Burgart Blog: Remington Distance Challenge

Burgart Blog: Remington Distance Challenge

Taking a closer handicapping look at the AQHA Remington Distance Challenge.

Higher Flyin Eagle 2020 Cox Ranch Remington Distance Challenge trials. PHOTO: Dustin Orona Photography/Remington Park

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By Ed Burgart

Although the 1-2 finishers from the 2020 Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship (G1) in Madewell and Illtakeyouforaride are entered Sunday in the 2021 AQHA Remington Distance Challenge regional final at Remington Park, I like Higher Flyin Eagle to win the 870-yard race, based on key handicapping criteria I utilize. 

Having shown a fondness for Remington Park is only one of the handicapping reasons I like Higher Flyin Eagle to earn a berth into the AQHA Distance Challenge Championship (G1) at The Downs at Albuquerque on October 23. The 5-year-old gelding also has early speed and recent racing in his corner, along with a critical inside post draw in the eight-horse field over a 1-mile oval where the horses have only 210 yards from the start to the 3/8-pole midway on the far turn.

Conversely, neither reigning champion distance horse Madewell nor Illtakeyouforaride have started in six months since their top two finishes in the Distance Challenge finals last year in Albuquerque. Neither is blessed with early speed and both have earned their best speed figures on ovals other than Remington Park.

In handicapping the eight runners in Sunday’s 870-yard regional race at Remington, I have found four serious contenders and four others whose ratings are inferior. The four contenders are Higher Flyin Eagle, Viva Le Don, Madewell and Illtakeyourforaride. Higher Flyin Eagle and Viva Le Don both benefit by recent starts at Remington and both are 5-year-olds, in comparison to the 7-year-old ages of Madewell and Illytakeyouforaride.

I'm taking a stand and selecting HIgher Flyin Eagle and Viva Le Don as my top picks. Higher Flyin Eagle defeated Madewell in this same regional race last year and has scored four of his five lifetime victories at Remington. He enters the race with improving 2021 Equibase speed figures and is making his third start since March 1, when he broke slow in a 550-yard tuneup. 

In the Pauls Valley Stakes (G2) on April 1, he dueled outside winner Wascallywittlewabbit for the lead to the 1/8-pole before tiring to fourth. The latter showed class last year when winning the Zia Park 870 Championship at Ruidoso Downs. I expect Higher Flyin Eagle to make a clear lead from his inside post Sunday.

Viva Le Don is an interesting outsider. He has earned the majority of his $341,071 bankroll with stakes victories down the straightaway and captured two 550-yard added-money races last year. In his 870-yard debut at Remington on April 15, he drew the far outside post in a seven-horse field and was caught exceptionally wide into the stretch. Still, he was fourth while beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Bubba Bud, who was posting his 10th lifetime victory. I expect Viva Le Don to be more forwardly placed this Sunday from his No. 6 post.

Obviously, I respect Madewell and Illtakeyouforaride and suggest using both horses for those playing exactas, trifectas and superfectas. Illtakeyouforaride, who drew Post 2, can be well positioned near the lead on the turn and has been third or better in 19 of 26 starts. Madewell breaks from Post 5 and was second versus Higher Flyin Eagle in this race last year before winning all four of his Albuquerque starts from August through October.

So, I like No. 1 Higher Flyin Eagle to win and suggest Viva Le Don, Madewell and Illtakeyouforaride as horses to use in exotic wagers.

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