Friday, 28 October 2016

Canadian Contenders in the Bank of America Challenge Championships

The Bank of America Challenge Championships are coming up on Saturday night at Los Alamitos, and between Ontario and Alberta, Canada has a handful of representatives entered. While none of the Canadian contingent will be favoured, most American handicappers have probably not heard of any of them and may be interested to know a bit about these runners, so I thought it might be fun to take a look.

Andreini Distance Challenge Championship
     Eight year old Kr Streakin Version, a Montana-bred gelding, is three-for-five this year racing in Alberta. His first two starts were both losses racing down the straightaway in Lethbridge, but he was a fairly easy winner in the Black Gold Insulation Classic going 770 yards at Northlands Park. Although he was given a 100 Speed Index for that race, I wouldn't trust the times. It was a hand timed race and the runner up, who was only 1 3/4 lengths behind, was apparently two seconds slower. He then went to Grande Prairie and won an 870 yard final by 5 1/2 lengths, going in a hand time of 44.319, a track record. He wrapped up his Alberta campaign with a win in the Distance Challenge at Grande Prairie which qualified him to this race. Unfortunately the company he has kept out west is not particularly noteworthy, he has been the clear cut best of the distance division out there for a while. He shipped to Lone Star for last year's Distance Challenge Championship, but had to check about 100 yards into the race and ended up finishing sixth by 8 1/2 lengths. He also raced in the 2013 Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos, finishing tenth in a race that was topped by Vodka With Ice and Cold Cash 123. 
     Juno Dat Timber is a four year old Alberta-bred gelding, who qualified for this race off of a second place finish in the Will Rogers Distance Challenge. He is winless this year and has not raced in Canada since 2014, when he won the RG3 Alberta Bred Futurity in Lethbridge. 

Merial Distaff Challenge Championship
     L Bar D Sweet Fantasy is a four year old mare bred in Oregon. It's tough to consider her a Canadian campaigner as she has spent her career racing in the Pacific Northwest, but after finishing last in the Sun Downs Distaff Challenge as the 2-1 second choice, shipping up to Grande Prairie was her only other qualifying option. She made the ship and ended up winning in a dead heat with Im Hott Ur Nott, who will not be racing in this Championship. Im Hott Ur Nott has been a very tough runner in Alberta for a few years now. She has won 13 of her 27 starts, with four stakes wins and five wins in non-Stakes Finals. Like Kr Streakin Version, Im Hott Ur Nott made the ship to Lone Star last fall for the Merial Distaff Challenge, where she finishing eighth by 2 3/4 lengths. It will be tough swimming for L Bar D Sweet Fantasy, who just last December had been competing for $5,000 claiming at Portland Meadows.

John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship
     Rpainted Pistol, a gelded son of Pyc Paint Your Wagon, was a debut winner at Remington Park before being bought Milena Kwiecien of Ontario and sent to the barn of Jason Pascoe. He went two for two at Ajax, winning the Ajax Juvenile Challenge fairly convincingly, then won a QROOI Overnight Series Race. In both of those races he defeated Denali Teller Off, a stablemate, and Hickerson, who went on to finish 1-2 in the $119,150 Alex Picov Memorial Futurity. In the Juvenile Challenge he also beat a handful of American invaders, including One Fast Effort, who went on to win a maiden race at Indiana and then finished second in the All American Quarter Horse Congress Futurity at Belterra, and First Down Money Pop, who later won a maiden race at Hazel Park and finished third in the Congress Futurity at Belterra. Although these aren't quite the kind of foes he'll have to face in the John Deere, they're almost all of the the best we had this year in Ontario. Since arriving at Los Al he has worked from the gate, going 300 yards in 17.60, under the lights between races on October 15.

