Filly power is in full force on Saturday, August 4th, as Canterbury hosts its second annual Fillies Race for Hope event, raising money and awareness for the fight against breast cancer. The no-boys-allowed race card includes four stakes, one of which is reserved for the fastest girls on the track: the Fillies and Mares Race for Hope Bonus Challenge.
Saturday’s Bonus Challenge is open to fillies and mares three-year-old and up who are enrolled in the Bank of America Challenge Program. The inaugural running of this event will be held at 400 yards and offers a purse of $25,000, thanks to Mystic Lake and the American Quarter Horse Association.
Quarter horses have an annual divisional competition similar to that of the Breeders’ Cup: the Bank of American Racing Challenge Championship. Horses can be enrolled into the program at the time of foal registration for a nominal fee or entered later in their lives for a bit more. Those that are enrolled may be nominated to challenge races across the country for their appropriate divisions, culminating in a final event during the last weekend of October.
The Challenge Program is part Breeders’ Cup and part bracketology: there are races of varying distances and age levels, but horses must pass a series of qualifying trials and regional races to earn a berth in the final events. Regional races are win-and-you’re-in events, though as in the Breeders’ Cup, the finals move from track to track. The 2012 Challenge Championship is close to home this year, making its first appearance at Prairie Meadows, in Altoona, Iowa. (more about the Challenge Championship in the video below)
In addition to the six Challenge race series, many tracks offer “bonus” Challenge races; victory in a bonus race does not give the winner a seed in a final event, but it does reward those who are nominated with the opportunity to run in an additional stakes race and the chance to earn some extra purse money.
Saturday’s Bonus race has attracted some of Canterbury’s toughest fillies but also drew a few shippers and some former Canterbury starters who have been making their marks on tracks around the country. All eyes will be on the 8-5 morning line favorite, #3 Huckleberry Mojito (pictured above), as she returns to defend her freshly minted track record at this same distance: 19.625. Huckleberry Mojito has won both of her two starts at Canterbury, including the impressive performance last time out to take the Canterbury Derby. This Feature Mr Jess Filly is only improving as a three-year-old and loves this track, and boasts the trainer/jockey combo of Ed Ross Hardy and Nik Goodwin.
To Huckleberry’s outside may be the toughest shipper, #4 Believers Gathering (7-2). The six-year-old mare by Agouti spent her winter hitting the board in allowance races at Hialeah; prior to that she was a stakes competitor at Will Rogers Downs, Prairie Meadows and Remington Park. She’ll be making her debut at Canterbury as well as her first start in six months.
The other shipper to watch is the outside mare #9 Streakin Rare (4-1), who has followed a similar path as Believers Gathering but with one important advantage: she’s been here before. Streakin Rare raced against the boys at Canterbury last summer in the Great Lakes Stakes, and happened to finish second behind one of the best horses to compete over this surface, Jess A Runner, whose performance that day shattered the 440-yard track record. She was easily the best of the rest in that field and the return to this track may help her come back into form after her long layoff.
Don your best pink shirt and come out to the track to support this cause and watch some of Minnesota’s most talented ladies this Saturday! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
This blog was written by AQHA Q-Racing Ace Jen Perkins. Jen travels to tracks across the country to educate fans about handicapping and Quarter Horse racing, and shares her perspective on Canterbury Quarter Horse racing as well as insider information on America’s fastest athletes.
Photo Credit: Coady Photography