October 28, 2009
Exciting matchups on the racetrack aren’t the only things happening during the Challenge weekend.
Fall is here, which means a cornucopia of events featuring the best and the brightest American Quarter Horses. Sandwiched between Congress and World Show, I will be looking forward to watching the fastest horses on earth compete at the Bank of America Challenge Championships over Halloween weekend at Los Alamitos in California.
The Orange County racetrack has a storied history, opening in 1951 under the care of Frank Vessels Sr., and today hosts many of the most prestigious races in the sport.
The Bank of America Racing Challenge will celebrate its 17th running this year with full fields of horses from around the country.
To qualify for the Bank of America Challenge finals, horses compete in six different categories – the Bank of America Championship Challenge (for horses 3 and over), the Bayer Legend Derby Challenge (for 3-year-olds), John Deere Juvenile Challenge (for 2-year-olds), Merial Distaff Challenge (for fillies and mares), Red Cell Distance Challenge (for horses racing 870 yards); and Fort Dodge Starter Allowance Challenge (3 year olds and up who have started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less in the past year).
Horses will travel from as far as Brazil, Mexico and Canada to compete for large purses and the prestige of winning these great races.
The $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) headlines the night, and feature a great matchup of horses. Among them is champion Little Bit Of Baja, who won the August 15 Bank of America Central Championship (G2) Challenge by a dominating two lengths over WRS Special Shoe, who won the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) last year, and Hijo De Villa. Also in the field is Fighter On Fire, who has earned nearly half a million dollars in the past three years and qualified to the race with a win in the Bank of America California Championship Challenge (G2); Grade 1 winner Trisk; Mexico invader Mayo First; and Northwest challenger Snip N Dale, who has never been worse than third in 19 career starts.
Another of the headlining draws this year is the rematch between two-time distance champion and undefeated record holder Snowbound Superstar and his rival Gone To The Mountain in the $125,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1). The nearly white Snowbound Superstar, owned by Tom and Brenda Brinkley, has won all 15 of his starts at 870 yards, the longest string of consecutive wins by any American Quarter Horse, at any distance, in history. The juggernaut was stiffly tested in May by the nearly-black Gone To The Mountain, a homebred racing for Clyde Woerner. Gone To The Mountain has won all but one of his distance races, and in addition to serving as a breeding stallion, he also set a world record for the distance this spring. They faced off at Remington Park in the Red Cell Oklahoma Distance Challenge, matching strides for nearly every one of the 870 yards. Neither gave any quarter, but Snowbound Superstar proved victorious by a short neck. Gone To The Mountain will seek revenge and an upset on Halloween night.
Exciting matchups on the racetrack aren’t the only things happening during the Challenge weekend. The AQHA Racing Council and various racing committees will also meet to discuss important racing issues and award the prestigious Gordon Crone, Millie Vessels and Lifetime achievement awards. I also am going to make sure to watch the $1.2 million Golden State Million Futurity (G1) at Los Alamitos on Friday night – the gelding Whole Lot Of Karma will be racing in it. I’ve been following the regular feature in The American Quarter Horse Journal’s Q-Racing Section, which has chronicled his training from youngster to professional racehorse since December 2008.
Don Treadway Jr.
AQHA Executive Vice President
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