November 15, 2010
On November 19, the Bank of America Challenge Championships will travel east of the Mississippi for only the second time in its history, landing at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. There, the fastest horses in the world will meet to battle it out on an all-stakes card worth more than $1.1 million. Historically held at top American Quarter Horse tracks such as Los Alamitos in Southern California and Lone Star Park in Texas, the Bank of America Challenge Championships made its first visit to the east in 2008, when it was hosted at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana.
“Bringing the Challenge Championships to New Orleans took a lot of hard work and cooperation between the track, the American Quarter Horse Association, our local horsemen and the Louisiana State Racing Commission,” said Fair Grounds track vice president and general manager Eric Halstrom. “Fair Grounds is honored to play host to this historic night of racing and we are eager to create a first-class experience for everyone involved, from our loyal fans to the visiting owners and trainers.” Fair Grounds will be entertaining its live-racing audience between races with its successful Starlight racing program. Launched earlier this year, the upscale night-racing event offers live music, DJs and drink specials and this spring attracted more than 10,000 attendees. On Bank of America Challenge Championship night, there will be several bands, including Christian Serpas and Ghost Town in the clubhouse. Local New Orleans celebrity and trumpeter Jeremy Davenport will play the call to the post and will also hold court in the VIP Davenport Downs Lounge in the Beer Garden during the races. The track will also offer promotions including a “Bet or No Bet” contest where six winners will have the opportunity to bet $250 on a selected race or walk away with $100. Featured for the first time on Horse Racing TV, the Challenge Championship races will be available to the channel’s 17 million subscribers, as well as free to view on AQHA’s Q-Racing Video. HRTV has scheduled the services of hosts Gary Stevens and Jon White for its broadcast. Both
Stevens, a native of Idaho, began his Racing Hall of Fame jockey career riding Quarter Horses before going on to Thoroughbreds, where he won eight Triple Crown races and eight Breeders’ Cup races. He was also one of the human stars of the movie “Seabiscuit,” portraying jockey George Woolf. White has extensive experience in the horseracing industry. He served for a quarter-century as a reporter, handicapper and chart caller for Daily Racing Form, was a steward at tracks in Washington state and Idaho, and also served as a media relations manager at Lone Star Park.
As part of Churchill Downs Inc.’s stable of tracks, the event has been promoted at its other facilities, including Churchill Downs, Arlington Park and Calder Race Course. CDI owns the advance deposit wagering platform TwinSpires.com and Youbet.com. “The Challenge races are going to be in every OTB and simulcast parlor served by the Twin Spires simulcast network – that’s the same group that simulcasts the Kentucky Derby,” said Trey Buck, AQHA executive director of racing. “The Twin Spires network will expose American Quarter Horse racing to bettors east of the Mississippi – people who are traditionally Thoroughbred bettors.” The Bank of America Challenge Championships are similar to Thoroughbred racing’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, as top-class horses from all divisions come together for an end-of-season showdown. Horses competing in the Bank of America Challenge Championships qualify to the Championships during regional finals at the premier Quarter Horse meets in North and South America.
Watch a video preview of the event, hosted by Matt Darby, on America's Horse TV.The event’s premier race is the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1). Of its 11 entrants, four are American Quarter Horse racing champions, including 2008 world champion Stolis Winner, who is making a bid for the sport’s all-time earnings record. Jerry Windham’s homebred Stoli gelding has been chasing Refrigerator’s all-time earnings mark of $2,126,309 throughout 2010 and has pulled to within $7,328 of the record. Stolis Winner has earned $2,118,981 from 21 starts. If he finishes in seventh place or better in the Bank of America Racing Challenge Championship, he will become the all-time leading money earner. For a more in-depth look at each of the championship races, click here. In conjunction with the Challenge Championships, the AQHA Racing Conference is November 17-20. Among the other topics during the conference, on November 18, medical professionals and horsemen will gather to discuss the status of medications today. The open meeting will be held from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the Astor Crowne Plaza.
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