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Idaho invades Iowa: Arrossa, Hansons bring their winners to Challenge Championships


October 16, 2014     E-mail this page to a friend!

Stories by Andrea Caudill, courtesy of AQHA

Idaho trainer Monty Arrossa has tough Challenge Championship horses


He is 2014’s leading Challenge trainer, and he has a full hand for Saturday’s Challenge Championships. Idaho trainer Monty Arrossa won this year’s year-end Farnam Champion Trainer award, earning himself $5,000, a Double J saddle, a custom buckle from Montana Silversmiths and various products from Farnam.

Arrossa is scheduled to saddle four horses during Saturday’s championship races at Prairie Meadows. Among them are reigning Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) winner Vodka With Ice, Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) contender Shez Jess Toxic, and John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) contenders Jess Curl My Prize and Jaymee Love. Two of those, Shez Jess Toxic and Jess Curl My Prize, have been installed as the morning line favorites for their respective races.

Gerardo Prado’s Vodka With Ice exploded onto the national stage last year with a victory over world champion Cold Cash 123 in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship. The Michael Pohl-bred gelding is by Stoli and out of the Extra Easy mare Hips So Fine. He was, of course, an experienced stakes horse prior to that, with five stakes wins to his credit.

From six starts this year, Vodka With Ice has won two. He has won 14 of 55 career starts and earned $418,421.

Arrossa got the horse in March, and saw the horse win the Bank of America Les Bois Park Championship Challenge on August 9 to qualify him for an attempted repeat. In between, the horse prepped for the Championship by running a sharpening 300-yard allowance at Prairie Meadows, in which he finished fifth.

“He’s just a really classy horse,” Arrossa says of the veteran runner, and noted that he tried to get all his horses experience at Prairie Meadows, either by a race or working under lights.

Jess Curl My Prize races for Denny and Sandy Weigt of Jerome, Idaho, who paid $20,500 for the yearling at last year’s Heritage Place Yearling Sale. The filly bred by Weetona Stanley in Oklahoma is by Spit Curl Jess and out of the Oak Tree Special mare First Prize Joy.

“I just really liked her family, just a great pedigree and just really liked her conformation,” Arrossa explains. “She was pretty hot when we started breaking her, so we just took our time with her.”

Jess Curl My Prize debuted in an April maiden race at the Gem County Fair in Idaho, winning by disqualification.

“She just slowly started coming along, getting a little better, a little better,” Arrossa says.

She then went to Les Bois Park and won her Knight Transportation Futurity trial with plenty left.

“She really changed after that,” he says. “She got real professional and her mind got really good.”

Jess Curl My Prize proceeded to click off victories in the $39,900 Knight Transportation Futurity, then a Bitterroot Futurity trial and the $150,324 Bitterroot Futurity (R) final. She stumbled at the start of her John Deere Les Bois Park Juvenile Challenge trial to finish second, but came back to win the $48,056 final on August 9 by a nose.

“She’s been ultra-consistent and very sound,” Arrossa says. “She’s a pleasure to train, and is very business minded.”

Preparing for the Challenge Championships since August, Arrossa worked her 220 yards from the gate under the lights and saw her go in :11.61 in preparation.

Both Shez Jess Toxic and Jaymee Love are homebreds owned by Dean Frey. The Stanton, California-based horseman this year won the John Deere Champion Owner award, and has sent his horses to Arrossa for the Championships.

Shez Jess Toxic (Take Off Jess-Dashing Fly Lady by Victory Dash) has been ultra-consistent in her 22-race career. The 5-year-old mare will celebrate her third trip to the Championships. Her others include a victory in the 2011 Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) and a third-place run in the 2013 Distaff Challenge Championship (G1). She has won or placed in 19 of those races and earned $232,921.

The classy and experienced mare stepped off the trailer at Prairie Meadows without a hair out of place, and has been enjoying a daily hand-graze snack on the lush green grass outside the barns.

Jaymee Love (Ivory James-Love To Finish First by Separatist) has made only four starts in her young career. She has made them count, though, as her most recent was the $29,248 John Deere Evergreen Juvenile Challenge. In that race, she crossed the wire behind stablemate Gentlemans Daughter, but was moved to first due to interference.

She has won two of four starts and earned $16,516. The filly, as with Jess Curl My Prize, worked 220 yards under the lights, working in :11.86.

“This is one of the best racetracks I’ve ever been to,” Arrossa adds of Prairie Meadows. “The hospitality has been second to none. They have been so welcoming, and I’m considering coming back here next year for their whole entire meet. It’s a wonderful facility, the office staff and everybody has just been very accommodating. It’s a long ways for us to travel from Idaho, but I’m glad we made the trip.”

The Hanson family relies on good friends, good horses and teamwork


The Hanson family of Pocatello, Idaho, knows horses, and they have trained a lot of good ones.

