December Date Set for Inaugural 'Great State Challenge'

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Friday that the inaugural $1.5 million NTRA Great State Challenge will be run at Sam Houston Race Park, in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, December 7, 2002.

Post time for the six races consisting for horses representing several states has not been set, but is expected to be scheduled for early afternoon, according to the NTRA.

"The early December date should allow for fine weather in the Houston area, and also permit virtually all existing state-bred championship days to take place with a minimum of revisions to current schedules," said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president-industry relations and marketing for the NTRA

"Sam Houston Race Park is proud to be the host of what promises to be one of the truly big days on the 2002 racing calendar," said Robert L. Bork, the track's senior vice president and general manager.

John Deere is the presenting sponsor of the NTRA Great State Challenge, as part of a strategic marketing alliance that also includes sponsorship of the Breeders' Cup Turf and the associated divisional turf races leading up to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Modeled after the Breeders' Cup, the Great State Challenge races are limited to horses from jurisdictions where the official state horsemen's association is an NTRA member. The top eight NTRA-member horsemen's associations -- California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Texas, based on current dues -- are guaranteed one horse in each race. The state with the overall best performance in the Challenge will receive a trophy. Based on points allocated for each race, the top point-holder will be crowned the NTRA Great State Challenge Champion.

The NTRA and Breeders' Cup Limited will fund a guaranteed purse of $150,000 for each race, plus $50,000 in purses for Breeders' Cup-nominated horses. An additional $50,000 comes from each participating state's breeders' fund, to be paid to each individual state-bred horse that finishes in an awarded position, making each race worth as much as $250,000.

The races are:
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies, 7 furlongs on the dirt for 2-year-olds fillies
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Juvenile, 7 furlongs on the dirt for 2-year-olds
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Sprint, 6 furlongs on the dirt for 3-year-olds and older
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Turf, 9 furlongs on the turf for 3-year-olds and older
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff, 8.5 furlongs on the dirt for 3-year-olds and older, fillies and mares
-- NTRA Great State Challenge Classic, 9 furlongs on the dirt for 3-year-olds and older