MBNA America Challenge Championships - News and Notes for Thursday, November 4

(Thursday, November 4, 2004) - The excitement is building for the MBNA America® Challenge Championships at Sam Houston Race Park. The premier event for American Quarter Horses will take place on Saturday, November 6, 2004.

Leading Trainers Like Push The Pace

Two-time national training champion Paul Jones and Janet VanBebber, winner of the last three runnings of the Grade 1 MBNA America Challenge Championship, have each selected Push The Pace as their choice in Saturday's $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship.

First post time first 7 p.m. CST for the 10-race program highlighted by five Grade 1 Challenge Championship stakes races. The races will be televised to 50 million households on TVG and the following Fox Sports regional networks- Southwest, South, Net 2 (west coast), New York and Sunshine (tape delayed in Florida). 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.

Jones, whose horses earned nearly $5 million in 2003 and is annually the leading trainer at Los Alamitos Race Course, likes Push The Pace because, "If he gets away from the gate, I don't think they can beat him. I also like the outside post position." Push The Pace will start from the ninth post position in the 10-horse field.

VanBebber, who has wrapped up her fourth consecutive training title at Sam Houston, echoes that Push The Pace should benefit from the outside position and added, "I like that he is trained by "Sleepy" Gilbreath because he is a Texan and, therefore, knows how to acclimate horses to running at Sam Houston."

After each picking Push The Pace, the two nationally prominent trainers differed on their second- and third-place selections. Jones likes Special Task Force for the runner-up position and 2003 co-world champion Oak Tree Special to finish third. "Special Task Force has been consistent wherever he's gone and I like the fact that Juan Vasquez is riding him. Oak Tree Special has past class (he won three Grade 1 derbies in 2003) and has Gilbert Ortiz riding."

VanBebber chose SLM Snowman for second place and Stars Snowbound to finish third. "SLM Snowman is coming off four straight wins and has two second-place finishes at Sunland Park. Stars Snowbound likes to win (six wins from seven starts this year), but hasn't faced this level of competition before. Also, she is undefeated at 440 yards."

Thrill of a Lifetime for Jockey Cody McDaniel Female Quarter Horse rider, Cody McDaniel, will be honored at Saturday's AQHA's Owner's Brunch. She will receive the Wrangler Leading MBNA America Racing Challenge Jockey Award. The recognition is given to the rider who has earned the most points in regional MBNA Challenge competition throughout the year. She will receive $2,000, a TexTan saddle and a Montana Silversmith belt buckle.

McDaniel, from Crosby, Texas, has had her primary success riding for trainer K. C. Carden. Known for her spunk and humor, McDaniel got her break in the Challenge in an unusual way.

"A Toast to KC was brought back to the paddock for a rider change over at Delta last year and I rode him and won," said McDaniel. "I have ridden him ever since and it was nice to have an owner decide she wanted me riding all of her horses. KC has flown me to Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa and most recently to Turf Paradise where I qualified "Toast" and JD Phantom. Winning a championship race at Sam Houston Race Park where I got my start would be the most thrilling experience of my career up to now. All my family is there and I am very excited about riding in the Championship in front of all of them."

Past Wrangler Leading MBNA America Racing Challenge Jockeys include Juan Vazquez in 2002 and G. R. Carter in 2003.

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