|Zookie Street Captures the $82,080
MBNA America Texas Challenge Championship at SHRP
July 12, 2003) - Trainer Heath Taylor knew he had some talented
horses entered in the Saturday night card at Sam Houston Race Park.
He had qualified three for the final of the $253,050 TQHA Sales
Futurity (RG3) and one for the $46,620 Bayer Legend Texas Challenge
(G3). Taylor’s 2-year-olds ran second and third in the TQHA
Sales Futurity and Jess Maid Magic ran second in the Bayer Legend
The final stakes of the card would be the biggest challenge for
the 33-year-old trainer as he would send out Zookie Street in the
$82,080 MBNA Texas Challenge Championship (G1). Zookie Street, a
4-year-old son of Corona Cartel, is owned and bred by Taylor’s
father, Michael. He is an accomplished runner, winning eight of
his prior lifetime starts, including the 2002 Bayer Legend Texas
Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park. Tonight he was up against some
of the toughest competition in his career including AQHA Co-World
Champion, Streakin Sin Tacha, undefeated in eight starts at Sam
Houston Race Park.
Taylor had nothing but the highest respect for Streakin Sin Tacha
and his owner/trainer Janet Van Bebber. He had admitted in the days
preceding the MBNA Texas Challenge that Zookie Street had answered
every question he had ever asked of him, but Saturday’s stakes
would be the greatest test of his career.
When the gates opened and the twelve contenders dueled for 440-yards,
Zookie Street not only won, but made a statement that he was ready
to compete with the top quarter horses racing today. Ridden confidently
by regular rider, Gilbert Ortiz, Zookie Street drew off, besting
Streakin Sin Tacha by almost two lengths in a time of :21.660.
"I felt like I’ve been kissing my sister all night,"admitted
Taylor in the winner’s circle following the trophy presentation.
"I ran second in the other two stakes. He ran a very, very
good race. I think the caliber of horses that drew next to him gave
him something to run at. Streakin Sin Tacha has never been beat
here and it makes you wonder if he there are any horses who can
be beat him here. I was worried my horse’s best race might
not good enough. Gilbert has been telling me this horse was going
to win next time; I guess he was right!"
Ortiz and Taylor have formed a formidable union of late. On June
28 they won both the Firecracker Futurity and Derby at Delta Downs
with First Kool Baby and Dash For Yonder. The following evening
they teamed up once again winning the Lee Berwick Memorial Futurity
with Val’s Fortune. Their success has given Ortiz incredible
confidence in himself and his mounts, especially Zookie Street.
"I felt very confident with the horse," said Ortiz.
"He's been training super; just awesome. We got taken down
at Delta (in the MBNA America East Challenge). We worked him the
next week and he worked so good I felt he could have run back and
won that same week. He was ready tonight. Heath and I have some
great horses and great owners and we're just kicking butt. Heath
does a great job of picking the races and everything is going our
Van Bebber, although disappointed, was gracious in her congratulations
to Taylor and Ortiz following their victory.
"That’s what makes horseracing what it is," stated
Van Bebber. "Our sport is not an exact science and unfortunately,
you can’t win every time. The good news is that you can always
come back and take a shot in the next race."
Van Bebber is considering one more start for Streakin Sin Tacha
this meet at Sam Houston Race Park, possibly in the Sam Houston
Classic on Friday, August 29.
Taylor has several options for Zookie Street prior to November
when he will represent Texas in the finals of the $300,000 MBNA
America Challenge Championship (G1) to be held November 1, 2003
at Los Alamitos.
Zookie Street, sent off as the second betting choice, paid $9.00,
$2.80 and $2.60 across the board. The 10-11 exacta returned $20.00
and the trifecta with Hesa Royal Remedy paid $174.40. Roll Easy,
Moonshine Six, First Place Bayou, Spark A Fortune, Coronas Witt,
Dashing Task, Im Touched By Gold, Rythm N Rhyme and Streakin To
Romance completed the field.
News and Notes
Gilbert Ortiz had four winners on the Saturday night card. In
addition to Zookie Street, Ortiz won aboard Hadtobenuts ($6.20)
in the second, Hi Tech Special ($15.60) in the third and Reckless
Tis ($11.00) in the sixth race. Ortiz is the only jockey to have
earned leading rider honors three times (1996, 1997 and 1999).
Dave Weaver, co-host of the popular TVG show "The Quarters"
was at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday evening. He hosted a live
telecast of the MBNA Texas Challenge Championship and the TQHA Sales
Futurity with interviews of the trainers and jockeys for the "MBNA
America Road to the Challenge Championships."