$111,780 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1) To Be Contested Saturday Night at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Thursday, April 10, 2014) - Live Quarter Horse racing is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at Sam Houston Race Park. Saturday's feature, the $111,780 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1), will be a highly competitive event with some of the top older horses in the region competing at a distance of 440 yards.

Following the conclusion of the live racing card, popular Texas recording artist, Jack Ingram will perform live on the Bud Light Stage.

Fastest Qualifier Sixes Straw Leads the Finalists for the Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship
Two trials were contested on March 22nd to determine the ten fastest qualifiers for the $111,780 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).

Sixes Straw posted the fastest time in the trials, covering 440 yards in :21.833 seconds. The five-year-old son of First Down Dash is owned by Circle T Ranch and trained by Rolando Almarza. The conditioner will saddle Sixes Straw and ninth fastest qualifier, Dash Master Jess in the final.

"He came back well after his trial," said Almarza. "I've only had Sixes Straw one month and think that the First Down Dash offspring take a while to come around. I think he will run well in the final, but also feel that my other horse has as good of a chance."

Almarza has been training for ten years and calls Indiana home. He has already won a stake this season at Sam Houston when Mi Angela captured the $20,000 Silestone Stakes on March 28th.

"I love the Sam Houston racing surface," said Almarza. "It's very well-maintained and even from the rail to the far outside."

Sixes Straw went to the gates at odds of 26-1 in his trial, returning $54.40. Jockey Luis Guerrero has the return call and drew post position nine.

Second fastest qualifier, Pyro, was also a big price on March 28, returning $39 to his supporters. The four-year-old son of Make It Anywhere is bred and owned by Kathleen O Matey and conditioned by Judd Kearl. He blazed to the wire of the 440 yard trial in :21.855 under Jose Alvarez.

Matey, who resides in Kerrville, Texas, was not here for the trials, but watched it live on Q-Racing Video and was thrilled with the effort by Pyro.

"He's such a tiny little horse," said Matey. "When I saw him in the post parade, I was nervous, but he ran his heart out."

Matey gives credit to her trainer, who has raised Pyro since birth.

"Judd told me he needed some time off last fall; that we needed to turn him out and let him be a horse," added Matey. "Judd has always believed in this horse. He never held the face that he is small against him. And Judd always has him looking so good."

The owner is not sure if she will make the trip to Houston on Saturday night, calling herself a jinx. Jockey Rodrigo Vallejo was in the starting gates aboard Pyro last July at Ruidoso when Pyro became agitated in trials for the Rainbow Derby, reared up which resulted in a broken leg for Vallejo.

Another strong contender in the Bank of America Texas Challenge is Runaway Wagon, a son of Pyc Paint Your Wagon, owned by Dr. Tommy Hays and Bobby J. Barnett. Runaway Wagon is trained by Bobby Martinez and will have jockey David Alvarez in the irons on Saturday evening.

This is the second year in a row that Runaway Wagon has qualified for the Bank of American Texas Challenge. As a two-year-old, the gelding won his trial for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2) and finished third in an All American Futurity (G1) trial but did not qualify for either futurity. However, he "tied up" following his trial at Ruidoso Downs and was in serious distress.

"The track vet thought he needed to be put down," said Martinez. "But Dr. Hays was out there and said 'hold on'. Thankfully, he recovered and came home to Elgin."

Dr. Hays is renown in the region for his expertise in equine orthopedic and soft tissue surgery at the Elgin Veterinary Hospital. He and Martinez nursed Runaway Wagon back to health and he won the 2012 Firecracker Derby at Delta Downs. The Kansas-bred gelding, who has won five of his 17 career starts, finished third in the 2013 Bank of America Texas Challenge, then rebounding nicely with a victory in the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic on May 10. Martinez feels he will run well on Saturday.

"He's doing great," states Martinez. "We brought him back to the farm and have ponied him, but no serious works. He'll be ready."

2013 AQHA Champion jockey Cody Jensen will make an appearance Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park to guide fourth fastest qualifier The Sunday Assassin for trainer Hector Rodriguez.

The Bank of America Racing Challenge began in 1993; the championship series developed for the "World's Fastest Horse" is the richest and most successful program in American Quarter Horse racing today.