Ryan and his mom, Susan, give credit first and foremost to their owners and partners, as well as the horses. They also add that success takes a lot of work from their team, which includes dad Jim, and brother Mark, as well as sister Theresa. The Hansons own many of their horses in the name of their RTM Stables, which represents the initials of the children.

“It’s a team effort, it really is,” Susan says.

At last year’s Challenge Championships, Ryan sent out JR Dynasty Mountain to win the $202,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G2) over a field that included eventual Mexican champion One Famous Episode, and Honoroso to win the $100,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1).

This weekend, ex-jockey-turned-trainer Ryan will start four horses – Michael McKay and Pat Vanpelt’s Fergilicious in the Zoetis Starter Allowance Challenge Championship, and three horses his family co-owns: Sign Of Corona in the Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3), Ynot Walk in the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) and reigning champion Honoroso in the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship (G1).

Fergilicous is a 4-year-old daughter of Volcom out of the Meter Me Gone mare JN Sonoma Rose, and was bred by McKay. She has won five of 15 career starts, including her most recent three starts. Four starts ago, she qualified for the Zoetis Starter Allowance by running for a $5,000 tag at Los Alamitos. She returned to Les Bois Park to win her Zoetis Les Bois Park Starter Allowance trial, and then won the final by a nose.

Hanson picked up training duties after that, and found her a race at the Eastern Idaho Fair to get her tuned up for the $75,000 Zoetis Starter Allowance Challenge Championship.

The Hanson brothers found Ynot Walk, a Walk Thru Fire out of the Chicks Beduino mare Ynot Bar, at last year’s Los Alamitos Equine Sale. They bid up to $20,000 – their max budget – but got the horse for $22,000 when their dad and George and Judy Weldon chipped in to partner on the horse.

Running only at Los Alamitos in his six starts to date, the gelding contested the trials of the Kindergarten Futurity (G2) and Ed Burke Million Futurity (G1), narrowly missing qualifying. He crossed the wire on top in a maiden effort in July, but was disqualified to third for interference. He broke his maiden officially in the $35,550 John Deere Los Alamitos Juvenile Challenge, winning by a neck.

“He’s just been knocking on the door in all these futurities,” Ryan says. “He’s just an honest, good horse.”

The sorrel gelding bred by Dr. Steve Burns was bouncing cheerfully around his stall early in the week.

Susan is partners with Carol McKinney on the Coronas Fast Dash gelding Sign Of Corona. They paid all of $2,800 for the horse at the 2012 Los Alamitos Equine Sale, purchasing him from breeder Greg Creager. The partners ran the gelding by Coronas Fast Dash and out of the Vital Sign mare Electric Sign only twice as a 2-year-old – the trials and finals of the $25,480 Rocky Mountain Spring Classic Futurity, the latter of which he won.

But wanting only what was best for the horse, they decided he needed more time, so they turned him out to enjoy the Idaho weather, to mature and just be a horse.

Sign Of Corona returned to the races a year later, with a sizzling trial win for the Rocky Mountain Spring Classic Derby. A tough trip saw him finish fourth behind stablemate BF Candy Cartel in the final. He next was second behind the ultra-consistent Time For Jesse Lee in the Adequan Les Bois Park Derby Challenge. He then not only turned the tables on Time For Jesse Lee, but flipped it – he won the $36,356, 400-yard final in a smoking :19.235, setting a track record and earning a 110 speed index.

That isn’t even his career-best speed index. That came in his next start, the $17,550 Eastern Idaho State Fair Bonus Challenge, where he went up against older horses to run 400 yards in :19.620 and earn a 111 speed index in preparation for the $175,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship. He has earned $37,574 in his career to date.

Their fourth horse is a familiar face to racing fans – the face of the reigning distance champion and the winner of last year’s Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship. Bred by Sassy Farms LLC, Honoroso is by Fly Jess Fly and out of the Spanish Boot mare Abla Espanol. Now 5, Honoroso was claimed in 2012 by Jim Hanson and Richard Gardner for $6,250.

The horse was a little sour, and required work from the Hansons, jockey Alan Corson and a little R&R to straighten him out. In September 2012, he won the $22,355 Hadtobenuts Derby at Sandy Downs before switching to the hook and never looking back.

He has won nine of his 11 career distance starts, including his last six races. Among those are last year’s Distance Challenge Championship and three wins this year, including a three-length romp in the Red Cell Les Bois Park Distance Challenge. He has earned $104,857 in his career.

While it was a long, 20-hour drive for the Hansons to get to Iowa from their home base, it was one they were eager to make.

“When we saw the Challenge was coming back to Prairie Meadows, we started planning,” Susan said.

And so far, the plan is working out well.