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Racing on the Air Racing to History Weekend Stakes Races
News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.


Forty-nine horses representing 10 states were entered yesterday for Saturday’s inaugural running of the NTRA Great State Challenge, to be held Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. The post position draw was staged at Reliant Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, owned by Thoroughbred owner and breeder Robert McNair.

The NTRA Great State Challenge comprises six races, each worth up to $275,000, covering the various racing divisions and featuring some of the nation’s finest state-bred runners. The state whose horses perform best in the Challenge (based on a 10-8-6-4-2-1-1-1-1 scoring system) will be crowned the Great State Challenge Champion. First race post time on Saturday is 1:00 p.m. Central time.

The biggest star on Saturday’s program is Kentucky-bred Take Charge Lady, winner of this year’s Spinster Stakes and runner-up in May’s Kentucky Oaks and last Thursday’s Falls City Handicap. Daily Racing Form National Handicapper has made the three-year-old filly a prohibitive 2-5 favorite in a field of six for the NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff, which will be run for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/8 miles as race six on the 10-race Sam Houston card. “It's a little unconventional,” said Take Charge Lady’s trainer, Ken McPeek, of the decision to run his top filly back on eight days’ rest. “But at the same time, I wouldn't run her if I didn't think she was 100 percent. And we tried not to overdo it going into the Falls City. It may have cost us a race, but at the same time, Allamerican Bertie ran great to beat her. And, you know, this is a good chance to represent the state of Kentucky as well.”

The complete Distaff field from the rail out (with state breeding representation, rider and morning line odds in parentheses) is: Take Charge Lady (Ky., Edgar Prado, 2-5), Mystic Lady (Ky., Corey Nakatani, 3-1), Hunka Hunka Lori Z. (Md., Mario Pino, 8-1), Coastalota (Tex., Bobby Walker, 30-1), Graceful Cat (Wash., Patrick Valenzuela, 30-1) and Eagle Lake (Tex., Gerald Melancon, 8-1). Another marquee name that will be in action on Saturday is the Florida-bred Forbidden Apple, who is an early 3-5 proposition among the ten that will contest the grassy 1 1/8-mile NTRA Great State Challenge Turf. “Everything is well with the horse,” said Christophe Clement of Forbidden Apple, who arrived at Sam Houston Race Park from Florida on Tuesday. “I hope the weather gets better so he can train up to the race the way I’d like, but the prospect of a soft course does not worry me. Whenever you run for $275,000, it’s never easy, but my horse is very talented and I think he’ll give a good account of himself on Saturday.” Forbidden Apple was third in last August’s Arlington Million and finished fourth, beaten only two lengths by Domedriver, in this year’s NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile.

The Turf will be run as race seven on Saturday. The complete field from the rail out is: Desert Darby (Tex., Corey Lanerie, 30-1), La Reine’s Terms (Md., Horatio Karamanos, 15-1), Forbidden Apple (Fla., Corey Nakatani, 3-5), Whata Brainstorm (Fla., no rider, 15-1), Devine Wind (Ky., Ramon Dominguez, 5-1), Adminniestrator (Calif., no rider, 8-1), Quiet Ruler (N.Y., Edgar Prado, 12-1), Mystery Giver (Ill., Robby Albarado, 12-1), Taylor’s Fury (Wash., Glen Murphy, 50-1) and Purple Sand (Md., Mario Pino, 50-1).

The NTRA Great State Challenge Classic, race eight on the card for horses three and up going nine furlongs, drew a field of six, led by the two-horse entry of Kentucky-breds Easyfromthegitgo and Big Numbers. However, trainer Patrick Byrne thinks his Indiana-bred, Pass Rush, has a good chance to spring an upset. “He’s getting good at the right time, and he just might do the great state of Indiana proud,” he said. “What a great idea this event is. It’s my first time in Texas, and I’m having a great time.”

The Classic field from the rail out is: Continental Red (Calif., Patrick Valenzuela, 9-5), Pass Rush (Ind., Robby Albarado, 5-2), Easyfromthegitgo (Ky., Donnie Meche, 7-5), Pickupspeed (Md., Horatio Karamanos, 8-1), Big Numbers (Ky., Corey Lanerie, 7-5) and Rare Cure (Tex., Gerald Melancon, 15-1).

The NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies will be the first of the $275,000 races run on Saturday. The race for two-year-old fillies at seven furlongs drew a well-balanced field of nine. From the rail out, they are: Miss Nicolie (Calif., Patrick Valenzuela, 6-1), Elegant Designer (Fla., Mario Pino, 5-1), She’s Fantastic (Ill., Robby Albarado, 20-1), Souris (Ky., Corey Lanerie, 7-5), Hurricane Hebe (Ind., Bobby Walker, 20-1), Perfect Blue (Md., no rider, 50-1), Youcan’ttakeme (Wash., Corey Nakatani, 15-1), Hannah’s Royalrock (Tex., Glen Murphy, 12-1) and Midnight Cry (Ky., Edgar Prado, 5-2).

The NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile, a seven-furlong heat for two-year-olds that will follow the Juvenile Fillies, drew 10 competitors, with the tepid morning line favorite being California’s Only the Best at 3-1. Local owner Robert McNair may have something to say about the outcome, however, thanks to his entry of the undefeated Texas-bred Catalissa. “She’s only run twice, but already she’s shown a lot of ability,” said McNair. “A win on Saturday would be especially nice with the local angle and because I bred him. But I just hope he does well and then can move on to run big races next year as a three-year-old.”

The complete Juvenile field from the rail out is: Posse (Ky., Donnie Meche, 5-1), Bridge Out Again (Md., Horatio Karamanos, 12-1), Action Tonight (Tex., Buck Harris, 30-1), Hear No Evil (Fla., Robby Albarado, 8-1), Private Gold (Ky., Corey Nakatani, 4-1), Catalissa (Tex., Frank Lovato Jr., 15-1), Crackup (Calif., Tyler Baze, 6-1), Only the Best (Calif., Patrick Valenzuela, 3-1), Cherokee’s Boy (Md., Ramon Dominguez, 6-1) and Supah Blitz (Fla., Edgar Prado, 12-1).

Like its counterpart in the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, the NTRA Great State Challenge Sprint, run as race five on Saturday, may be the most competitive event on the card. The six-furlong dash for horses three years old and older attracted a group of eight, including Day Trader, who captured the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park in September and competed in the following month’s NAPA Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Morning line favoritism in Saturday’s race, however, has been accorded to Richard Englander’s Florida-bred My Cousin Matt, who was claimed three starts back by the Eclipse Award winning-owner for $85,000 and was narrowly beaten in a $150,000 stakes race at Calder his last time out. “I'm as bullish on this horse as any horse I've ever had,” said Englander. “I don't think there's a sprinter in the country that can beat him. I think with Orientate retiring and with Thunderello getting hurt, I just don't think there's a horse that can beat this horse.”

The eight who will face the starter in the Sprint, from the rail out, are: Le Numerous (Ia., Bobby Walker, 30-1), Royal Lad (Fla., Corey Nakatani, 12-1), Won CC (Tex., John Jacinto, 20-1), Deer Run (Md., Mario Pino, 6-1), Dash for Daylight (Ky., Larry Melancon, 3-1), Day Trader (Ky., Edgar Prado, 5-2), My Cousin Matt (Fla., Ramon Dominguez, 9-5) and Tic N Tin (Ill., Robby Albarado, 20-1).

Exclusive live television coverage of the NTRA Great State Challenge can be seen on TVG. Next-day coverage will be included on Sunday’s NTRA 2day at the Races program on ESPN2 at 6:00 p.m. (ET).


Hall of Fame jockey and five-time Eclipse Award-winner Jerry Bailey, 45, has eclipsed his own North American earnings record. With his third-place finish aboard the Robert Frankel-trained Royal Gem this past Sunday at Hollywood Park, Bailey established a new single season record for North American purse earnings by a jockey with $19,032,509.

The $60,000 earned by Royal Gem propelled Bailey past the record he set in 2001 with $19,015,720.

As of this past Sunday Bailey has won 209 races from 822 starts in North America this year. Apprentice jockey John McKee has broken a record for victories by an apprentice rider during Churchill Downs’ fall meet, established in 1976 by eventual Hall of Fame rider Steve Cauthen.

The 21-year-old second generation jockey from Hamersville, Ohio closed out the fall meet with a total of 27 victories – one more than the record by an apprentice set by the then 16-year-old Cauthen in the 24-day fall meet in 1976. McKee established his new record during a 30-day meet. McKee has moved his tack to New York and is riding at Aqueduct Racetrack for the winter meet. McKee booted home his first win in the Big Apple on his first mount in the first race yesterday. His other two mounts for the day failed to make it to the winners circle.

Ironically, McKee has the same agent that Cauthen did back in 1976, Eddie Campbell. The 73-year-old Campbell has moved to New York with McKee, where they share an apartment and have been called the "Odds-On Couple" by local turf writers. "We're excited about New York," Campbell said. "We would have had customers had we decided to ride down south for the winter, but the colony at Gulfstream Park is so deep. New York will be a nice step up for us. John wants to be as good as he can be until his apprenticeship ends in January."

Joe Hampshire, the leading jockey at Suffolk Downs, recorded at least one victory every day that he raced from Oct. 22 to Dec. 2, a streak of 24 days. The streak ended on Tuesday, Dec. 3 when Hampshire went 0-for-5 on the eight-race card.

Hampshire won 38 races over the 24 days of the streak. He won multiple races on 10 of the days, highlighted by a four-win afternoon on the final day of the streak. There were two three-win cards, seven doubles and 14 solos. Of the 14 one-win days, Hampshire was victorious on his final mount of the card on six occasions.

The most memorable moment of the streak happened away from the track, as Joe's wife (and agent) Kim gave birth to their son, Josiah IV, on Thanksgiving Day, when the streak was at 22. Hampshire, 39, wasted no time in rebounding from his winless day on Tuesday, riding three victors on Wednesday's card. Hampshire is only 10 shy of the 300-win mark for the year, with 11 racing days remaining in the Suffolk meet.

