Contentious Field Set For $105,840 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, April 15, 2015) - Live Quarter Horse racing is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at Sam Houston Race Park. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., with the popular 50 cent Beer Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m. On Saturday, April 18, live racing gets underway at 6:00 p.m., and the feature is the $105,840 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, popular Texas recording artist Roger Creager will perform on the Bud Light Stage.

Jessies First Down Leads the Field in the $105,840 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2)

The ten fastest qualifiers from trials contested on March 28 will return to action Saturday evening in the $105,840 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2). The final will be run at the "classic" distance of 440 yards.

Jessies First Down posted the fastest time in the trials, winning in :21.828 seconds. The four-year-old son of Fdd Dynasty is owned by Ted G. Abrams, Sr. and trained by Leslie Padilla.

"This horse loves to run," said Abrams. "He finished so well and was a game winner. We look forward to a great final."

Rodrigo Vallejo has the return call and will break from post position 3 aboard Jessies First Down, who has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice.

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.

Padilla has qualified three other runners for the final, including Alicia Hill Smith's Feature My News and Lil Famous Dash, a Scarlett Hill Farms homebred who won the 2014 Texas Classic Derby at Lone Star Park.

The fourth Padilla-trainee is Pyro, bred and owned by Kathleen O Matey, who blazed to the wire of the 440 yard trial in :21.893. The five-year-old son of Make It Anywhere qualified for last year's final, finishing a game second to Dash Master Jess. Pyro will be making his 21st career start on Saturday and will be guided by Luis Guerrero.

Last year, trainer Rolando Almanza qualified two horses for the Bank of America Texas Challenge and won the final with Dash Master Jess. This year, he will saddle Daytona B, a four-year-old son of First Down Dash who ran second to Pyro. The well-traveled Texas-bred, owned by Gregorio Garcia Garza, shipped to Houston off a two-race win streak at Hialeah Park near Miami and is currently ranked seventh on the weekly AQHA/ Top Ten Poll.

"Daytona B is super sound and is doing great," said Almanza. "He's really laid back until he gets to the paddock; then he gets keyed up."

Almanza is a big supporter of the AQHA Challenge program and won the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship last October at Prairie Meadows with Daytona B.

"It was always a dream of mine to win a Challenge belt buckle," said Almanza. "My owners and I really like the Challenge program and have learned a lot. No one remembers who was the fastest qualifier; it's all about winning the final."

Another capable contender is multiple stakes winner and second-fastest qualifier, The Lizzard King, a six-year-old son of Valiant Hero. Owned by Rene Amaro, The Lizzard King drew the rail and will be ridden by Raul Ramirez, Jr.

Almanza acknowledges that this year's final will be tough, with several multiple-stakes winners and only two horses in the field with earnings lower than $100,000.

"I am looking forward to the race," added the trainer. "Good competition makes it so exciting!"

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 2016 Bank of America Challenge Championships will take place at Lone Star Park on Saturday, November 7. 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), at Los Alamitos.

"This is a very strong field which includes eight stakes winners," said Sam Houston Race Park racing secretary Fred Hutton. "The final will be an exceptional race, and the winner will represent us strongly at Lone Star Park this November."

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 $24,590 Colors of Texas Paint Futurity (G2) and the $27,020 Colors of Texas Paint Maturity (G2) on Saturday evening.

Angel Sanchez and Damian Martinez Top the Trainer and Jockey Standings

Last year's leading trainer, Angel Sanchez, has started the 2015 Quarter Horse meet on a high note and tops all horsemen with 10 wins from 33 starts. Leslie Padilla is second with nine wins, and Brian Stroud had a solid week to move into third in the standings with eight wins following the first three weeks of the racing season.

It was also a big week for jockey Damian Martinez, who swept to the lead in the jockey standings, winning 12 races from 60 mounts. Martinez captured the $101,800 Sam Houston Maiden Classic aboard El Chinito Boy. Francisco Calderon won three races last weekend and is second in the standings with 11 wins. Rodrigo Vallejo is now third with nine victories.

There are six horsemen tied for the lead in the owner standings. Silvia Robles, Ricardo A. Morales and Jorge Meraz have perfect three-for-three records, and Pete A. Scarmardo, Wayne Stroud and Eleazar Martinez, Sr. have also won three races this meet.

Roger Creager Performs Saturday in the Spring Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park

The 2015 American Quarter Horse Meet features the entertaining Post Race Concert Series on the Bud Light stage, most Saturdays through May 16. These live performances are free with $7 live racing admission before 8:00 p.m., and $20 after 8:00 p.m. The following performers will follow the last of 10 Quarter Horse races each evening.

April 18 - Roger Creager
May 1 - Jason Boland and the Stragglers
May 9 - The Casey Donahew Band
May 16 - Cody Johnson * - Special Concert on Preakness Day:
Also featuring Cory Morrow and Gary P. Nunn
(*This concert will start at 6pm.)

Tickets are available online at, at participating Houston-area Randall’s locations, or by calling 800-211-3381. In addition to individual tickets, guests can also purchase a Season Ticket to Sam Houston Race Park for just $130 that includes admission and a counter seat for every live race day of the season as well as each of the post race concert performances.

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