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April 17, 2013


Saturday evening's $101,970 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1) will be a highly competitive event with some of the top older horses in the region competing at a distance of 440 yards.

Sam Houston Race Park ran two trials two weeks ago to determine the ten finalists. Trainer Jonathan Castaneda is hoping for back-to-back wins in the stakes. Last year Kool Country Man won the final and ably represented Texas with a fourth-place finish in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows last October. 

The 5-year-old son of Country Chicks Man, won his 440-yard trial in :21.766 seconds, recording the fastest time. Owned by Jose Socorro Vera, Jr. and Juan Manuel G. Barbosa, Kool Country Man was ridden by Luis Vivanco. 

Kool Country Man is a special horse for the 24-year-old Castaneda, who resides in Houston, just 15 minutes from Sam Houston Race Park. His victory in the 2012 Bank of America Texas Challenge was the first Grade 1 of Castaneda’s career.

“We are very proud of him,” said the young trainer. “Since last year, he has matured and is a true stakes horse.  We’ve given him a little more time between races and are hoping for good luck in the final.”

In addition to Kool Country Man, Castaneda also qualified Jessa Kool Perry also bred by Ramiro Lopez and Bob Gaston

Runaway Wagon posted the second-fastest qualifying time of :21.803 under rider David Alvarez.  The son of Pyc Paint Your Wagon is owned by Dr. Tommy Hays and Bobby J. Barnett. Bred in Kansas by Michelle Meiwes, Runaway Wagon faced some serious challenges in his 2-year-old campaign, according to trainer Bobby Martinez.   As a 2-year-old, the gelding won his  trial for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2) and finished third in an All American Futurity (G1) trial but did not qualify for either futurity.  However, he "tied up" following his trial at Ruidoso Downs and was in serious distress.

"The track vet thought he needed to be put down," said Martinez.  "But Dr. Hays was out there and said 'hold on'. Thankfully, he recovered and came home to Elgin."

Runaway Wagon emerged sound and won the 2012 Firecracker Derby at Delta Downs before returning to Ruidoso to compete in trials last August for the All American Derby.  Martinez, whose training base is located in Elgin, Texas, has a long-standing history with owners, Barnett and Hays.  Dr. Hays is renown in the region for his expertise in equine orthopedic and soft tissue surgery at the Elgin Veterinary Hospital.

"I have great respect for my owners," states Martinez. "To be located that close to Dr. Hay's clinic has been a blessing."

Kool Country Man drew post position six and will run as an entry with Jessa Kool Perry. Vivanco retains the mount on the defending champion, while John Hamilton will pilot Jessa Kool Perry.

Jess A Comment is another notable contender in the Bank of America Texas Challenge. The 4-year-old gelded son of First Comment will make his 14th lifetime start for owner Michael Amburn and trainer Guy Hopkins. He represented Texas in the 2012 Bank of America Derby Challenge at Prairie Meadows.  Luis Ramirez will ride, breaking from post position three.

Filimon Saucedo's The Scotch Is Dun has won five of his eight career starts, including the $190,000 Evangeline Derby last December.  Juan Carlos Saucedo trains the 3-year-old son of Hi Class La Jolla for his father.

Since the Bank of America Racing Challenge began in 1993, the program has distributed more than $60 million to breeders and owners of racing American Quarter Horses. The outstanding program is now in its twenty first season.

Saturday's champion will advance to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). The 2013 Bank of America Challenge Championships will take place at Los Alamitos in Cypress, California on Saturday, November 9. Each year, the winner of the Challenge Championship is awarded a berth into Quarter Horse racing's most prestigious race, the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1), also held at Los Alamitos.

The Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, with an estimated post time of 9:28 p.m. (CT).

Defending Champion Bok Man Returns in Saturday's $23,400 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge
The $23,400 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge drew a field of seven American Quarter Horses who will compete at 870 yards.

Defending champion Bok Man captured the 2012 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge, winning the first stakes of his career. The 5-year-old son of Boknaai is owned by Cynthia A. Jerman and trained by her husband, Jerry, Bok Man will once again be ridden by their son, Jeff.

He will have a rematch with last year's runner-up, Kite Flyer, who has won five of his ten distance races for Dark Horse Partnership. The 6-year-old Texas -bred is trained by Ryan Basham  and regular rider Santos Carrizales retains the mount.

The winner of the Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge will earn a berth to the $125,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos on November 9.

Four Trials for the Bank of America Texas Maiden Challenge on Friday
The Friday, April 19 card at Sam Houston Race Park will include four trials for the  $18,000-added Bank of America Texas Maiden Challenge.  The series is written for American Quarter Horses that are still maidens and enrolled in the Bank of America Racing Challenge may compete in a series of Maiden Challenge Races at selected tracks.

Trainers Guy Hopkins, Judd Kearl, Jorge Haddad and Juan Carlos Saucedo have entrants in the trials.  The ten fastest qualifiers will return for the final on Saturday, May 4.

