Burgart Blog: Challenge Championships

Burgart Blog: Challenge Championships

Handicapping the Bank of America Challenge Championships.

Here Comes Candy

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The word "challenge" applies to horsemen and handicappers alike when horses that have qualified from different regions of the United States and Canada meet in their respective divisions of five Challenge Championship races Saturday on the Bank of America Challenge Championship program at The Downs at Albuquerque.

While looking at the horse-for-course angle as a key handicapping ingredient, I will also be analyzing the strength of competition each horse has faced, along with discussing significant video-tape observations. Plus, I will be observing recent Equibase speed figures in trying to determine how horses from different regions will compete against each other. Equibase speed figures tells us how fast a horse has been running in past races and is based on a horse’s actual time along with past class competition and condition of the track. The speed figure has been equalized for different tracks, distances and race conditions.
     
$100,000 AQHA Cox Distance Challenge Championship (G1)

Defending champion Madewell is clearly the horse to beat based on his love for the Albuquerque surface and his versatility to win from on or off the pace.

Madewell has won his last six starts at Albuquerque and should benefit by a great stalking trip behind expected pacesetters Viva Le Don and Wascallywittlewabbit. Madewell earned a lofty 103 Equibase speed figure in his last 1 1/4-length win over Wascallywittlewabbit in the AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge (G3), who was unable to take advantage of a clear early lead.

Viva Le Don won his last three races at Sam Houston, but two of those victories came against state-bred competition. From his rail post, he figures to show speed but is unlikely to outsprint Wascallywittlewabbit.
  
Thus, I look for Madewell to roll by both Viva Le Don and Wascallywittlewabbit. To complete the exacta, I am using Ms Esther as my second selection. The stretch runner is well drawn for a ground-saving trip from Post 2 and can benefit by an expected pace meltdown.

My top three selections are Madewell, Ms Esther and Wascallywittlewabbit.

$100,000 Q-Racing Video Distaff Challenge Championship (G1)

My key value play comes in this 400-yard Grade 1 affair for fillies and mares, as I will select A Political Gal to defeat defending champion Lynnder 16 and Idaho sharpie Pattys Saint.

A Political Gal was very impressive in her last half-length win over a sloppy surface at Lone Star Park when beating earlier 2021 Sam Houston stakes winner Tempting Knockout while earning a 94 speed figure. She met a stellar field two races back when seventh in the Heritage Place Derby whose runner-up, Instygator, since won the Grade 1 All American Derby.

Lynnder 16 is working on a four-race winning streak, but beat a softer field in her last three-quarter-length stakes win at Will Rogers Downs 20 days ago. She has won 15 of 28 starts but doesn't appear to have as much upside as A Political Gal, who returned after a four-month layoff to win her regional distaff Challenge stakes three weeks ago.

Pattys Saint has won six of her last seven Idaho races and has the highest last-out Equibase speed figure of 97. Her lone setback this year came three outs ago when second against The Prize Ferarri, who since won two Idaho stakes races.

My top three picks are A Political Gal, Lynnder 16 and Pattys Saint.

$125,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G2)

I give Here Comes Candy a slight edge in a very competitive field that includes top contenders De Laurentis, Kas Shes EC and Scoops Dynasty.

Here Comes Candy has rising speed figures and went strong in her last neck regional challenge victory at Ruidoso Downs where she was near the lead throughout. She caught my eye in her prior neck trial win when she broke 1 length slow from the rail post while getting a 98 speed figure.

Kas Shes EC broke fairly slow before rallying for a half-length win in a Dash For Cash Futurity trial while failing to qualify for the finals. De Laurentis also won his Dash For Cash Futurity trial while earning a 93 speed figure, but also missed qualifying for the futurity. 
 
Scoops Dynasty broke slow in his first two Los Alamitos fourth-place finishes before coming away smooth from the far outside in his last three-quarter-length regional Challenge qualifying victory.

My selections are Here Comes Candy, Kas Shes EC, De Laurentis and Scoops Dynasty.

$150,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3)

Bad Monkey loves the race distance of 400 yards, likes Albuquerque and is my pick to defeat Jet Wings One and The Prize Ferarri.

Bad Monkey has earned speed figures of 94 or higher in his last three outs and was third in his last race, the Dash For Cash Derby trial, whose winner Big Dynasty since finished third in the derby finals. Bad Monkey won the John Deere Juvenile Championship (G2) at Albuquerque last year and has now captured 50 percent of his 20 starts.

Jet Wings One is a rocket from the gate and was third behind Other World in the Sgt Pepper Feature Handicap at Los Alamitos seven weeks ago. The race was flattered when Other World recently ran second in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship. Jet Wings One broke super when prevailing by a nose in her lone 400-yard start when winning a regional Challenge finals over A Dash Of Sign, who since ran second in an overnight handicap.

The Prize Ferarri is the pride of Idaho where he has won 10 of 14 starts while finishing second the other four times. He has won his last five starts while earning speed figures of 92 and 90 twice each. He beat Pattys Saint five outs ago, and the latter has since won two stakes.

My picks are Bad Monkey, Jet Wings One and The Prize Ferarri.

$250,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1)

Danjer won this race last year at Albuquerque, but I give the edge this year to the ultra-sharp Valiant Tiberias. I also respect TLC Signature, Mi Amor Secreto and Perrys Double Down in the 440-yard Grade 1 race.

Five weeks ago, Valiant Tiberias looked tremendous at Albuquerque where he earned a 106 speed figure while defeating runner-up Danjer by 1 1/4-lengths. Valiant Tiberias has won six of his last seven starts.

Danjer had his three-race win streak snapped in his last runner-up try against Valiant Tiberias, but defeated Mi Amor Secreto by a head in his prior All American Gold Cup (G1) victory. Danjer displayed his class when capturing the Grade 1 Remington Park Championship four outs back when beating runner-up Apollitical Pence, who won last year's Champion of Champions (G1).

Mi Amor Secreto was only a head behind Danjer in the All American Gold Cup, but has only one win over the past 22 months. 

Perrys Double Down has won three of his last five outs, but two of the wins came over wet surfaces. Also, he has failed in his last two Grade 1 efforts when seventh and fifth respectively against Danjer.

TLC Signature is an outsider to consider. He has improving speed figures of 102 in his last pair and has won three of his four Albuquerque starts.

My picks are Valiant Tiberias, Danjer, Mi Amor Secreto and TLC Signature.

Look for complete coverage of the Bank of America Challenge Championships at AQHA's website and on racing social media. If you can't attend the races live at The Downs at Albuquerque on October 23, watch on Q-Racing Video (subscription required)!