Kool Country Man Tries Repeat in Houston Challenge

Last year's winner looks to repeat in Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge.

Q-Racing Journal
April 18, 2013

Kool Country Man, third in the Eastex Handicap (G2) two starts ago, defends his 2012 title in the $100,000 Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge (G1) on Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park.

Owned by Jose Socorro Vera Jr. with Juan Manuel G. Barbosa, Kool Country Man (Country Chicks Man-First Kool Baby by First Down Dash) is rounding into the form that gave him the victory in last year’s renewal. He was off for more than two months and returned to finish a competitive third in the Eastex at Remington Park for trainer Jonathon Casteneda. That race set him up for a three-quarter-length trial win as the 8-5 favorite. His time of :21.796 was the quickest time from two trials.

A year ago, Kool Country Man was fifth in the Swift Stakes before winning the Bank of America Sam Houston Challenge by a head at nearly 25-1 odds. He went on last year to take a division of the Gaylan Shelton Stakes (RG3) and finish fourth in the Bank of American Challenge Championship (G1).

Tommy Hayes and Bobby Barnett’s Runaway Wagon (PYC Paint Your Wagon-Dashin Vike by Dashin Bye) may gain the favorite’s role after rolling to a 1 1/2-length win in the other trial. The Bobby Martinez-trained gelding overcame a bump at the start and then rallied to post the second-fastest qualifying time of :21.803.

Runaway Wagon took the $144,000 Firecracker Derby last summer by three quarters of a length, with a powerful finish.

Michael Amburn’s Jess A Comment (First Comment-Jess Quick Fun by Mr Jess Perry) has the stakes credentials and is making his second start after a more than five-month layoff. The Guy Hopkins-trained gelding won the 2012 Adequan Retama Derby Challenge and was fifth in the 2011 Texas Classic Futurity (G1).

Supporting the Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge is the $23,400 Red Cell Sam Houston Distance Challenge.

The always contentious Kite Flyer (Royal Quick Dash-Cymbidiam by Tommy De Great) came back from a four-month layoff to finish third in the Harrison Stakes over 550 yards and steps up to his favorite distance on 870 yards. Owned by Dark Horse Partnership, Kite Flyer has raced to five wins, two seconds and two thirds over the distance.

The J.R. Basham-trained Kite Flyer won last year’s Governor’s Cup Marathon at Sam Houston at 870 yards and was second in the Red Cell Lone Star Distance Challenge last fall.

Joe and Elaine McAnally’s Dashers Midnight (Some Dasher-Sheza Moon Bar Baby by Heza Fast Man) ships to Sam Houston after narrowly winning a $25,000 claiming race at Sunland Park in January. The James Gerhards-trained gelding was second in the 2011 Red Cell Lone Star Distance Challenge.