|Third Time Is the Charm for Jessies First Down in the $103,320 Bank of America Texas Challenge (G2) at Sam Houston Race Park
(Houston, Texas - Saturday, April 22, 2017) -
Perhaps the confidence of being AQHA World Champion or not having the pressure of being the fastest qualifier in trials for the $103,320 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) had an impact on Jessies First Down. Tonight at Sam Houston Race Park, Ted G. Abrams, Sr.'s homebred, trained by Judd Kearl, not only won the grade 2 stakes, but set a new 440-yard track record. Breaking from post position three under regular rider Rodrigo Vallejo, the bay gelding powered to the wire in :21.214, besting the record set in 2015 of :21.275 set by Daytona B. Running over a fast track, with a 16 mph tailwind, he earned a speed index of 109.
"I told Ted that by not going into the final as the fastest qualifier that maybe we could turn the tables," said an emotional Kearl in the winner's circle. "Words can't describe what this horse means to all of us. He's done everything we have asked of him, and tonight he breaks a track record. He's everybody's dream!"
Abrams was joined by his wife, Nancy, and daughter, Heather. He took a moment to reflect on the AQHA Award Ceremony on January 21 when Jessies First Down was announced as World Champion.
"When they announced that he was World Champion, it was a special moment," acknowledged Abrams. "Not many horses have been able to accomplish that. Credit goes to Judd, assistant Jimmy Padgett, and Rodrigo, who all did an amazing job. His groom, Javier Gonzalez, goes everywhere he goes."
Rogelio Garza Guajardo's homebred TLC Dale, a son of The Louisiana Cartel, ran second by a neck under Manuel Gutierrez, followed by fastest qualifier Dutcher and longshot My Moment of Fame.
Jessies First Down was sent off as the betting favorite and returned $3.80 for the win. This was his 12th career victory, and fifth win in a row. He earned $65,000 this evening, vaulting his career mark to $649,507. With the win, he will advance to the $330,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows on Saturday, October 14. A victory in that stakes assures a starting gate position in the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos in December.
Abrams indicated that Jessies First Down would likely make his next start in the Remington Park Invitational and then head to Ruidoso Downs and the Downs at Albuquerque.
"Judd has done an excellent job of directing the horse; he will be the one to decide where he goes," stated Abrams.
Brookside Defeats a Contentious Field in the $28,440 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge
Sam Houston Race Park also hosted the $28,440 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge Saturday evening. Trainer Leon Bard and jockey Francisco Calderon won the Merial Texas Distaff last year with Time for Wine and teamed up this year with Brookside. The four-year-old mare by Brookstone Bay is bred and owned by Linda Loftis Tobias.
She made her 2017 debut off back-to-back wins last fall at Lone Star Park. Bard was not worried about coming off the layoff.
"We've had her for two years, so we kind of have her figured out," said Bard. "She can be quirky but always seems to run well fresh."
Calderon hustled his filly out of the gate and was able to withstand strong pressure from Barefoot Beach and Vallejo to his outside. He won by a neck, covering 400 yards in :19.546 with a 16 mph tailwind.
"She was ready," said Calderon. "Last year, he gave Time for Wine some time off, and this filly was the same. The filly on my outside was with her, but she never gave up. She's a little mean, but she puts her energy into her race."
Brookside has done well in the Challenge series. She was the fastest qualifier to the 2016 Adequan Texas Derby Challenge, running fourth in the final.
It was a proud celebration for Tobias and her daughter, Tiffany, who is a veterinarian.
"It's a long tradition with the family line we breed," said Tobias. "I thank Leon and Francisco; they've done a spectacular job with her. My daughter, Tiffany, has been my guru!"
"She has a ton of heart and a huge closing kick," added Tiffany.
Hr Chatter Wagon ran third, followed by Zenergetic. Brookside, sent off at 7-1, rewarded her supporters with a win payout of $16.40. She will advance to the $105,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows on October 14.