Promotions Set at Sam Houston Race Park
The 2013 Quarter Horse meet continues through Saturday, May 18, with post times set for Thursday and Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (6:00 p.m.). Special events include:

  • 50 Cent Beer Fridays with ESPN’sFred Faour and A.J. Hoffman featuring 50 Cent Draft Beer and $1.50 Wine Specials every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Dollar Day at The Park featuring $1 admission, live racing programs, hot dogs, ice cream, soda and draft beer. Free Petting Zoo. (April 20)
  • Kentucky Derby Day featuring live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 139th Kentucky Derby with Mint Juleps and the annual Kentucky Derby Hat Contest. (First post 1:00 p.m. May 4)
  • Mother’s Day Brunch featuring a special Sunday live racing program in honor of Mother’s Day. (First post 1:00 p.m. May 12)
  • Preakness Stakes featuring live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 138th Preakness Stakes. (First post 1:00 p.m. May 18)

  • Festivities Set for the 139th Kentucky Derby Simulcast at Sam Houston Race Park
    Sam Houston Race Park ( invites Houstonians to celebrate the heritage, fashion and excitement of racing’s most prestigious day with the 139th Running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, 2013. The day-long sporting and social event will include live racing from The Park, simulcast of the 13-race card from Churchill Downs, a $500 Hat Contest judged by a panel of celebrity judges, traditional Mint Julep cocktails served in a  commemorative Kentucky Derby glass and official Kentucky Derby merchandise!  

    Dubbed "the most exciting two minutes in sports", this year's edition of the Kentucky Derby is shaping up to be a very competitive event. With a new point system in place to determine qualifying positions, Wood Memorial champion, Verrazano and Orb, winner of the Florida Derby, share top billing with 150 points. Other Thoroughbreds receiving attention include Goldencents, from the barn of trainer Doug O'Neill, who won last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with I'll Have Another; Java's War, who rallied from last to win the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland; Overanalyze, winner of the Arkansas Derby and Revolutionary who prevailed in the 14-horse field in last month's Louisiana Derby.

    Houston fans will have an opportunity to enjoy all the Kentucky Derby festivities as well as live American Quarter Horse racing. The afternoon card begins with a special post time of 1:00 p.m.  Two stakes, the Bank of America Texas Maiden Challenge and the always exciting 110-yard Texas Twister, are set for Saturday afternoon.

    The schedule of events is as follows:

    9:00 a.m.       Gates Open
    9:30 a.m.       1st Post from Churchill Downs
    11:30 a.m.     Buffet Opens
    12:00 p.m.     Hat Contest Registration Begins
    1:00 p.m.       1st Live  Sam Houston Race
    3:00 p.m.       Hat Contest Judging Begins
    5:24 p.m.       Running of the 139th Kentucky Derby

    To make dining reservations, or for more information, call 281-807-8760 or visit

    Reckless Kelly Performs Saturday Evening in the Spring Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park
    The 2013 Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park will take place on Friday and Saturdays on the Bud Light Stage following live racing. A variety of Country and Alternative music artists will take to the Bud Light Stage where the venue will offer general admission tickets to the open lawn. In addition, Sam Houston Race Park will offer a variety of food and beverage concessions so that racing and music fans can fully enjoy this total entertainment experience.

    New to this year’s concert series will be FREE concert admission for all guests that purchase $6 general admission tickets to live racing before 8:00 p.m. Admission will be $20 for guests arriving after 8:00 p.m.

    Popular alternative rock band Blue October attracted a huge following on  Saturday, March 30. A total of six artists will perform on Friday and Saturday nights with Kevin Fowler wrapping up the series on Saturday, May 11.
    The Bud Light Stage lists of performers is as follows:
    Reckless Kelly  Saturday, April 27
    Roger Creager Friday, May 3  presented by ABC Home & Commercial Services
    Kevin Fowler Saturday, May 11 presented by Auto Nation 

    Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings
    Juan Carlos Saucedo remains in first place in the trainer standings in the 2013 Quarter Horse meet at Sam Houston Race Park. Saucedo has nine wins, including a victory last Saturday by Flirtingwithamiracle in the $197,000 Sam Houston Derby (G3).

    Manuel Vega, Jr. added two wins last week and secured second place in the standings with seven victories. Bobby Martinez, Judd Kearl, Jose S. Espinosa and Trey Wood  are tied for third with five wins each.  Wood is the leading money earner based on his score in the richest race of the meet, the $452,800 Sam Houston Futurity (G2).  The winning filly, Especially Tres,  earned $181,120 for owner Jim D. Pitts.

    A very competitive battle is ensuing for leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park with Ricardo Aguirre and Luis Vivanco tied with 11 wins each.  David Alvarez follows closely with 10 victories and Rodrigo Vallejo, last year's leading Sam Houston rider, won four races last week to remain in contention with 8 wins.

    Jose S. Espinosa is the leader in the owner standings as his horses have won four races in the 2013 Quarter Horse meet. Antonio Delgado, Jr., Michael Amburn and Meryl and Joe Kirk Fulton are tied for second with three wins each.

    Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 minutes from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 16 recently renovated luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Champion Energy Services Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit

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