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!