AQHA World Champion Oak Tree Special to run in the Sam Houston Classic on Saturday Night

Houston, Texas (August 31, 2004) - Houston racing fans will be in for a treat this Labor Day weekend as AQHA World Champion Oak Tree Special returns to Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, September 4. He will run in the $50,000-added Sam Houston Classic, one of three stakes races to be run over the holiday weekend.

This is a homecoming of sorts for the 4-year-old son of Special Task, who was purchased by owner Raul Rubalcava at the 2001 TQHA Yearling Sale for just $8,000. The following year he returned to capture the $276,100 TQHA Sale Futurity (RG1). His accomplishments continued and last year the chestnut colt was named AQHA World Champion. He has won 16 races and raised his career bankroll to $613,070.

Oak Tree Special, originally trained by Bobby Martinez and now conditioned by Rubalcava's son, Christian, won the $80,100 MBNA America East Challenge Championship at Delta Downs on August 15. He earned a berth into the $300,000 MBNA Challenge Championships to be hosted by Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, November 6. Rubalcava, who resides in Wylie, Texas, recalls what impressed him about Oak Tree Special as a yearling.

"His mama qualified for the All American, so I thought he was a pretty good colt," said Rubalcava. "He looked heavy, pretty stocky; that's what I liked about the horse."

Oak Tree Special will have to contend with a full field of talented Quarter Horses including Valors Gold, winner of the $89,910 MBNA Texas Challenge Championship (G1) at Sam Houston Race Park on May 29. The son of First Down Dash is owned by Claudio Aguilar of Edinburg and trained by Frank Cavazos. Cavazos will also run stakes winner Gray Invasion in the Sam Houston Classic. Trainer Heath Taylor will run Zookie Street, who captured the 2003 MBNA Texas Challenge Championship (G1) at Sam Houston Race Park. The 5-year-old son of Corona Cartel, is owned and bred by Taylor's father, Michael and should be a factor according to rider, Gilbert Ortiz.

"He needs a horse to his inside that will stay with him," commented Ortiz. "When he gets clear he wants to get in looking for another horse to run with. I don't think he liked the Delta surface as much as he likes this one."

Taylor has another contender pointed to the Sam Houston Classic, First N Kool, whose dam, Kool Kue Baby, won the 1995, 1996 and 1998 editions of the race.

"He is some runner," acknowledges Ortiz. "His gate didn't open on time in the trials and even with that he caught up with them. I rode his mama to win the Sam Houston Classic twice and rode him to win the Sam Houston Derby here last year. He will be tough."

In addition to Kool Kue Baby, past Sam Houston Classic champions have included AQHA World Champions, Tailor Fit and Streakin Sin Tacha.

The extended weekend live racing schedule will include the $35,000-added Governor's Cup Marathon on Sunday evening. Defending champion, Get Solid, from the barn of Heath Taylor, is nominated for the 870-yard stakes. Racing continues on Monday, September 6 with a special Labor Day race card featuring the finals of the $84,077 Dixie Stallion Stakes Futurity. Post time is 1:00 p.m.

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