|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
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: DAM GOOD
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.”
DOWN THE STRETCH –
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.