Weekly Countdown to the MBNA America Challenge Championships at SHRP

(Wednesday, October 27, 2004) - Sam Houston Race Park will host the 12th Running of the MBNA America® Challenge Championships on Saturday, November 6, 2004.

The cornerstone of MBNA Challenge Championship night is the MBNA America Challenge Championship, a $300,000 purse race for older qualifiers. Leading this group with 16 wins is last year's 3-year old American Quarter Horse and AQHA Horse of the Year, OAK TREE SPECIAL. A winner of 10-of-13 including 4 derbies last year, Oak Tree Special won only one of 3 so far this year and that was the important East Regional Championship earning Raul Rubalcava's son of Special Task a spot in the finals.

Two other sons of Special Task made the finals including Western Livestock, LLC's PUSH THE PACE who represent the Southwest Region. A winner of 15-of-29, Push the Pace was in the exacta in 6 of his 7 starts this year earning over $128,000. Trained by Michael Barber in the qualifier, Push the Pace is now in the barn of Sleepy Gilbreath. Oil and Hay Partners' SPECIAL TASK FORCE is the third Special Task baby to qualify for the finals. Trained by Jack Brooks, Special Task Force was 2nd in the All American Gold Cup on September 4 in his first start after qualifying at Remington Park on May 14. Trainer Brooks send his $262K earner to Lone Star for the Refrigerator Handicap on Friday the 29th as a "tune up".

Central Regional Champion SLM SNOWMAN won all 4 of his races at Prairie Meadows this year and enters undefeated in 2004 after going 3-5-0 from 11 starts last year. Valors Gold will represent the Texas Region and will need to regain his Regional Championship winning form if trainer Frank Cavazos is to have a chance at saddling two Championship winners.

The $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship (previously the American Airlines) once again features the fastest two-year olds in the country on Championship night. And, depending on what happens on Friday, October 29, the others will have to contend with AZOOM, the Texas sensation that has been described as a "freak", where that term is used to describe "uncommonly fast".

Some sharp two-year olds will line up to accept the challenge, however, including Dee and Betty Rapers Eye Yin You, that ran the fastest actual time for 350 yards of any qualifier when he went 17.28 to win the New Mexico Regional at Ruidoso. Also having run faster than Azoom is the Northwest Champion Budderfly Effect, that posted a 17.318 on the fast Boise surface as he won his 4th race from 6 starts before going to Ruidoso and finishing 3rd in an All American Futurity trial in his most recent start.

Sizzlin Red Corona won the first six starts of his career before finishing 4th in the Canada Cup Futurity in his most recent start. This son of Fishers Dash was sent to locally based Guy Hopkins for the Challenge Championships. Oklahoma Champion , Plain Eye Opening has a record of 4-3-0 from 9 starts and most recent qualifier Jacquay won the first 4 starts of his career, finished second and third in two and then closed out winning 3 in an row and enters the Ford off a perfectly timed three week break.

Locally based Maid It Special, a filly that won the first three races of her career, and First Comment who won the most recent three of his including the East Regional followed by an allowance win here, could join with Azoom in an all Sam Houston based trifecta in the Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship.

The post position draw for all six MBNA America Challenge Championships stakes will take place on Wednesday, November 3 at Sam Houston Race Park.

News and Notes

Trainer Dave Correll is pleased with the way in which his 2-year-old filly, Maid It Special has worked for her return to the racetrack in the $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship. She won the Ford Texas Challenge on Memorial Day weekend and underwent surgery to repair a chip in her knee. She resumed training last month, and Correll likes her chances.

"She worked last Friday and did 220 yards in 11.33," said Correll. "The only horse that outworked her was Push The Pace, who is running in the MBNA Challenge Championship. It was a good work and J. R. (Ramirez) will stand her in the gate next Wednesday. I have a lot of faith in her and in J.R. He gives me 100% everytime I name her on a horse. If Maid It Special loses in the Ford, I won't blame my rider."

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