Adequan Derby Challenge Championship
     Toughie, a Stel Corona filly, is eight for 10 in her career. She qualified to and finished sixth in last year's G1 Ed Burke Million Futurity at Los Alamitos before coming to Lethbridge to win the G3 Canada Cup Futurity. She has gone four for five this year, defeating foes such as Angelles Baby Tnt, a Futurity Consolation winner who has since been moved to Ontario where she has gone two for two in some solid races, Er Cafe, who is three times Stakes placed in Alberta, and Flybye 109, who is six for 12 in her career and won the 2015 Alberta Stallion Futurity at Northlands. 
      Representing Ontario in the Derby Challenge is Country Boy 123, a Michigan bred gelding who is a cousin of Cold Cash 123. He has won six of his seven starts this year, all at Ajax Downs. including the AQHA Challenge Maiden, the Ajax Derby Challenge and the $116,100 Picov Derby. He has defeated several quality foes, including Alakzaam, who was on a six-race win streak heading into the Ajax Derby Challenge, Panther Hero, who won last year's $113,750 Alex Picov Memorial Futurity and finished a decent sixth at Lone Star in last year's John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (before being disqualified for interference.) Like Rpainted Pistol, Country Boy 123 got to work from the gate under the lights between races to get accustomed to night racing.

Bank of America Challenge Championship
     Four year old Cruisinfourabruisin, a son of First Timber, a stallion who stands in Alberta, will make his first start out of the province in the Championship, after winning 11 of 28 starts and earning over $115,000. He has three Stakes wins to his name, the 2014 G3 Canada Cup Futurity, the 2015 Canada Cup Derby, and this year's Evergreen Park Challenge Championship. In the Evergreen Park Challenge he bested Tiny Flying Corona, one of the toughest older horses in Alberta. Tiny Flying Corona is 16 for 37 in his career, a winner of three Stakes, six non-Stakes Finals, and a qualifier to the 2013 G2 El Primero Del Ano Derby at Los Alamitos. 
     Fantsy Pants, another runner who is not really a Canadian, made it into the final as an also eligible. She finished third in the Ajax Challenge Championship, but Fast Man Vic and One Famous Glass opted not to make the trip to California. Fantsy Pants, a Maryland-bred daughter of Splash Bac, has won only once, in a maiden at Ruidoso in June of 2015. She exits a non-threatening fifth in the Prairie Meadows Distaff Challenge and doesn't look too hopeful in this race.

      I'm wishing the best of luck to all of the Canadian connections racing at Los Alamitos this weekend. The waters are deep, but it is great to see our country's Quarter Horse racing industry being represented on such a large scale. Hopefully we can have some luck and maybe bring one of these big races home!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Ajax Downs October 10 Thanksgiving Selections

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Ajax Downs! Happy Columbus Day to my friends south of the border as well! I have slacked posting my Ajax selections on here since racing has switched to Mondays, but today is a special card. Today we have 11 races, including two of our most important Stakes races of the year, the Alex Picov Memorial Championship for older horses going 440 yards, and the Alex Picov Memorial Futurity for two year olds going 400 yards. Both are worth over $100,000 and show off many of the best Quarter Horses racing in Ontario. The Championship goes as Race 7 and the Futurity is Race 9. It is sure to be a fantastic day, and it looks like the autumn weather is going to cooperate. Here are my selections for the card.

Race 1: 3-4-5
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Ajax Downs! #3 THE FLASH DRIVE raced very well against solid competition in his first two starts, but was one of several runners to be interfered with by Zoxtobeyou in an Alex Picov Memorial Futurity trial three weeks ago. He has caught a soft looking field and should be tough if he gets a clean run. #4 MAKE ME BODACIOUS exits a decent fourth place finish in a very nondescript maiden race two weeks ago. She did manage to qualify to the Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity and does seem to be on the improve. #5 BAC IN FIRST looked very good in a gate workout on August 24, but lost his path at the start in his debut. He returned in Alex Picov Memorial trials, didn't break straight and appeared to be quite green throughout. He may be one to improve with more experience. The Daily Double starts here.

Race 2: 2-5-3
This race begins the early Pick 3. #2 MIA GOT SPEED debuts here after several in company workouts. She has not looked particularly memorable in the mornings but is out of a Stakes placed mare and may be worth a look at a price. #5 SHEZ QUICK TO WIN had been racing in Indiana where she had run some solid races, then made her Ajax debut last week. She drew the rail, broke fairly well and was outkicked by some decent foes late. She cuts back in distance for her second local start. #3 FLEET SELECT finished second last week facing a group of Ontario Sired foes who I don't think were noteworthy. He has run several good races in his 13 race career and drops back in for $7,000 claiming where he had been a player earlier in the year.

