Leading Owner Geral DeWitt
-photo by Jeff Coady/Coady Photo

Leading Trainer Janet Van Bebber
-photo by Jeff Coady/Coady Photo

Leading Jockey J. R. Ramirez
-photo by Jeff Coady/Coady Photo

Gone Celebrating Voted Horse of the Meeting for the 2003 Sam Houston American Quarter Horse Season

Houston, Texas (September 10, 2003) - Sam Houston Race Park announced the winners of the End of the Meeting Awards for the 2003 Quarter Horse season that concluded on Saturday, September 6, 2003.

Trainer John Buchanan had a wonderful season and Gone Celebrating was voted Horse of the Meeting. Owned by Bobby D. Cox of Fort Worth, Gone Celebrating won two stakes races in the 2003 American Quarter Horse meeting, the $45,000 Classic Chevrolet Stakes (G3) on July 25 and the $60,500 Sam Houston Classic (G2) on August 29. The 4-year-old son of Meter Me Gone was impressive in the Classic Chevrolet where he defeated a competitive field including Panther Mountain, who went on to win the MBNA Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows. His victory in the Sam Houston Classic was noteworthy in that he triumphed over Zookie Street, winner of the MBNA Texas Challenge Championship and stakes winners, Dashing Obsession, Silent Overdrive, Turfinator and Randys Pop Pop.

"He is a really good horse who has gotten better with age," replied Buchanan when asked about Gone Celebrating’s success this year. "He ran well in the Classic Chevrolet, but in the Sam Houston Classic, he really wanted it. You could see that he would just not give up."

Buchanan indicated that Gone Celebrating, who also was awarded Champion Older Horse and Champion Texas-Bred honors, will make his next start in the Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park. Buchanan and his wife, Iris, reside in Peaster, Texas, were thrilled that Gone Celebrating was honored as top Texas-bred of the meeting.

"We like to race in Texas and are proud that our horses have done so well here," said Buchanan.

No Fees, the diminutive gray filly who captured the $253,050 TQHA Sales Futurity (RG1) was named Champion Filly/ Mare of the Meeting. Purchased at the 2002 TQHA Yearling Sale by Buchanan and Cox for $20,000, No Fees won each of her five starts this year. She won her trial for the $300,000 Sam Houston Futurity, but suffered a slab fracture and was unable to compete in the final. She underwent surgery in Elgin on August 26 and is expected to return to the track in six months.

"I just spoke to Dr. Lewis and we will go pick her up (in Elgin) tomorrow," said Buchanan. "He said that the surgery went really well. His exact words were that she had a ‘really good prognosis for a bad situation’. We will keep her in her stall for sixty days and then turn her out."

Jack Zee Quick, the fastest qualifier in trials for the $300,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G1) and winner of the richest race of the 2003 American Quarter Horse meeting, was named Champion 2-Year-Old of the Meeting. Trained by Ronald Gilmer, the 2-year-old son of Royal Quick Dash is bred and owned by Dallas Blakely and R.P. Stuart of Fort Worth, Texas, he was brilliant in both starts this meeting. In the trials with rider Nickey Laws aboard, Jack Zee Quick won impressively in gate-to-wire fashion, completing the 400-yard trial in a time of :19.956. He was the only Quarter Horse in trials for the Sam Houston Futurity to break twenty seconds.

"He’s a racehorse," contends Gilmer. "He has run perfectly at Sam Houston. He was by far the fastest qualifier in trials and even though he got bumped in the finals, he was still much the best. He’s the kind you dream about; he’s for real."

The recipient of the Champion Distance Horse of The Meeting was Get Solid, a 4-year-old gray colt owned by Fred Yamaguchi of San Antonio and trained by Heath Taylor. The Texas-bred distance specialist overcame the far outside post position to win the $43,000 Governors’ Cup Marathon at Sam Houston Race Park on August 30. He has been a horse to reckon with since he scored a ten-lenth win at Sam Houston Race Park last August and has finished first or second in his last seven starts.

"I really appreciate the award and thank everyone very much," said Taylor. "He ran a phenomenal race. I was concerned when we drew the 8 hole. He stumbled a bit coming out of the gate, but he ran fast. We were very thrilled with his performance."

Owner of the Meet honors went to Geral Dewitt of Garland, Texas, for the second year in a row. Geral and his wife, Frances, won 20 races this season and racing remains very much of a family affair as their son, Anthony Arey, trains their horses. A Flying Leader, a 5-year-old mare, owned by Dewitt and trained by Arey, was honored as Claimer of the Meeting. A Flying Leader ran four times at Sam Houston Race Park this summer, winning three in a row and placing second in her first start.

"She’s a well bred and nicely built mare," said Dewitt. "She’s had a lot of races, eight this year and we have been careful not to drop her (in class) too far because we think that she’ll make a nice broodmare."

The Dewitts have won leading owner titles at Retama Park, Manor Downs and Lone Star Park and were pleased with their success at Sam Houston Race Park.

"We had more horses run this year than last," said Dewitt. "Anthony had 32 stalls at Sam Houston and he did a good job picking the right spots. I wish we could have had more stakes winners but we are proud of all of our horses and always appreciate the claimers that have come from nothing and win."

Trainer Janet Van Bebber won the Leading Trainer title for the third consecutive time. Her record for the summer was 31 wins, 33 seconds and 17 third place finishes. It was a bittersweet season for the California-native, who trained two AQHA World Champions, Tailor Fit and Streakin Sin Tacha. Tailor Fit, owned by Betty Jane Burlin, was retired this summer and honored in a ceremony at Sam Houston Race Park on September 5. Streakin Sin Tacha was injured defending his title in the MBNA Texas Challenge Championship on July 12. The injury necessitated surgery, but all went well and the accomplished gelding, who is both trained and owned by Van Bebber, is back in training.

"This is our third year to win the training title here," reflected Van Bebber. "It never gets old; it is always special. God has blessed me and I have a lot of good people that work very hard for the stable. We are proud of this accomplishment."

J. R. Ramirez was also a repeat winner as the Leading Jockey of the 2003 American Quarter Horse meeting. The 22-year-old native of Laredo, Texas, concluded the meet with a record of 55 wins, 51 seconds and 35 third place finishes. His mount won a total of $289,721. Ramirez, who won the title last year with 42 wins, credits his good start in the beginning of the meet with making the difference in defeating veteran rider Gilbert Ortiz, who finished with 47 wins.

"I think I was off to a great start since the Louisiana boys (Ortiz, Alvin Brossette, John Hamilton, Nickey Laws and Alfonso Lujan) stayed over there for three weeks," said Ramirez. "I got a pretty good advantage. I think I won seven races the first weekend and seven the second weekend. I had, I think 20 races ahead of everybody. I just tried to keep going. There were some weekends I got a little low and a little high. It ended pretty well; last week I won nine races. It turned out good."

Live Thoroughbred racing will return to Sam Houston Race Park on Thursday, October 23, 2003. The 2003/2004 Thoroughbred meeting will continue through Saturday, April 10, 2004.

2003 American Quarter Horse Award Recipients

Horse of the Meeting – Gone Celebrating
Champion Texas-Bred – Gone Celebrating
Champion 2-Year-Old – Jack Zee Quick
Champion Older Horse – Gone Celebrating
Champion Filly/Mare – No Fees
Champion Distance Horse – Get Solid
Champion Claimer – A Flying Leader
Leading Owner – Geral DeWitt
Leading Trainer – Janet Van Bebber
Leading Jockey – J. R. Ramirez

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