||Exceptional Field Set for the $112,230 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) on Saturday Night at Sam Houston Race Park
(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, April 13, 2016) -
Live Quarter Horse returns Friday, April 15 with the popular 50 cent Beer Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m. On Saturday, April 16, live racing gets underway at 6:00 p.m., and racing fans of all ages will enjoy the third annual Derby Dog Dash, with some of the fastest small family dogs in Houston competing between races. Hot dogs will be just $1, and our dogs will be racing for $200 to the champion and $100 for second place!
The Saturday night feature is the $112,230 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2). It 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 live racing on Saturday evening, Parmalee will perform on the Bud Light Stage.
Jessies First Down Leads the Field in the $112,230 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2)
The ten fastest qualifiers from trials contested on March 25 will return to action Saturday evening in the $112,230 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).
For the second year in a row, Jessies First Down posted the fastest time in the trials, covering 440 yards in :21.285 seconds. The five-year-old son of Fdd Dynasty is owned by Ted G. Abrams, Sr. and trained by Judd Kearl. The trial victory was the fifth win from 20 starts for the bay gelding, who has won three of his four starts already this year, including the $300,000 Miami Dade Stakes at Hialeah on February 28.
Rodrigo Vallejo has the return call and will break from post position seven aboard Jessies First Down, who has been installed at odds of 9-2.
Abrams took a minute to reflect on last year's final, when Jessies First Down closed gamely in pursuit of Daytona B. The photo finish sign was posted, and Daytona B was declared the winner. Both horses earned impressive 112 Speed indexes.
"We actually thought we won the race," admitted Abrams. "Daytona B got out so well; we made a big run. It was a disappointing loss, but rewarding to run a great race against one of the top older horses in the country."
While Daytona B did defend his title in Houston, there are plenty of other very capable finalists, but both Kearl and Abrams feel their charge is the one to beat this year.
"This is a great field, and many are proven at 440 yards," added Abrams. "If he gets away like he can, he will be tough to beat. Plus, I fully expect the winner will set a new track record."
This would be the first Bank of America Texas Challenge win for Abrams, who won the 2010 Sam Houston Futurity with Sixes Liaison; his son, Ted Abrams, Jr., won the 1999 edition of the Sam Houston Futurity with War Colors.
2014 AQHA World Champion Jrc Callas First, owned by Dana and Brian Stroud and trained by Brian, recorded the fourth-fastest qualifying time of :21.679. The Texas-bred son of Winners Award drew the rail for the final and will be ridden by Jerry Lee Yoakum
"He needed the out and came back really well," said Stroud. "I was a little concerned drawing the rail. Last time he ran from that post was in a 550-yard stake at Retama. He won, but it might be tougher at 440 yards."
Despite the post position and new rider, Stroud has confidence in his horse, who comes into the final with a record of 16 wins from 26 starts and earnings of $552,331.
"There are probably six legitimate horses that can win the race, but I like our chances," said Stroud of his runner, the 7-2 morning-line favorite. "I certainly wouldn't trade him!"
2014 Bank of America Challenge Champion Stimulus returned off a one-year layoff to post the second-fastest time of the evening, running second to Jessies First Down in :21.528. Bred by Jerry Windham, the six-year-old son of Mr Jess Perry is owned by Jose F. Hernandez.
"It was a good run," said trainer Bobby Martinez. "Always have to give credit to 'Doc' (Tommy Hays, DVM), for his role."
Rider Manuel Gutierrez will guide Stimulus from the far outside post.
Kearl has qualified two other runners for the final, including Rc Me Leaving You for owners Bennie and Terri Jeter, and Bobby D. Myers' homebred Ojo de Rey. He will give a leg up to Noe Villatoro for Rc Me Leaving You and Francisco Ramirez, Jr. aboard Ojo de Rey.
Kearl acknowledges that this year's final will be tough, with several multiple-stakes winners proven at the "classic" Quarter Horse distance of 440 yards.
"I can't imagine another regional final coming up as tough as this one," he said.
Other finalists of note include Evangeline Derby champion Exquisite Stride, owned by D & S Racing LLC and trained by Michael Taylor, and Jerry Windham's homebred J Bar. A finalist in the 2014 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs, J Bar is trained by Leon Bard.
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.
Saturday's winner will advance to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). The 2016 Bank of America Challenge Championships will take place at Los Alamitos on Saturday, October 29. Each year, the winner of the Challenge Championship is awarded a berth into Quarter Horse racing's most prestigious race, the Champion of Champions (G1), which takes place in December at Los Alamitos.
The Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, which gets underway at 6:00 p.m. (CT).
Sam Houston Race Park will also present the $15,000-added Colors of Texas Paint Maturity (G2), as the eighth race. Defending champion Imaflashinthechicks, owned by Racin RMS, will face seven rivals in the 350-yard dash.
Judd Kearl and Rodrigo Vallejo Top the Trainer and Jockey Standings
Trainer Judd Kearl is off to a blazing start in the 2016 Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet. He has won 15 races from 39 starts and holds the top spot with purses earned, as well. Last year's leading trainer, Angel Sanchez, is second with nine wins, and Leon Bard and Brian Stroud are tied for third in the standings with six victories each.
Kearl's first call rider, Rodrigo Vallejo, is the leading jockey with 14 wins following the first three weeks of the racing season. Francisco Calderon won the Sam Houston Maiden Classic last weekend and is second in the standings with 13 wins. Luis Vivanco is now third with 12 victories, and Damian Martinez rounds out the top four with six trips to the winner's circle.
Pete A. Scarmardo and Jorge Haddad are tied for the lead in the owner standings with four wins each.
Parmalee Performs in the Q Morning Zoo Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, April 16
The entertaining 2016 Post Race Concert Series returns to the Bud Light stage this weekend with Parmalee performing on Saturday, April 15. The series continues through May 14, and each concert is FREE with $7 live racing admission before 8:00 p.m., and $20 after 8:00 p.m. at the gate. Save $6 (just $14) on after 8:00 p.m. admission by purchasing tickets online in advance at shrp.com.
The featured performers are:
April 16 - Parmalee
April 23 - The Randy Rogers Band
April 30 - Blackberry Smoke
May 14 - Roger Creager