Champ Run and Pray Wins Red River Handicap at Lone Star Park

(Friday, October 14, 2005) - The champ is back. Run and Pray, the American Quarter Horse Association's World Champion Distance Horse of 2004, made his first to the winner's circle in almost a year with a 1 ¼-length triumph over Overlook Easy in Friday's $17,500 Red River Handicap at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

The 6-year-old gelding, owned by Bobby Cox of Fort Worth, ran 870 yards in :44.73 under jockey Larry Payne. He paid $5.60 to win as the slight 9-5 favorite in a field that was reduced to four after four late scratches. Kaydena rallied past Zachs Hero for third.

Overlook Easy, the 9-5 second choice, broke on top from the rail with Run and Pray just a head behind to the outside. "I never felt like I was pressuring him," Payne said. "My horse was just sharp and cruising. When I asked him to run at the head of the stretch, he just went on. I really expected Overlook Easy to kick on a little stronger down the stretch because two or three different people told me that he was a real good closer. But I just had way too much horse tonight."

Trainer John Buchanan said the temperature - in the low 70s - was one of the main reasons for Run and Pray's strong effort.

"He just doesn't run well in the heat," Buchanan said. "He ran the kind of race he can run with this great weather tonight. He's sound old horse that just doesn't like the heat. When it cools off, he's a completely different horse. When he was close to [Overlook Easy] early on, I knew he'd put in a strong race."

This was the second straight Red River Handicap victory for Run and Pray. He won the race in 2003, the last year it was run.

Prior to Friday's victory, Run and Pray was winless in five starts since clinching 2004 championship honors with a victory in the Grade 1, $100,000 MD Barns Challenge Championship at Sam Houston Race Park. Overall, the Texas-bred has won eight races and $242,506 in 36 career starts.

Buchanan and Cox plan to race Run and Pray next on Nov. 19 in the Grade 3, $20,000 Lone Star Park Distance Championship. No horse has ever won both distance races at Lone Star. Run and Pray came the closest in 2003 when he won the Red River and finished second in the Distance Championship.

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