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Countdown to the MBNA America Challenge Championships at Sam Hous ton Race Park


October 22, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Martha Claussen

SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK (Tuesday, October 5, 2004) - Sam Houston Race Park will host the 12th Running of the MBNA America® Challenge Championships on Saturday, November 6, 2004. This nationally prominent racing event will offer more than $1 million in purses and awards to the owners of the 58 horses competing in one of six championship events.

In addition to the trophies for the six stakes races, championships will be awarded to the leading breeders, trainers and jockeys competing in the MBNA Challenge Championships. Nutrena sponsors an award for the breeder that is responsible for the most MBNA challenge points. The current leader in that category is Texas Quarter Horse Association Life member, Jerry Windham, whose outstanding breeding program can be seen winning races from Minnesota to California and all stops in between.

Anjora Corp., on the basis of a number of seconds and thirds, leads in the Sooner Universal Trailer Owner standings even though their owned horses have not won a regional race as yet. Sam Houston Race Park regulars in the top five include Raul Rubalcava (3rd) and Bobby D. Cox (4th). Trainer K. C. Carden, Elgin native and former Texas prep school track star, is 5th on the owners list and, one of his main owners Jackie Sessions, is second on that list.

K. C. Carden holds a slim lead over Heath Taylor in the Vetrolin Trainers standings. A regular at Sam Houston Race Park from the mid-nineties through 2002, Carden is noted for his conditioning of the all-time leader in Quarter Horse Stakes wins, Kool Kue Baby, the only American Quarter Horse to have won three challenge championship races (the Classic twice and the Distaff once). Carden has two qualifiers for the Professional Choice Championship, Sessions' A Toast to KC, named for his trainer, and Carden's own GW Chick. G W Chick was the sixth fastest qualifier for the Southwest regional championship at Turf Paradise that will be run on October 17. The Carden trained J D Phantom was the 4th fastest qualifier.

"That is a tough little race, so we'll just have to wait to see where we might run on Championship night," commented Carden currently running horses at Turf Paradise. Eddie Willis jumped into fifth in the standings on September 26 when he won both the Oklahoma Regional Bayer Legend Derby and Ford Juvenile Challenge.

Larry Payne was aboard both of Eddie Willis' winners at Blue Ribbon Downs and jumped into the lead in the Wrangler Jockey standings. The rider he supplanted in the top spot was Texas native Cody McDaniel, a young female rider having the best riding year of her career.

"A Toast to KC was brought back to the paddock for a rider change over at Delta last year and I rode him and won," said McDaniel. "I have ridden him ever since and it was nice to have an owner decide she wanted me riding all of her horses. KC has flown me to Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa and most recently to Turf Paradise where I qualified "Toast" and JD Phantom. Winning a championship race at Sam Houston Race Park where I got my start would be the most thrilling experience of my career up to now. All my family is there and I am very excited about riding in the Championship in front of all of them."

James Brooks was just one point back of McDaniel in third, but his status for the finals was compromised when he broke his arm in a gate incident at Sam Houston Race Park last week. Gilbert Ortiz and John Hamilton round out the top five, so the jockey championship will most likely not be decided until the night is over.

Fans will see all the fanfare surrounding the winning horses on Championship night, but bring a score card and keep track of those seconds and thirds, because breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys will be earning points toward their respective championships as well. For more information on the MBNA Challenge Championships, log onto the AQHA web site at www.aqha.com. Click on racing and then onto the MBNA Challenge Championships logo for a complete list of the horses, owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys that will be participating in this premier racing event.

For reserved seats or dining reservations for the MNBA America Challenge Championships, call (281) 807-8760.