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The American Quarter Horse Association is proud to announce the formation of a new program to promote and educate the public about American Quarter Horse racing at racetracks in North America.
The Q-Racing Aces, which made its debut in June 2010, consists of individuals who have been involved in American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing as handicappers, racing writers and publicists. Martha Claussen, Jennifer Perkins, Tom Dawson, Denis Blake, John Hernandez, Jennifer Hancock and Jerry Shotenkirk were selected as representatives by AQHA. The major goals of the Q-Racing Aces program are to promote the sport, provide fan education services and help to develop new fan bases.
Their visits to racetracks involve free educational opportunities and promotions, including handicapping seminars, paddock previews, racing handouts and tip sheets, giveaway items, betting vouchers and one-on-one handicapping help.
You can also find the Q-Racing Aces on Facebook.
Meet the Aces
Born: Chatham, NJ
Current residence: Round Rock, TX
Denis Blake has worked in the horse racing industry for 20 years since taking his first job as a teller at Canterbury Downs (now Canterbury Park) near Minneapolis, Minnesota. During his time there, he worked his way up to Simulcast Coordinator and Mutuels Manager while also writing for Daily Racing Form and creating the track’s morning line.
Blake then served as Racing Information Manager for the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas. Shortly thereafter, he moved over to work for the American Quarter Horse Racing Journal as a Field Editor.
Staying in the Lone Star State, Blake then took a position with the Texas Thoroughbred Association in Austin as Website Director and Editor of The Texas Thoroughbred magazine. He travels to racetracks across the country for the Q-Racing Aces as a handicapper and fan education specialist.
He currently lives just outside of Austin, where he does freelance work for various magazines and horse organizations, including AQHA, Racing Quarterly magazine, the Texas Thoroughbred Association, The Horsemen’s Journal and Thoroughbred Times.
An avid handicapper of both breeds, Blake has owned numerous racehorses over the years.
Born: Buffalo, NY
Current residence: Houston, TX
Martha Claussen has been involved in the racing industry since 1997 when she joined Sam Houston Race Park as publicity director. She was responsible for all racing information for American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred meetings as well as publicity for the racetrack’s numerous promotions and special events.
In addition to writing press releases and interviewing the winning connections on television following each stakes race, Claussen was one of the track's handicappers and responsible for developing fan education programs and handicapping contests.
In 2007, Claussen entered the world of professional journalism, as the racing writer for the Houston Chronicle as well as a contributing writer for the Texas Thoroughbred Magazine and SureBet Racing News. She was part of the media relations team for the 2009 Bank of America Challenge Championships at Los Alamitos Race Course. Claussen serves as the coordinator of the Q-Racing Aces, a new fan education initiative created by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).
Claussen, who graduated from the University of Miami in 1975, was affiliated with International Management Group (IMG) for ten years, managing tennis tournaments. She is quick to acknowledge that working with jockeys is much more enjoyable than with the stars of the men’s and women’s professional tennis tour.
The native of Buffalo, New York has been a lifelong racing fan since watching her first race at Fort Erie, Ontario.
Born: Salt Lake City, UT
Current residence: Tucson, AZ
Jennifer Perkins has over 20 years in the racing industry as a fan, handicapper, breeder, and owner. She is currently a member of the AQHA’s Q-Racing Aces program.
After graduating from Willamette University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Economics, Perkins worked as a manager in retail and customer service. In 2010, she graduated from the University of Arizona with a Master’s degree in Animal Sciences through the business path of the Race Track Industry Program.
Perkins has assisted with research for several AQHA subcommittee reports, the most recent of which involved the redesign of Quarter Horse past performances to more closely resemble those of Thoroughbreds for Equibase and the Daily Racing Form. She completed an internship at Sam Houston Race Park in 2009, gaining familiarity in the racing office and simulcast department. Using this experience, she completed her thesis on competition in simulcast markets through multiple regression analysis of host and guest handle.
Her first exposure to the sport was watching her family’s horses compete at nearby Wyoming Downs and in chariot races throughout the Salt Lake area; they now race both Quarters and Thoroughbreds in the Arizona and New Mexico circuits.
Born: San Diego, CA
Current residence: Des Moines, IA
John Hernandez is a veteran of three decades in the racing and broadcasting industries. Since joining the media staff at Hollywood Park in the Fall of 1981, he has served in various capacities at Hollypark, Santa Anita, Del Mar, and —now— Prairie Meadows in Iowa, where he fills the role of paddock commentator and handicapper.
Over the years, John has hosted racing radio shows on different Southern California outlets including the legendary XTRA Sports 690 in San Diego and new media web streamer World Talk Radio.
