6:35 p.m. CT.

Also on the card, Bobby Cox’s Run And Pray will attempt to win the Red River Handicap for the third straight year under the care of trainer John Buchanan. The 7-year-old gelding, who won his first Lone Star Park race in a Dash For Cash Futurity trial back in 2001, won the 870-yard marathon in 2003 and ’05 (it was not run in 2004 due to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships).

The field for the Red River Handicap, which will be run as Race 8 at approximately 9:44 p.m.: Leading Pardner (“Diamond Jim” Brooks, 121, 10-1); Fast Rythum (G.R. Carter Jr., 123, 4-1); My Prince of Strides (Santos Carrizales, 124, 5-2); First to Ramble (Russel Hadley, 123, 8-1); Cashin Sam (Jeff Williams, 122, 8-1); Apollos Dasher (Roy Baldillez, 120, 12-1); Run and Pray (Larry Payne, 125, 2-1); and Sierra Hemp (Charlie Fletcher Jr., 121, 12-1).


Country Zevi, the dam of Country Chicks Man, has been quite a producer for owner Sparky Mullins. Since 1994, she’s given birth to 10 horses – all to different stallions – and eight have won. One of the winless horses is a once-raced 2-year-old filly by Financial Rewards named SM Country Miss, who is expected to compete this season at Lone Star.

Refrigerator Handicap contender Country Chicks Man, a six-time stakes winner, is the most accomplished runner with a career bankroll of $355,034. His younger half-sister Eyesa Country Miss, a 4-year-old Mr Eye Opener filly, won a Grade 3 event at Fair Meadows at Tulsa last summer and is eyeing Lone Star’s $20,000 Rheudasil Handicap on Oct. 13. Older sibling Little Country Miss was a stakes winner and earned $106,475 between 1998 and 2002.

“We always knew Country Chicks Man would be a good one; he was cut out to be,” Mullins said. “The dam has been so good to us. We’ve been so fortunate. Amazingly, Country Chicks Man breaks the mold of his stallion’s progeny. He’s so mild mannered and like a pet. You don’t usually get that with a Chicks Beduino. He’s so mellow that my grandchildren play with him all the time at the farm in Wagoner, Oklahoma.”


Grandstand admission gates open at 5:30 p.m. Friday for the first of 32 racing dates. The first live race is 6:35 p.m. CT and the featured $30,000 B.F. Phillips Jr. Handicap, a restricted Grade 3 event for Texas-breds at 400 yards, will be run as Race 9 at approximately 10:11 p.m. CT. The “Sleepy” Gilbreath-trained Sarahs Fast Man is the 7-5 morning line favorite…

Friday’s “Party at the Park” in the Courtyard of Champions will feature live country music by Time Machine and $1.75 beer specials between 7-11 p.m…

Gary West of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Lone Star Park’s Rick Lee will host a handicapping seminar on Saturday, Oct. 7 in the Post Time Pavilion. The seminar will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the duo will preview the major Breeders’ Cup prep races that day, including the showdown between Bernardini and Dylan Thomas in the Grade I, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. There also will be a free $500 handicapping contest.

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