SHRP Wagering Record Falls with Successful Inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge

The inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge took place Saturday, December 7, at Sam Houston Race Park. Modeled after the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, the exciting day of racing featured top Thoroughbreds from across the country. Total live handle on the ten races at Sam Houston Race Park was $5,083,692, an all-time record for the northwest Houston racetrack. The previous handle record of $4,075,000 was set on December 11, 1999. Attendance for the exciting racing event was 12,380.

Take Charge Lady, trained by Ken McPeek for Select Stable, easily captured the $201,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff. The 3-year-old daughter of Dehere, went to the lead and held off her three rivals, crossing the wire of the 1 1/16 mile race in a time of 1:44.40. Regular rider Edgar Prado had the call and was pleased with her effort.

"I am happy to be back in Texas (where he won the NTRA Jockey Championship last July at Lone Star Park)," said Prado. "She did everything herself and finished strong. She is one of the best horses I have ever ridden."

McPeek shipped her into the race just nine days after her second place finish in the Falls City Handicap at Churchill.

"Jerry (owner, Jerry Bach) and I had a long talk about sticking our necks out for this race but it was a good spot for her. It is a real pleasure to have this horse."

Florida was well-represented by My Cousin Matt who scored an authoritative 7-length win in the $240,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Sprint for 2001 Eclipse Award winning owner, Richard Englander. Earlier in the card Elegant Designer captured the $214,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies on behalf of the Sunshine State.

In the $210,500 NTRA Great State Challenge Classic, California based Continental Red scored for trainer Ian Jory and owner Sharon M. Fitzpatrick. He survived a bumping episode with Pickupspeed, ridden by Horatio Karamaros, which resulted in a stewards inquiry. After review of the tape, there was no change in order and Patrick Valenzuela, guided the stapping chestnut 6-year-old into the winner's circle.

"This is a good day for racing," commented Valenzuela. "I am honored and happy to be here. He was bumped at the head of the stretch, but came out of it okay. He is a great horse and I am happy with the outcome of the race."

Horses earned points for their participation in the six Great State Challenge stakes, and with a narrow victory, Kentucky defeated Florida by a score of 34 -32. David Switzer, director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders association accepted the award on behalf of the eleven Kentucky competitors.

"We didn't win it by a landslide, but we won," said Switzer. "It was a fine representation of Thoroughbreds from across the country and we were pleased to see some competitive races."

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