"The streak was nice and it was a lot of fun," said Hampshire. "But my main goal all year has been to get to 300. I've never done it before, but I've got a big shot at it this year."

RACING ON THE AIR (all times Eastern)

December 7 Wire to Wire, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN

December 8 NTRA 2Day at the Races; NTRA Great State Challenge (Sam Houston Race Park); Clasico del Caribe (El Comandante, Puerto Rico); Japan Cup (Tokyo Racecourse); 6:00-6:30 p.m.. ESPN2

December 11 Wire to Wire, 12:30-1:00 p.m., ESPN2

December 14 Wire to Wire, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN

December 18 Wire to Wire, 2:00-2:30 p.m., ESPN2


Dec. 6, 2001: Jockey Russell Baze gained his 400th victory of the year aboard Golden Peace at Golden Gate Fields, marking the ninth time in his career that he reached the 400-win mark in a single year. No other rider has recorded 400 victories in a year more than three times. Baze, whose best total was 448 in 1995, won 400 races for seven straight years from 1992-98. A broken bone in his back limited his victory count to 373 in 1999. Baze then bounced back with 412 victories in 2000.

Dec. 7, 1957: A two-year-old colt named Silky Sullivan won the one-mile Golden Gate Futurity after making up 27 lengths, establishing a running style that became legendary. Horsemen still invoke the name of Silky Sullivan when referring to a horse that runs from far off the pace.

Dec. 7, 2001: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders’ Cup Limited announced that John Deere would have entitlement rights to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) and to the series of races that makes up the World Thoroughbred Championships Turf Division. As part of the agreement, John Deere also would be the presenting sponsor of the newly created Great State Challenge, an annual event featuring the top state-bred horses from around the country.

Dec. 8, 1989: Power to Geaux paid a record $2,922 for a $2 wager made at AK-sar-ben on the simulcast of the 11th race from Fair Grounds. The previous record for a payoff on a $2 wager was set June 17, 1912, when Wishing Ring paid $1,885.50.

Dec. 9, 1999: Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. tied Bill Shoemaker's all-time record by registering his 8,833rd lifetime win aboard I Be Casual in the fourth race at Hollywood Park.

Dec. 10, 1977: In his second year of riding, Steve Cauthen became the first jockey to win $6 million in a single season when he rode a three-year-old filly, Little Happiness, to victory in the sixth race at Aqueduct. Cauthen was dubbed “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Stevie Wonder” by his admirers and was named 1977 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press, ABC’s Wide World of Sports and The Sporting News. He also received three Eclipse Awards, being voted an award of merit in addition to earning top honors as both a journeyman and apprentice jockey.

Dec. 10, 1999: Laffit Pincay Jr. became the world’s winningest jockey when he registered his 8,834th career victory aboard Irish Nip in the sixth race at Hollywood Park. The victory eclipsed the previous mark of 8,833 wins held by Bill Shoemaker.

Dec. 11, 1983: John Henry became the first racehorse to surpass $4 million in career earnings when he won the Hollywood Turf Cup with jockey Chris McCarron at Hollywood Park.

Dec. 12, 1942: More than 20,000 racegoers turned out to watch 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway win the inaugural Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds, staged in part as a war relief effort by the newly formed Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Dec. 12, 1997: Jockey Russell Baze, the only jockey to win 400 or more races in a year more than three times, accomplished the feat for a sixth straight season at Golden Gate Fields.

Dec. 13, 1986: Jockey Kent Desormeaux had his first career stakes win, aboard Godbey, in the Maryland City Handicap at Laurel.

Dec. 14, 1997: Maybe Jack drew off and won a match race against Pro on Ice at Suffolk Downs, making him the winningest horse of 1997 with 13 victories.

Dec. 15, 1973: Sandy Hawley became the first jockey in history to win 500 races in a single year when he rode Charlie Jr. to victory in the third race at Laurel.

Dec. 15, 2000: Congress passed a package of appropriation bills that included a clarification to the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA). The amendment to IHA confirmed that interstate simulcasting, commingling of pools and account wagering are, indeed, permitted under the IHA in all states that authorize these activities.

Dec. 17, 1936: Crooner Bing Crosby announced plans to construct a new racetrack, to be called the Del Mar Turf Club.

Dec. 17, 1993: Fire destroyed the grandstand of Fair Grounds, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack.

Dec. 18, 1983: Hollywood Park held the first $1 million race for two-year-old Thoroughbreds, the Hollywood Futurity, which was won by Fali Time, ridden by Sandy Hawley.

WEEKEND STAKES RACES (unrestricted stakes worth $75,000 and up)

Queen’s County Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 1 3/16 M, Aqueduct
Vernon O. Underwood Stakes, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 6F, Hollywood Park
Chaposa Springs Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 7F, Calder
My Charmer Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/8 M (T), Calder
Tropical Turf Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/8 M (T), Calder
Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, 7F, Calder

Tenacious Handicap, 3&up, $75,000, 1 1/16 M, Fair Grounds



Racing television schedule



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