Zookie Street Captures the $82,080 MBNA America Texas Challenge Championship at SHRP

(Saturday, 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 Texas Challenge.

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 way."

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."

back to THBPA Infomation