$67,680 BANK OF AMERICA TEXAS CHALLENGE (G2) SET FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 21 AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
The featured race of the Saturday, April 21st card at Sam Houston Race Park is the $67,680 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).
Two trials were contested on March 31 to determine the ten fastest qualifiers for the 440-yard final. This is the 25th year of the Bank of America Challenge Championships, a program supported by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). Saturday’s feature at Sam Houston is one of the regional races held throughout the year which give horses qualifying berths to the Challenge Championships. Winners from participating racetracks in North America, Canada and Brazil meet in the final in November.
Jess Bein the Hero with Jorge Linares in the irons, won the first trial in :21.731 seconds. Owned by Juan F. Martinez-Labastida, the 5-year-old made his first start at 440-yards, breaking sharply from the gate and drawing off by ½ length over Rc Me Leavin You. Bred in Texas by Curtis Crenwelge, Jess Bein the Hero is a son of Valiant Hero out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Jess Braggin. He has won eight of his 11 starts, earning $112,953 to date.
Installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite, he is trained by Abelardo Flores, Jr. and will be looking to add to this three-race win streak on Saturday evening. Jess Bein the Hero drew the far inside post, and Flores had no issues with his charge breaking from the rail.
“The inside has been really good lately,” said Flores, who saddled Sam Houston Maiden Classic winner Marfilous last Saturday. “He came out of his trial fine and I can’t complain about his draw.”
The contention runs deep Saturday night and one finalist who cannot be overlooked is Rc Me Leaving You, a 6-year-old son of Coronas Leaving You Texas from the Streakin Six mare Sixy Bottom. The multiple stakes winner, who has earned nearly $190,000 is owned by Bennie and Teri Jeter. Trained by Jimmy Padgett, he set the second-fastest time of :21.810 under Rodrigo Vallejo. The 2017 AQHA champion jockey and leading rider here last year has the return call and will break from post position four.
“He’s doing great,” reported Padgett. “He came into the trials off a layoff, with just one breeze. Looked like he slipped a little out of the gate, but still came running. This horse has always run well in Houston and pretty much everywhere!”
Dash Quick Perry represents the very familiar trio of breeder/owner Pete A. Scarmardo, trainer Leon Bard and jockey Francisco Calderon. Scarmardo bred and owns the 4-year-old son of Down N Dash, who set the fifth-fastest qualifying time in trials. The Retama Park Derby champion also ran in the finals of the Texas Classic Derby and Evangeline Derby with an impressive career record of eight wins from 17 starts. The sorrel gelding will break from post position six at odds of 9-2.
“We didn’t ask him for much in the trials,” said Bard. “I think he is sitting on a big race.”
Scarmardo owns Scarmardo Cattle Company in Caldwell, Texas, and has been an ardent advocate of the Bank of America Challenge and will be in Houston Saturday night to watch Dash Quick Perry.
“The Challenge program is designed to give opportunities for older horses,” he said. “These races are important for Texas and I will continue to support the Challenge.”
Wild Tycoon won his trial, securing the third-fastest time of :22.002 seconds. Rogelio Marquez, Jr. owns the 6-year-old sired by Tempting Dash who has won six of his 21 career efforts. Marquez was honored last month as the 2017 Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association (LQHBA) Champion owner. Wild Tycoon is trained by Jorge Lopez, who will give a leg up to rider Raul Ramirez, Jr.
Tellereyematthebar, bred and owned by James Hrabovksy and J. Leann Nalls, made his debut at Sam Houston Race Park as a 2-year-old. The 5-year-old son of Teller Cartel has raced in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, winning six of his 18 career efforts. Juan Francisco Garcia, Jr. has the mount for trainer Gilbert Aguirre, III.
The field, from the rail with riders: Jess Bein the Hero, (Jorge Linares); Flyingforunclesam, (Noe Villatoro); Tellereyematthebar, (Juan Garcia, Jr.); Rc Me Leaving You, (Rodrigo Vallejo); Ipolito, (Luis Ruiz); Dash Quick Perry, (Francisco Calderon); Wild Tycoon, (Raul Ramirez, Jr.); Eos Corona N Chicks, (Jesse Lee Levario); Careless Lightning, (Rolando Cabrera) and Crying Eagle, (Claudio Aguilar).
The Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship will run as the eighth race Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park, with the winner earning a berth to the $250,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). The 2018 final will take place on November 17 at Los Alamitos in Cypress, California.
Trainer, Jockey Owner Standings at Sam Houston Race Park
Through the first three weeks of the meet, trainer Saul Ramirez, Jr. holds a narrow edge over his fellow conditioners with nine wins. The former rider has been training for just two years since hanging up his tack. His victory with Zaire in last weekend’s Sam Houston Maiden Classic was his first Sam Houston stakes win. Rodolfo Sanchez is second with 6 wins; Leon Bard, Jimmy Padgett, Jorge Lopez and Gilbert Aguirre are tied with four victories.
It will be a battle for leading rider as well with Francisco Calderon and Eddie Sanchez tied for the lead with nine wins. Last year’s leading jockey, Rodrigo Vallejo shares second in the standings with Luis Vivanco, Manny Gutierrez, Claudio Aguilar and
Alejandro Zuniga. Each have made five trips to the winner's circle.
Ricardo Barrera tops the owner standings with four wins to date. Ruben Garcia Montemayor follows with three top finishes.
Sam Houston Race Park, Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, is located just 15 miles from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 16 luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Photo of Jess Bein the Hero: Coady Photography