Race 3: 2-4-3
#2 WINNERS PROSPECT was bumped on both sides and pinched back at the start last time, leaving himself with far to much work to do, but appeared to have some late run when facing open foes. He gets back into Ontario Sired company and should be quite tough with a clean start. #4 TEXTMEJOHNNYANGEL exits a sixth place finish in the same race Winners Prospect exits. Although he finished sixth with a chart line reading "evenly," visually he didn't look to bad in that race. He's one to consider. #3 BUSTER BRI exits a third place finish in a maiden $7,000 claiming race behind Zoomin Zeus and Eb Encountered, who were both making their local debuts. Eb Encountered returned to win the race that my top two choices exit. This six year old has finished second or third in 15 of his 21 starts and could certainly grab another cheque today.

Race 4: 4-5-6
This race kicks off the $.20 Pick 4! #4 BDB GHOST TRANE, a maiden, has had no shortage of poor luck so far. Last time out when racing over a sloppy track she had a fairly clean run, just one minor bump shortly after the start, and finished up okay to be beaten less than a length. We'll see how she does here. #5 TTT KELLYS COPPERTWO exits a sixth place finish, 1/4 length in front of Bdb Ghost Trane. She was actually bumped on both sides at the start, but soon managed to advance to be on the front, weakening late. Her only win has come through disqualification but she does not have to beat a ton in this spot. #6 DREAMS ARISING had a pair of good efforts in weak Speed Index races on August 28 and September 12, but broke poorly in an allowance race last time out. Today she gets back into a weak Speed Index race and draws outside.

Race 5: 2-6-4
#2 EYESA ZOOMN has run big in all four of his starts this year despite not winning any of them. The most notable effort was two back when he was beaten only a head by the near-unstoppable First Down the Track in a QROOI Sprint Series race. He returned in the final Sprint Series race but was bumped at the start and rallied to be fourth behind One Kool Wave. He's one of the gamest old horses in Ontario and looks tough today. #6 TRES SEIS SMOOCHES had been a solid open allowance horse in Alberta for several seasons. She came out here this year and has run two good thirds, last time out being beaten by her very classy stablemate Angelles Baby Tnt after being a bit restless in the gate. Drawing outside could be beneficial. #4 FISCAL FAST is a stablemate of Tres Seis Smooches', making her second start at Ajax after a bit of an even effort in a decent NW3 allowance on September 19. She qualified and raced well in a few Stakes races in Alberta, and was actually only 0.037 seconds off of breaking a track record at Grande Prairie last summer. There's some class here.

Race 6: 3-2-4
This race is a 110 yard "Gridiron Gallop!" #3 CARTELS FAST MONEY is not a superstar, but when she's on her game she can break from the gate very, very fast, making her a personal favourite of mine. She was a winner going 110 yards last year over Eyesa Zoomin. We'll see if she gets out on top today. #2 COUNTRYS COMIN BAC exits a second place finish in the Picov Derby behind Country Boy 123, and will now make his 110 yard debut. The shortest race he has run in was 250 yards and he was a winner that day, and he certainly has class to his name. As always going 110 yards, it all comes down to the start. #4 EYES THAT TELL was a very easy winner going 110 yards back on July 21, then came back with a close second in a good optional claiming race. Her 110 yard win was very impressive and makes it tough to ignore her today.

