Quarter Horse Racing's Super Bowl This Saturday: MBNA America Challenge Championships Return to Lone Star

(November 4, 2006) - The world’s fastest athletes, headed by American Quarter Horse racing’s defending world champion DM Chicago, will be at Lone Star Park on Saturday night (Nov. 11) as the Grand Prairie, Texas racetrack plays host to the 14th MBNA America Challenge Championships.

Blazing speed, thundering hooves, tight finishes – the MBNA America Challenge Championships has it all. MBNA America Challenge Championships Night – a traveling, one-night, million-dollar extravaganza for American Quarter Horses – is often called Quarter Horse racing’s “Super Bowl” with championship races for six of the sport’s divisions: older horses, females, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, distance horses and claiming horses. The centerpiece sprint is the Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship for 3-year-olds and up at the classic 440-yard distance.

The other Challenge Championship races are the Grade 1, $200,000 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship (3-year-olds at 400 yards); Grade 2, $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship (2-year-olds at 350 yards); Grade 1, $100,000 John Deere Distaff Challenge Championship (fillies and mares at 400 yards); Grade 1, $100,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (3-year-olds and up at 870 yards); and $75,000 Professional’s Choice Challenge Championship (3-year-olds and up at 350 yards).

All told, 12 stakes races will be run on Challenge Championships Night. As is the case each evening, grandstand admission gates will open one hour before the first live race, which is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CT nightly. Additional entertainment on Saturday includes country music by Scott Whitaker in the Courtyard of Champions from 7-11 p.m.

This will mark the fourth time that Lone Star Park has hosted the Challenge Championships. It was last held locally in 2002 before a crowd of 7,300 where more than $1.1 million was wagered on-track. Another $1.1 million was bet at simulcast locations throughout North America.

Post positions for the Challenge Championships will be drawn Wednesday at noon during a luncheon in Champions on the second floor of the Grandstand. TVG Network will be on hand Saturday to provide exclusive coverage of the 12-race program.

All eyes will be on reigning world champ DM Shicago, who gained a berth in the featured event thanks to defections of other runners. After recovering from a lung infection that lingered this spring, the 4-year-old returned to action Oct. 26 at Lone Star and crushed two rivals with a clocking of :17.462 for 350 yards in a $7,000 allowance/optional claiming race. “It’s not often a World Champion will run for a $7,000 purse, but he needed this prep if he’s about to tackle America’s top 440-yard horses in a Grade 1,” said trainer Heath Taylor said.

The victory by DM Shicago, the 2004 All American Futurity and ’05 All American Derby champ, snapped an uncharacteristic five-race losing streak.

“He had a really bad lung infection all spring and we really needed to take our time for it to heal properly,” Taylor said. “We had to change his regiment and adapt to the horse to see how he’d respond. It took time. The good thing is that he’s a really, really sound 4-year-old . . . This was a good steppingstone because :17.46 is fast against two horses or 10.”

Below are all of the horses expected for each Challenge Championship race (with trainer), according to Lone Star Park racing secretary Mike Shamburg:

Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championships (3-year-olds and up at 440 yards): A Long Goodbye (Julian DeVargas); Budj (Adan Farias); Dashin Prince Henry (Jack Brooks); DM Shicago (Heath Taylor); LDS Dash For Dylan (Bret Vickery); Mogambo Fly VM (Heath Taylor); Surprisingly Special (Judd Kearl); This Show Is Cold (Melinda Garcia); Valdasher (Carl White); Winners Eyes (Carlos Saldivar); and WRS Special Shoe (Charlton Hunt).

Grade 1, $200,000 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship (3-year-olds at 400 yards): Canosa (Bill Hoburg); Centerist (Carlos Saldivar); Fast Red Leggs (Kenneth Elison); Furyofthewind (Chris O’Dell); JA Really Nine (Eddie Willis); Look For Wranglers (Heath Taylor); Magical Thunder (Ray Robbins); Run Hawk Run (Heath Taylor); Sheza Dashing Disco (Benny Pennington); and Work Work Work (Rodolfo Sanchez).

Grade 2, $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship (2-year-olds at 350 yards): Bench Mark Dove (Bret Vickery); Bridled Lightnin (Bobby Moore); Caughtmezoomin (Jim Glenn Jr.); First Class Smarty (Ed Hardy); Fly For Zak (Jim O’Neal); Go Girl Gone (Edgar Fortune); Hes A Standout (Guy Hopkins); Remember Me Rose (Ben Torres); Sassys Tuffy (“Sleepy” Gilbreath); and Streakin Cartel (Bobby Martinez).

Grade 1, $100,000 John Deere Distaff Challenge Championship (fillies and mares at 400 yards): Callies First Effort (K.C. Carden); Eye Caughtcha Peekin (“Sleepy” Gilbreath); Grants Gold Strike (Julian DeVargas); Ms Klee (Dennis Hall); Ojo Loca (Tommy Zarate); On the Map (“Sleepy” Gilbreath); Proud Lil Lady (Rick Scudder); She Dashing (Antonio Fernandez); Sizzling (Russell Harris); and Threadbare Gypsysoul (Ed Hardy).

Grade 1, $100,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (3-year-olds and up at 870 yards): Cashin Sam (Bill Hoburg); GHF Kool Kotton (Don Mourning); My Prince of Strides (Matt Baker); Seminole Injun (Larry Kopychinski); Shawns Quick Dash (Robert Dunkle Jr.); Sherrys Aria (Gerald Marr); Strawflyin Moosebuds (Bret Vickery); and Strider Man (Matt Baker).

$75,000 Professional’s Choice Challenge Championship (3-year-olds and up at 350 yards): Coup De Victory (Bobby Moore Jr.); Front Page 007 (Hector Jaime Hernandez); Ida Snow Man (Michael Zinglemann); Ligigator (Dub Seely); No Options Mister (K.C. Carden); Outa Patience (Stan Webb); Special Six Gun (Rick Scudder); Speedy Injun (Eddie Willis); Super Diamante (Arnulfo Vladez); and Teddys Corona (Sherman Hadley).

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