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