More than half of the total purses and bonus awards are provided by AQHA Corporate Partners and host racetracks. The Racing Challenge adds more non-horsemen funds than any other American Quarter Horse racing program.

Sam Houston Race Park hosted the prestigious final in 2004 and the event continues to rotate between Los Alamitos and tracks across the country.

Saturday's champion will advance to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). The 2014Bank of America Challenge Championships will take place at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa on Saturday, October 18. Each year, the winner of the Challenge Championship is awarded a berth into Quarter Horse racing's most prestigious race, the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1), also held at Los Alamitos.

The Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship will run as the fifth race of the Saturday evening card, which gets underway at 6:00 p.m. (CT).

Dashers Midnight Leads Field in Saturday's $24,120 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge

The $24,100 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge drew a field of eight American Quarter Horses to compete at the distance of 870 yards.

Dashers Midnight, who ran second in the $100,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship last November at Los Alamitos, is the highest earner in the field with $115,258 in 29 starts.

Trained by James Gerhards for breeders and owners Elaine and Joe McAnally, drew post position four and will be guided by Santos Carrizales, who won this stakes last year aboard Kite Flyer. The seven-year-old distance specialist will face War Khal, another finalist from the Red Cell Distance Championship. The Ned Ellsworth homebred qualified for the championship at Turf Paradise and ran fourth in the final. Mike Robbins trains the five-year-old, and will give a leg up to Jose Alvarez.

Jessa Little Rusty drew the far inside post and will be ridden by James Brooks. Another contender is Michael Amburn's IKnow HeKnows IKnow, who was second in an 870-yard race here on April 3.

The winner of the Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge will earn a berth to the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows on Saturday, October 18.

Jack Ingram Live in Concert Saturday Night at Sam Houston Race Park

The 2014 American Quarter Horse Meet will feature the entertaining post-race concert series on Friday and Saturday nights, with an exceptional lineup of artists. The concert series will be FREE for all guests that purchase $7 general admission tickets to live racing before 8:00 p.m. Admission will be $20 for guests arriving after 8:00 p.m.

The 2014 Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park will take place on the Bud Light Stage following live racing on Friday and Saturday nights from March through May. A variety of Country and Texas country artists will take to the Bud Light Stage following live racing where they will play to an open lawn. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. While at Sam Houston Race Park racing and music fans can take advantage of the Winner's Circle Restaurant with packages starting at $28.00 including admission before 8 p.m., and Chophouse Buffet.

Jack Ingram takes to the Bud Light Stage on Saturday night. The remaining performers are Reckless Kelly on Friday, May 2 and Cody Johnson on Saturday, May 10.

Houston Ladies Classic Winner Rose to Gold to Run in Friday's Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park

Rose to Gold, winner of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park in January, will run in Friday's Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

The four-year-old daughter of Friends Lake made her first trip to Texas one for the memory books for owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffael Centofanti.

Trainer Sal Santoro reported that the talented filly has been training at Oaklawn Park in preparation for the mile and one sixteenth Apple Blossom.

"She likes the Oaklawn surface," said Santoro, from his base at Calder Race Course in Florida. "She won the Fantasy and Honeybee stakes last year. We worked her Saturday and it was a good work. She's always a handful, but happy."

Rose to Gold will reunite with jockey Calvin Borel, and will break from post position two in the Apple Blossom, which will run as the tenth race of the Oaklawn Friday afternoon card.

Triumph and Song Defends Title in the Premiere Stakes

Sam Houston Race Park 2014 Horse of the Meet, Triumph and Song, winner of three stakes in the 2014 Thoroughbred racing season, will headline the field in Thursday's opening night feature, the $50,000 Premiere Stakes at Lone Star Park.

Trained by Karl Broberg for owners H and H Ranch, the striking gray captured the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes, the $50,000 Bucharest Stakes, on the turf and the six furlong $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup Stakes.

Jockey Junior Chacaltana will ride the five-year-old son of leading 2013 Texas stakes sire, My Golden Song and will take on five rivals, including Solar Charge and Gold Element on Thursday evening.

The Lone Star Park 2014 Thoroughbred meet will run through July 12 with Saturday racing switched from an afternoon post to 6:35 p.m.

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