MBNA America Challenge Championships - News and Notes for Wednesday, November 3

(Wednesday, November 3, 2004) - The draw for the Sam MBNA America® Challenge Championships took place today at Sam Houston Race Park. The premier event for American Quarter Horses will take place on Saturday, November 6, 2004.

News and Notes

Azoom Short-Priced Favorite

Azoom has been established as the even-money favorite by Sam Houston Race Park morning-line maker and track announcer, Michael Chamberlain in the Grade 1 $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge Championship to be the shortest-price morning line favorite among the five Grade 1 Challenge Championship races.

Azoom is also a favorite for a championship title with three Grade 1 futurity wins-from 11 total wins-in 13 starts. He was also the fastest qualifier to four futurities. In his most recent start, Azoom raced to a 1-3/4 length win in the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity. In the $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship, Stars Snowbound is the 5-2 favorite in search of his seventh-straight victory in his first Grade 1 appearance.

In the $175,000 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship, A New Hero is the 3-1 favorite after winning the California Derby Challenge in his most recent start.

In the $100,000 John Deere Distaff Challenge, Prima LD is the 5-2 favorite in her attempt for a second Challenge Championship victory. She won the 2003 Bayer Legend Derby Challenge Championship.

In the $100,000 MD Barns Distance Challenge Championship, Runbyu is the 8-5 favorite when he goes for his seventh straight win.

Well-traveled Jacquay ready for Challenge

It's been a long trip for the 2-year-old gelding Jacquay-nearly 4,000 miles-but he has made it to the Grade 1, $150,000 Ford Challenge Championship on Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park.

Trainer Jay Pitcher has campaigned Jacquay this year to seven wins, a second and a third from nine starts. To achieve that enviable record Pitcher and Jacquay have seen an estimated 4,000 miles of highway in the western United States.

Jacquay, who is owned by Dr. Glori Allen, began his career in southwestern Utah at Dixie Downs; then Boise, Ida.; southwestern Wyoming, Elko, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz. In preparation for Saturday's stakes in Houston.

"He's doing really well," Pitcher said. "He travels well and we'll see how he does."He loves the distance (400 yards). It's a tough race, but we'll give them a try."

Jacquay will be up against the sternest test of his young career as he will face the top horse by wins in the nation, Azoom. The two runners are ranked first and second in wins with Azoom winning 11 of his 13 starts this year and Jacquay following with seven wins from nine races.

Jacquay has wins in the Dixie Downs Futurity, the Grade 2 Bitterroot Futurity, Utah Sires Fall Futurity and then earned his invitation to the Ford Juvenile with a win in the Grade 3 West/Southwest Juvenile Challenge, his most recent race on Oct. 17. His four stakes wins have resulted in earnings of $92,251.

Pitcher was asked about the gelding's unusual name at today's press conference and post position draw.

"Glori was attending a medical conference and had not come up with a name for him," said Pitcher. "She looked at a colleague sitting beside her and liked his last name. She called me and gave me the name and I think I asked her to spell it several times. It's been pretty much butchered at tracks across the country, but we don't mind. We just call him Jac."

Dr. Allen, who grew up in Corpus Christi, will fly in on Friday to cheer Jacquay on in the Ford Challenge. She will be joined by several friends and family members that still reside in Texas.

Tough Handicapping Challenge in the $100,000 MD Barns Distance Challenge

Handicappers will be challenged during the MBNA America Challenge Championships when they handicap the Grade 1, $100,000 MD Barns Distance Challenge Championship at 870 yards.

The field is strong and deep, giving handicappers reasons to scratch their heads.

"You want a horse with early speed because it's only 100 yards from the gate to the turn," said John Buchanan, trainer of Distance Challenge competitor Run And Pray.

"If Run And Pray shows early speed, he'll be right there with them. He feels good and is doing well. Plus, this is his home track."

Run And Pray won the Grade 3 Texas Distance Challenge Championship at Sam Houston on May 25 to qualify for the MD Barns Distance Challenge Championship.

Pat Swan, trainer of Distance Challenge Championship qualifier Rulon Gardner agrees with Buchanan that a horse with early speed is at an advantage with the short run from the gate to the first turn. Rulon Gardner went to the early lead when he won the Oklahoma Distance Challenge at Remington Park.

Swan has stabled Rulon Gardner at Sam Houston for the past three weeks and the gelding has, "breezed well and likes the track," according to Swan.
Other strong prospects are Seek And Destroy, Bac In The Saddle, Get Solid and Runbyu.

Seek And Destroy has four wins and two seconds in stakes races in his last six starts. Bac In The Saddle has four wins and three third-place stakes finishes in his last seven starts. Get Solid has top-three finishes in 15 of his last 16 starts. Runbyu comes off six consecutive wins in Idaho and Wyoming.
The MBNA America Challenge Championships, with five Grade 1 stakes and over $1.3 million in purses, will be televised live to over 50 million households on Saturday night. The races will be televised on TVG and the following Fox Sports regional networks- Southwest, South, Net 2 (west coast), New York and Sunshine (tape delayed in Florida). The live programs will begin at 8 p.m. EST. The races will also air on America's Horse, televised on the Outdoor Life Network, on Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. EST.

Prima LD Ready for Distaff Party

Prima LD has arrived at Sam Houston Race Park and is ready to go for her second Challenge Championship title in the Grade 1, $100,000 John Deere Distaff Challenge Championship.

Prima LD has won 10 of 15 career starts and comes into the Distaff Challenge in peak form. "She shipped well from California and she's doing really well," trainer Jaime Gomez said. "She was just beaten by a head in the Millie Vessels and beat Mongoose Jet Eye."

The Grade 1, $100,000 Mildred Vessels Invitational Handicap on Sept. 25 brought together the top mares at Los Alamitos, including Grade 1 Vessels Maturity winner Mongoose Jet Eye.

The 4-year-old mare qualified for the Distaff Challenge with a win in the California Distaff Challenge on Aug. 21. In that race she defeated Mildred Vessels winner Mini Rock.

Prima LD began her career in Mexico and made her United States' debut in last Challenge Derby Championship, winning by a nose. That victory kicked off an overflow celebration in the Los Alamitos' winner's circle with a large contingent of Prima LD's supporters loudly cheering. The post-race celebration became as much a topic of conversation in racing circles as the victory. "Everybody is coming on Saturday night. Get ready," Gomez said.

Advance Wagering on the MBNA Challenge Championships on Friday

For those racing fans unable to watch and wager on the thrilling stakes action on Saturday, November 6, Sam Houston Race Park will offer advance wagering on the MBNA Challenge Championships card on Friday, November 5.

Gates open for simulcasting at 11:00 a.m. and advance wagering will be available throughout the day and into the live racing card on Friday evening.

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