Valors Gold
photo by Coady Photography

Run And Pray
photo by Coady Photography
Fastest Qualifier Valors Gold Wins the $89,910 MBNA America Texas Challenge Championship at SHRP

(Saturday, May 29, 2004) - Fastest qualifier Valors Gold, returned to the racetrack tonight and in commanding fashion, captured the $89,910 MBNA Texas Challenge Championship (G1). The son of First Down Dash is owned by Claudio Aguilar of Edinburg and trained by Frank Cavazos.

Sam Houston Race Park leading rider, J. R. Ramirez had the mount and was impressed with his victory tonight.
"I thought Gone Celebrating and Gray Invasion would be tough," admitted Ramirez. "This is a very fast horse and he's been training awesome. "Tonight he was really good in the gates. In the trial, he had some trouble, but finished well. Tonight he left well and never let up."

Valors Gold, sent off as the second betting choice behind Sam Houston Race Park 2003 Horse of the Meet, Gone Celebrating, won in gate-to-wire fashion, covering 440-yards in a time of :22.004. He earned $44,955 for the victory and a berth in the $300,000 MBNA America® Challenge Championships on Saturday, November 6, which will be held for the first time at Sam Houston Race Park.

"He's a fast horse," said Aguilar. "We've owned him for two years and Frank's done a great job. We're looking forward to running him in November in the final, but will probably run him in another big race, possibly the Sam Houston Classic."

Gone Celebrating, owned by Bobby D. Cox of Fort Worth, ran second. John Hamilton rode the son of Meter Me Gone, and felt that his break from the gate cost him the win.

"He was standing a little too close (to front of gate) but I didn't want to take chance on having (the assistant starter) make him take a step back, so he didn't fire away from there like he can," said Hamilton. "He seems to shift gears three or four times, accelerating each time - but that other horse was gone."

Buchanan didn't try to make an excuse.

"We got outrun, didn't we?" stated Buchanan. "He's still a little tentative on that bad foot, every time we put on a patch, it stings him. He needs about 12 weeks for it to finish growing out, and we will watch for another qualifier and hope to get him qualified for the final."

Buchanan had some consolation in that his other qualifier, Snow Warning, owned by Marilyn and James Helzer, finished third.

"I'll check with his owner and see what he wants to do," commented Buchanan. "We may try to qualify him somewhere else or just stick with races here. He is sound and useful."

Valors Gold paid $7.80, $3.60 and $2.40 across the board.

The 4-6 exacta returned $24.00 and the 4-6-2 trifecta paid $83.80. Gray Invasion, Mr Nokona, Hesa Lil Bit High, Heza Fast Cowboy, Roll Easy, Mr Bar Code and Famous Signature completed the order of finish.

$24,570 MD Barns Texas Distance Challenge - G3

Eight distance horses put on a show in the $24,570 MD Barns Texas Distance Challenge. The winner, with a driving finish at the wire, was Run and Pray, trained by John Buchanan and ridden by John Hamilton. The 5-year-old Texas-bred American Quarter Horse is owned by Bobby D. Cox of Fort Worth.

Seek N Destroy was the fastest qualifier from trials run May 14 and went out to a four-length lead before Run and Pray found his stride and closed powerfully. He completed the 870-yard distance in a time of :46.224 and paid $4.80 for the win.

"He's never been a horse to run with early speed," said Buchanan.

"He's the kind of horse that wants to run his race, but if he's healthy, he's not going to let a horse beat him. He knows where the wire is."

"Very few Quarter Horses can finish the way he can," added Hamilton."He beat a great group of horses."

"Not much to say about a race like that," said Danny Lavergne, the rider of runner-up, Seek N Destroy. "He just didn't hang on."

"We decided to try him around the hook since his daddy Calyx was a good hook horse," added trainer James Gerhards. " We were kind of surprised when he won his first two so easy. That was a horse race and a tough one to lose."

Run and Pray paid $4.80 for the win and keyed the $11.00 exacta.

Zachs Hero was third and Joe Task, Durability, Amor Lijero, Special D Dash and Tks Legs Diamond completed the order of finish.

News and Notes

Chris Kotulak, from TVG was live at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday evening. He hosted a live telecast of the MBNA Texas Challenge Championship and the MD Barns Texas Distance Challenge with interviews of the winning connections of both stakes. TVG will also broadcast live at Sam Houston Race Park on Sunday, featuring the Bayer Legend and Professional's Choice Texas Claiming Challenge.

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