Sam Houston To Host Inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge in 2002

On Thursday, December 6, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced that Sam Houston Race Park has been chosen to host the inaugural "Great State Challenge" in December of 2002. The announcement was made during the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Arizona.

The announcement came one day after representatives from the National HBPA, including Texas Thoroughbred HBPA President and National HBPA President John Roark and Texas Horsemen's Partnership (THP) Executive Director Tommy Azopardi, met with representatives of the NTRA in a closed meeting. At that meeting, THP and National HBPA representatives voiced their strong opinion that Sam Houston Race Park would be a deserving selection as the first track to host the "Great State Challenge."

The $1.5 million "Great State Challenge" is a new six-race competition, pitting top horses representing participating states in a championship-style event to be staged annually beginning in 2002.

The NTRA/Breeders' Cup will fund a guaranteed purse of $150,000 for each race, plus $50,000 in purses for Breeders' Cup-nominated horses. An additional $50,000 will come from each participating state's breeders' fund, to be paid to each individual state-bred horse that finishes in an awarded position, making each race worth a total of $250,000.

Modeled on the World Thoroughbred Championships, the six Challenge races will be limited to 14 horses each and restricted to jurisdictions where the official horsemen's association is a dues-paying member of the NTRA. The top eight state horsemen's associations paying NTRA member dues will be guaranteed one horse in each race. Based on current dues, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Texas will receive automatic berths in the races. A special panel of racing secretaries will fill the fields with representatives of other eligible states.

The races are:

  • NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies, 7 furlongs on the dirt for two-year-olds (fillies)
  • NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile, 7 furlongs on the dirt for two-year-olds (colts and geldings)
  • NTRA Great State Challenge Sprint, 6 furlongs on the dirt for three-year-olds and older
  • NTRA Great State Challenge Turf, 9 furlongs on the turf for three-year-olds and older
  • NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff, 8.5 furlongs on the dirt for three-year-olds and older (fillies and mares)
  • NTRA Great State Challenge Classic, 9 furlongs on the dirt for three-year-olds and older (colts, horses and geldings)

For horsemen, the "Great State Challenge" offers a chance to compete for substantial purse money on a national stage in a program that supports live racing at the grassroots level. Horsemen's groups, state breed associations, owners, breeders and racetracks have offered input and support in the development of the event.

The date for the inaugural "Great State Challenge" has not yet been finalized, but it is expected to be in early-to-mid December of 2002.

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