In early 2010, John moved from California to Central Iowa to take over as the main on-camera talent at Prairie Meadows. Their 2010 season included the track’s first-ever standalone quarter horse schedule, which included an appearance by the talented Iowa-owned Spit Curl Diva.
Before deciding to concentrate solely on horse racing, John worked as a local television sports anchor/reporter. During his stay at KTUU-TV in Anchorage, AK in the 1980s, he was the person that first gave Sarah Palin the opportunity to work on television.
Born: El Paso, Texas
Current residence: El Paso, Texas
Tom Dawson has been associated with horse racing as an official, owner, bloodstock agent, television commentator/producer and handicapper for 40 years. During that span, he has been associated with coverage of all horse racing breeds.
Between 1987 and 2007, Dawson produced the majority of live event horse racing coverage for ESPN and ESPN 2. His long association with Quarter Horse racing includes coverage of the All American Futurity since 1974, and hosting the AQHA championship announcements for the past dozen years.
Dawson resides with his wife Sue in El Paso, Texas, where he can often be found on the business end of a simulcast signal.
Born: Houston, Texas
Current Residence: Liberty Hill, Texas
Bitten by the “horse bug” at an early age, Jennifer K. Hancock grew up showing American Quarter Horses in Texas and competed on the Texas A&M University horse judging team while earning degrees in animal science and ag journalism. While at A&M, she worked as a racehorse groom and parlayed her racehorse experience into a job at Sam Houston Race Park, where she was the media relations coordinator and press box manger. During her time at Sam Houston, she wrote press releases and assisted with fan education activities.
An AQHA life member, Hancock joined the staff of the American Quarter Horse Association in 2001 as field editor of The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal, and she traveled the country covering America’s fastest athletes. During her time at AQHA, she was promoted to editor of The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal and eventually director of marketing.
An avid horseracing fan, Hancock never passed up an opportunity to go to the races and continues to handicap using bloodline knowledge she acquired before being of legal betting age. According to Hancock, life doesn’t get much better than watching the horses walk through the fog at Los Alamitos to be saddled for the Champion of Champions or watching millionaire hopefuls prep in the first sunlight at Ruidoso Downs on cool mountain mornings.
Born: Grand Island, Nebraska
Current Residence: Mustang, Oklahoma
Jerry Shottenkirk is a longtime racing enthusiast and journalist who has been involved in the coverage of horse racing for more than 30 years. A native of Grand Island, Nebraska, he began covering races at Fonner Park in the late 1970s, worked as a chartmaker, writer and additional track operations for the Daily Racing Form in the 1980s and spent 1987-2003 as turf writer for The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, covering all meets at Remington Park. He twice won the AQHA’s Sprint Award for columns and event coverage.
He is involved in many facets of racing, including as a handicapper and chat host for HorseplayerNOW.com, and is a correspondent for Blood-Horse as well as track handicapper and morning line maker for Remington Park.
He was first introduced to American Quarter Horse racing in the mid-1970s when he journeyed to the old Custer County Fair in Broken Bow, Neb. He later charted the 1987 All American Futurity and All American Derby for the Daily Racing Form.
Born: West Palm Beach, Florida
Current Residence: Miami Lakes, Florida
Pete Aiello’s first memory of the racing game occurred when he was just 2-years-old at Hialeah Park in South Florida. It was only a few short years later that he decided he would make a career out of the sport he loves so dearly.
His love of the racing game transcends all breeds and all levels. His racing career began as the track announcer on the now defunct Arizona County Fair Circuit, where he became a resident authority on “The World’s Fastest Athlete” and continued with spots at Finger Lakes and then reuniting with the American Quarter Horse game at Evergreen Park in Alberta, Canada. Immersing himself in the industry at a young age and continuing to be a ‘student’ of the game, Aiello prides himself in knowing trinkets of information from all over North America.
He graduated from the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program in the winter of 2007. In the summer of 2008, he was named Track Announcer at Cincinnati’s River Downs, fulfilling the goal Aiello set for himself while in college. Acting on the advice of industry colleagues, Aiello then ventured south to Hialeah Park, the same facility that introduced him to the industry, and pursued a career as a racetrack manager. He was named Director of Simulcasting for track’s reopening in 2009 and subsequently took over as the track’s announcer the following year, both positions he still holds. He also continues as “The Voice of River Downs” during the South Florida track’s off season.
Born/Current Residence: Billings, Montana
Ryan Sherman began his experience in the racing industry in 1988 as a 13-year-old, working as jockey’s room runner at the Montana State Fair Race Meet in Great Falls, Montana. Through that experience, he set career path as racing official and executive in the industry that has spanned 24 years.
