|December 5, 2002
Contact: Eric Wing, NTRA, (917) 930-9772
Martha Claussen, Sam Houston Race Park, (281) 807-8771
HORSES, RIDERS, TRAINERS PREPARING FOR SATURDAY'S NTRA GREAT STATE CHALLENGE
Thursday morning temperatures were an unseasonably chilly 39 degrees at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston this morning. But the cold did nothing to slow down on-track preparations for Saturday's inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge.
Some of the out-of-town grooms openly wondered about their promised "vacation" weather as they went about their business this morning. Exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen galloped both Ken McPeek-trained Great State Challenge charges Take Charge Lady (Distaff, Ky.-bred) and Midnight Cry (Juv. Fillies, Ky.) and reported that they each made the trip fine and handled the track well. "It seemed a little uneven as it was drying out," Jorgensen said of the Sam Houston main track, which had absorbed a deluge of rain throughout the day on Wednesday, "but Lady' loves to go to new tracks and she was loving it out there. She can be a handful at home, but she is a pleasure at a new track."
Jose Sanchez, assistant to trainer Mark Hennig, watched Mystic Lady (Distaff, Ky.) munching on a full hay bag during the morning break. "She went good this morning," said Sanchez. "The track seemed a little hard after all the rain but she got over it fine. My filly is a four-year-old so she has the experience edge on her (pointing at Take Charge Lady across the barn). We think we have a good chance to beat her Saturday."
Most of the newest Sam Houston arrivals jogged or galloped. Trainer James Picou watched Whata Brainstorm (Turf, Fla.) put in a strong gallop after the morning break. Quiet Ruler (Turf, N.Y.), who defeated Whata Brainstorm at Aqueduct on November 8, was "a little excited" about being in a new place and would gallop on Friday after jogging today, according to his trainer, Russell Mueller. Forbidden Apple (Turf, Fla.) jogged three miles under the watchful eye of Nicholas Bachalard, assistant trainer to Christophe Clement, who will not be making the trip to Texas. Pickupspeed (Classic, Md.) jogged then galloped a mile and a half. Day Trader (Sprint, Ky.) looked alert and comfortable behind his white six-foot mesh gate after an early morning jog and gallop. Mike Maker will be overseeing Day Trader's doings in Texas on behalf of his boss, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Purple Sand (Turf, Md.) stretched his legs under exercise rider Stephanie Judkiss, going three furlongs in 43 seconds flat -- too slow for an official work, but just what was hoped for according to trainer Kathy Dibben.
TOP RIDERS DUE IN TO HOUSTON FROM ALL AROUND THE NATION
Houston racing fans will be treated to an impressive array of national riding talent on Saturday. Out-of-town riders engaged to participate in the Great State Challenge include Edgar Prado, winner of this year's Belmont Stakes aboard Sarava for trainer Ken McPeek. Prado has five mounts on Saturday, including two (Take Charge Lady and Midnight Cry) for McPeek.
Coming in from California are top riders Patrick Valenzuela and Corey Nakatani. They will go against Maryland stalwarts Mario Pino, Ramon Dominguez and Horatio Karomanos. Kentucky will be represented by a solid group including Robby Albarado, Larry Melancon and Donnie Meche.
VALENZUELA PICKS UP MOUNT ON WHATA BRAINSTORM IN TURF
Patrick Valenzuela today joined Edgar Prado and Corey Nakatani as jockeys with five Great State Challenge mounts when trainer James Picou announced that he would be giving Valenzuela, winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby aboard Sunday Silence, a leg up on Whata Brainstorm in the Great State Challenge Turf. Whata Brainstorm had been entered on Wednesday without a rider named.
ADMINNIESTRATOR OUT, HUNKA HUNKA LORI Z HOPING
Adminniestrator (Calif.) was officially scratched from the NTRA Great State Challenge Turf late yesterday by trainer Patrick Gallagher. The withdrawal leaves a field of nine for the 1 1/8 miles grass race.
Hunka Hunka Lori Z (Md.), one of six entrants for the Distaff, has not been scratched, but her status for the race is up in the air, figuratively and perhaps literally, due to uncertain travel arrangements that have been exacerbated by the winter storm currently plaguing the East coast. Hunka Hunka Lori Z's connections continue to explore every option for their horse's safe and timely passage to Houston from Maryland.
ONLINE HANDICAPPING CONTEST NOW OPEN, TRIPS TO VEGAS AT STAKE
Sam Houston Race Park and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) are teaming up to give handicappers a chance to win a trip to Bally's in Las Vegas to compete for the $100,000 grand prize in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship. The NTRA Great State Challenge Online Handicapping Contest is now live online with the top four finishers winning the right to represent "Team Great State Challenge" in the fourth annual Las Vegas event. The four winners will receive complimentary entry into the finals, roundtrip airfare to Las Vegas and two nights' hotel accommodations.
Deadline to enter the National Handicapping Championship qualifier is 1:00 p.m. (CST) on Saturday, December 7. Contestants will be required to make mythical $2.00 win, place and show wagers on the six Great State Challenge races.
OPENING CEREMONIES SET FOR SATURDAY
Prior to the running of the NTRA Great State Challenge on Saturday, each of the ten participating states in the Challenge will have a representative present during opening ceremonies that will include singer Dean Seltzer singing the National Anthem before a Navy Color Guard. The Houston Texans Cheerleaders will also perform a brief routine in the winner's circle prior to the first race.
GREAT STATE CHALLENGE FUN FACTS
Most lifetime starts: Tic N Tin (Sprint, IL)67
Fewest lifetime starts: Perfect Blue (Juv. Fillies, MD)1
Most starts in 2002: Tic N Tin (Sprint, IL)14
Leading lifetime earner: Take Charge Lady (Distaff, KY)--$1,640,351
Oldest starters: Forbidden Apple (Turf, FL), Tic N Tin (Sprint, IL) and La Reine's Terms (Turf, MD)7
Most states competed in during 2002: Pass Rush (Classic, IN)6 (Ky., Ind., W. Va., Ill., Ia., Md.) Texas will be state #7 on Saturday
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