Race 7: 6-7-5
Today's co-feature is the $100,700 Alex Picov Memorial Championship, going the classic distance of 440 yards. #6 FAST MAN VIC was a winner at this distance in the Bank of America Regional Challenge Championship two starts back. In his only other start going 440, a Stakes race at Hialeah, he was third behind Jessies First Down, who has since won the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap, the Grade 2 Sam Houston Championship Challenge, and finished second in the Grade 1 All American Gold Cup. Last time out in the All Canadian Classic, he had an empty gate to his inside, broke in to the open space and lightly bumped into a foe while First Down the Track had a perfect start down the outside. Beating First Down the Track will be tough, but I'm a big fan of this gelding and I think a 440 yard race is the best place for him to have a chance at the upset. #7 FIRST DOWN THE TRACK has had a remarkable 2016, with wins in the Picov Maturity, two QROOI Overnight Series races, and, most recently, an easy win in the All Canadian Classic. In last year's Championship she broke on top but flattened out, a bit of a theme in her 440 yard races, a distance at which she has never won at. However, she is the best she has ever been this year and it would be no great surprise to see her continue her streak of wins. #5 ONE FAMOUS GLASS was second behind First Down the Track in the All Canadian Classic and second behind Fast Man Vic in the Bank of America Challenge before that. He has done quite well going 440 yards, with five top-two finishes in seven tries at the distance, and should certainly not go overlooked. The Late Pick 3 starts here.

Race 8: 4-1-7
#4 HAL BENT has raced well against tough foes like Alakazaam, Speedocracy and Ice Fishn this year. He exits a win in a NW2 allowance race and looks tough taking the step into NW3. #1 EYE SAID IM NED was a NW2 winner three starts back over Six Shootin Tex and next-out winner Winner On a Lark. He came back with an even fourth in a five-horse open allowance for Ontario Sired runners, then ran a good fourth in a decent Speed Index race won by Bubbles Cartel Gal, who was long overdue for a win. He could be a factor here. #7 CARAWAYS JOKERS LANE was poor in his first two starts of the year but has been in solid form ever since. He exits a good third at this level and is one of several worth consideration in this race.

Race 9: 7-9-4
The second feature on today's card is the $119,150 Alex Picov Memorial Futurity. #7 KONA CORONA, a half brother to G2 winner A Plain Brown Rapper, was an impressive debut winner. He was bumped hard at the start in the trials, then bumped again as Zoxtobeyou veered sharply to the inside, looked to be weakening but rebid gamely to nearly get back up for place. There's a lot to like about this colt, especially if he gets a clean run. #9 HOME TO VEGAS is the undefeated two-year old sensation, already winning the Ontario Sires Stakes Futurity in August. He set the fastest qualifying time to today's final, proving that he can handle the stretch out to 400 yards. The one to beat. #4 ONE SPECIAL DOMINO has not missed the board in her three starts. She broke her maiden second time out, then finished a very good third behind Home to Vegas in the trials, racing from the rail post. She gets off of the rail today and could prove to be a factor.

Race 10: 1-5-4
This race is the start of the Late Double. #1 DAYTONA 500 exits a pair of runner up finishes, first against next out winner Faster Than U and then against the classy Hal Bent. She was second in last year's OSS Futurity and appears to be in her best form. #5 GRABIN AWARDS caught a soft field two back and was the only horse to break cleanly, causing him to score an effortless win. However, he came back in a NW2 and ran third behind Six Shootin Tex and Ittakestwotootango, both respectable horses. He hasn't missed the board yet this year and could prove to be a serious factor again. #4 PASSUM LANE put in his first even effort of the season last time out behind Hal Bent and Daytona 500. In all of his other starts where he has broke cleanly he has been very game, and you should get a big price on him exiting that last effort. He could turn his form back around.

Race 11: 4-2-6
#4 MAKE ME A MIRACLE finished fifth in a fairly tough optional claiming race three weeks ago. She won a Speed Index race three back and ran a good fourth behind Cartels Fast Money, Im Pretty Fames and A Phenomenal Chick two back. Getting back into the Speed Index ranks should be good for her. #2 BUBBLES CARTEL GAL showed a bit of promise at Hialeah but didn't exactly pan out as hoped when she got up here. She dropped into a Speed Index race two weeks ago and got her first career victory, and remains at this level. We'll she how she does first off the win. #6 MEMORIES TIMES SIX has faced very tough foes all year and now takes a very significant drop in class. Last time out he was last in a Starter Allowance topped by Cole Miner, Arctic Fame and Storytime Blue. He was a Picov Maturity trial winner earlier in the year. The class drop should help him.
Good luck and thank you to everyone joining us today! Have a great holiday Monday!