After serving as a racing official through high school in Montana, Sherman graduated from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. He served an internship at Wyoming Downs in Evanston, Wyoming, where he gained an admiration and love for American Quarter Horse racing. He worked at Les Bois Park and Turf Paradise, and as the General Manager of State Fair racing in Great Falls. He joined AQHA in October 2001, as the Racing Information and Simulcast Coordinator, then moved on to serve as the Senior Manager of the now Bank of America Racing Challenge program for four seasons. During that time, Sherman developed the Supplemental Stakes Program, now known as the Bonus Challenge Program, and helped initiate the South America division of the Challenge.
Sherman also served as the Director of Racing for Ruidoso Downs and as the Executive Secretary for the Montana Board of Horse Racing, and has written for Quarter Horse racing media.
Ryan is heavily involved in officiating high school football and in 2011 was accepted as an official into the NAIA’s Frontier Conference, a small college conference in Montana, Oregon and North Dakota.
Praise for the Aces:
"I think the program is very helpful. At Prairie Meadows the Aces were set up by the saddling paddock, which was a good place to be. They were helpful in answering questions and adding much more to the evening of racing. Some people are embarrassed to go to the window and place a bet. If the program can give a fan increased knowledge so they are comfortable to make a bet and win a few bucks, I see that as a benefit to our industry."
-Butch Hammer, Iowa Quarter Horse Association
"Quarter Horse racing is something brand new to many of our fans at Fort Erie Race Track so having a Q-Racing Ace join us for opening day was an absolute must have. They explained Quarter Horse racing in such a simple way that it was easy for new handicappers to learn and feel comfortable in making a wager. Fans felt that they could approach Martha and get the answers that they needed in order to play the races.”
-Elissa Blowe,Fort Erie Race Track
"A great program that is much needed. Racing has far too long been lax on educating new fans to the sport." - Marilyn Toney, Player Development/Fan Education Manager, Remington Park
"I just wanted to thank Aces Denis Blake and Jen Perkins for the time they spent with my wife and I at Canterbury Park for the Handicapping Quarter Horses Seminar. I was so excited when Canterbury e-mailed me about the seminar, and to be able to learn from the two of you was great! My wife, who I thought was just coming along for the ride, really enjoyed it and felt like she really learned what to look for. In 2009, I really started to enjoy the QH races and paid a lot of attention to Canterbury and Prairie Meadows, but now I have a whole new level of interest thanks to the Aces program. … We have been attending races at Canterbury for about seven or eight years, and have been to even their biggest days like the Claiming Crown, but last Saturday was the most enjoyable time we have ever had at the racetrack! It's not going to be easy to try and be the next Les Onaka, but thanks to the time you spent with me last weekend, I definitely have a desire to learn more and focus most of my time as a horseplayer on the Quarter Horses! Thanks again!" -Scott and Kari Raymond, Fans and Handicappers
"Saturday, September 24 (2011) was a tremendous day at Fair Grounds! The crowd was big, the weather was great and our LQHBA Sale Futurity was a very exciting race. Seeing the Q-Racing Aces in the paddock every race made the day that much better. Martha Claussen picked 7 winners and the fans were betting her picks and cashing some nice tickets!" -Tony Patterson, Assistant Director, Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association
"John did an excellent job representing both the AQHA and Quarter Horse racing. He was very attentive to the fans at our facility and was very thorough in his interviewing and handicapping skills. He was also very adaptable to our program and was very willing to jump in and assist all throughout the day. We really appreciate his assistance and hope that he enjoyed his visit to our facility. We’d love to have him back again in 2012 for our next Quarter Horse Day. The entire afternoon was a success and we were very pleased with all activities for our first ever all-Quarter Horse racing day." -Tammy Knox, Hoosier Park Dir. Race Marketing Affairs
Night School is an online learning opportunity that allows horse racing players of all skill levels to gather tips and ask questions live with professional handicappers via a live blog and live chat interface. The program is Mondays from 8:30-10 p.m. Eastern through December 19, with the exception of major holidays. The free 90-minute program focuses on broadening horse racing’s fan base through more consumer knowledge and confidence.
Wagering and Handicapping Guides
AQHA's Introductory Guide to Wagering is an excellent resource for beginners; it walks the reader through all major aspects of wagering on American Quarter Horses in an easy-to-read format.
Our Handicapping Guide takes a more advanced and in-depth look at handicapping American Quarter Horses. It's still a great resource for beginners and intermediates, and also includes plenty of information for the existing Thoroughbred handicapper.
Ready to try some casual handicapping? Read the Q-Racing Aces' 5-Easy Steps to get you started!
Speed and Class
Be sure to learn all about the new Equibase Speed Figure.
TrackMaster is AQHA's official handicapping services provider. TrackMaster offers a variety of handicapping products including their new Quarter Horse Speed and Class Ratings.
Comparative Speed Index Chart
Need more handicapping tips?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE "American Quarter Horse Handicapping with the Pros" DVD.
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