Wascallywittlewabbit, Prize Kiss and Shaw Island Senator are the top names to watch in three Bank of America Racing Challenge qualifying races this Saturday and Monday at The Downs at Albuquerque and Indiana Grand.
Saturday's $60,000 AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge at The Downs looms a two-horse battle between the sharp Wascallywittlewabbit and hometown favorite Madewell, who captured the Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship (G1) last year at Albuquerque, which hosts the championship night again this year.
Monday's $30,000 John Deere Indiana Juvenile Challenge regional finals at Indiana Grand, which is where the championship night will be held next year, features Prize Kiss, who figures to win without a photo finish unless he encounters severe trouble. The same holds true for Shaw Island Senator in the $20,000 regional Q-Racing Video Indiana Distaff Challenge.
The winners of the three aforementioned races earn berths to their respective finals on October 23 on Bank of America Challenge Championship night in Albuquerque.
AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge
I give the edge to Wascallywittlewabbit over Madewell in this 870-yard event, even though the latter has won five of nine starts over the Albuquerque oval.
First, Wascallywittlewabbit is more favorably drawn in Post 3 while Madewell has the outside post. With his terrific early speed, Wascallywittlewabbit figures to make a clear early lead with a quick run into the far turn over the 1-mile surface.
Second, Wascallywittlewabbit has already defeated Madewell twice this year, and has won his last four races by a combined 8 lengths.
Third, Wascallywittlewabbit has shown his ability to handle a similar 1-mile oval at Remington Park last May when capturing the Remington Park Distance Championship. He has now won nine of 14 starts at 870 yards, and is one of the horses late-enrolled in the Challenge program this year, indicating his connections have been pointing him toward this race.
Madewell, who last year parlayed his Challenge wins into a distance champion title, will likely get a stalking trip behind Wascallywittlewabbit, but has not offered a stretch punch in runner-up and fifth-place finishes behind the latter this year.
One outsider to watch is Nicos First Cartel, nicely drawn in Post 2 and coming off a better-than-looked fourth-place finish behind Madewell in an Albuquerque allowance race one month ago. After getting dirt tossed in his face when shuffled back early on the far turn of his last out, he then lugged out badly throughout the turn before leveling during the final 1/8.
Thus, my selections are No. 3 Wascallywittlewabbit, No. 6 Madewell and No. 2 Nicos First Cartel.
John Deere Indiana Juvenile Challenge
In this race, Prize Kiss stands out on class and speed figures in a 10-horse final.
In his last futurity runner-up finish two weeks ago at Indiana Grand, he lugged in solidly midway and finished running hard versus first-place finisher High Rolling Seize, a four-time 2021 winner who earlier ran second in the Gordon Mobley Futurity. Three races back, Prize Kiss won the Heartland Futurity with a career best 82 Equibase speed figure. Rival Paint Your Legacy has the next highest speed figure of 79. Also, Prize Kiss leads the field in earnings of $114,764.
While I respect Paint Your Legacy's chances to upset Prize Kiss, I am looking at a few outsiders to use in the exotics. Paint Your Legacy has been awarded victories in his last pair when the first-place finishers were disqualified. In both races, Paint Your Legacy was clear of any trouble and isn't as good as he looked on paper, in my opinion.
Both Chequer Out and Separate Incident had significant trouble in their most recent starts. Chequer Out broke 1 length slow and lost by a neck in her last Canterbury maiden race. Separate Incident was forced in badly near the 1/8-pole and ran strong when moved up from third to first through the disqualification of the first two finishers who impeded him.
Question The Eagle is likely to get wagering support based on a 2-length maiden victory in his last start. However, he only beat three foes in a four-horse field.
My picks are No. 4 Prize Kiss, No. 9 Separate Incident, No. 10 Paint Your Legacy and No. 8 Chequer Out.
Q-Racing Video Indiana Distaff Challenge
In this distaff race, Shaw Island Senator looms a standout while the improving Jess Over Yonder is the main threat.
After scrambling away from the gate in her last half-length allowance win two weeks ago, Shaw Island Senator was quick into stride and earned a strong 95 Equibase speed figure. She caught the eye in a head setback at Remington Park three races back in an allowance race won by BG Primetime, who since finished second in the Speedhorse Derby at Fair Meadows.
Jess Over Yonder displayed a nice stride with a half-length allowance victory one month ago at Indiana Grande when defeating Roxxie, whose only prior win in 10 starts came in a maiden race.
One Coldhearted Diva is the other top contender, but her two lifetime victories came in Indiana state-bred races. Both Shaw Island Senator and Jess Over Yonder have been victorious versus open competition.
So, my picks are No. 1 Shaw Island Senator and No. 2 Jess Over Yonder.
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