07/26/2005 11:00PM

Gone Celebrating looks to end his drought


Gone Celebrating tries to regain his form of 2003, when he was the Sam Houston Race Park horse of the meet, when he surfaces after a nine-month layoff in the Grade 3, $40,000 TQHA Classic, the highlight of the Texas Summer Showdown on Friday night at Sam Houston.

Gone Celebrating won 5 of 6 starts in 2003 but did not maintain that winning form last year, when he was winless in five starts. However, his best 2004 effort came at Sam Houston when he was second in the Grade 1 Texas Challenge Championship.

Also on the card, which features stakes for Texas-breds, is Ronas Wind Dancer, who defends his title in the Grade 3, $40,000 Barnmaster Sprint at 250 yards. The quick 7-year-old gelding excels at the shortest distances, with a close second at 300 yards and a win and a close second in his two starts at 330 yards since his win in last year's Barnmaster.

In the $40,000 TQHA 550 stakes, 2004 distance champion Run and Pray comes off a pair of seconds in his two local starts to head a John Buchanan-trained entry with Red Dog Leader.

World champ heads California card

Spencer Childers's reigning world champion Be a Bono defends his title in the Grade 1, $150,000 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship, named after the gelding's 93-year-old owner, on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

The Childers is part of California Champions Night, which also includes the Grade 1, $411,000 Governor's Cup Futurity and the Grade 1, $130,000 Governor's Cup Derby.

Be a Bono doesn't win Grade 1 stakes by large margins; he just wins. He won 2003's Grade 1 Golden State Futurity by a head. In his Grade 1 efforts in 2004, he won the Childers by a head, the Los Alamitos Super Derby by a head, and the Los Alamitos Winter Derby by a neck. He was unable to pull off the narrow win in the Champion of Champions, finishing a nose behind Cash for Kas.

Be a Bono, a 4-year-old gelding, returned to his usual winning tactics in the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity, his most recent start, when he defeated Brookstone Bay by a nose.

Brookstone Bay is back for another try at Be a Bono in the Childers. He is winless in six starts since taking the Grade 3 First Down Dash Handicap on Oct. 29, all in stakes or trials, with a third in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship and a fifth in the Champion of Champions.

In the 350-yard Governor's Cup Futurity, fastest qualifier Finding Nemo will probably gain his first Grade 1 victory if he can repeat his impressive trial victory. He ran less like a juvenile and more like a mature sprinter when he started alertly and accelerated through the finish line for a superb 17.315-second time for the 350 yards. He is also Grade 1 tested, with a third in the Ed Burke Million and a sixth in the Kindergarten.

Second-fastest qualifier Ynot Bar, making her stakes debut, won her trial in 17.515 seconds, a time about 1 1/2 lengths slower than Finding Nemo's.

In the 400-yard Governor's Cup Derby, fastest qualifier Apollitical Time faces the strongest competition of her career when she goes for her seventh straight win. During her winning streak, the former $16,000 claimer has wins in the Grade 3 Town Policy Handicap, Lassie Handicap, and La Pacifica Handicap. She won her trial in 19.675 seconds.

Apollitical Time will be tested by Ed Burke Futurity winner Heza Secret Diamond, three-time Grade 1 futurity runner-up Lindas Dasher, and second-fastest qualifier Looking for Chicks, a trial winner in 19.790 seconds.

Zia showcases New Mexico-breds

The Zia Festival, highlighted by the Zia Futurity and the Zia Derby, showcases horses competing in lucrative New Mexico-bred stakes on Sunday afternoon at Ruidoso Downs.

In the Grade 2, $337,000 Zia Futurity, Arealstraitheart comes off two daylight victories from two starts, including a dominating four-length trial victory in the fastest qualifying time of 19.502 seconds for the 400 yards.

Blazin Nights, second in the $216,000 Ruidoso Sale Futurity, won her trial by 2 1/4 lengths with the second-fastest qualifying time of 19.717 seconds.

In the $94,639 Zia Derby, Run Mr and Speed Button Miracle, who finished a head apart in their trial, will have a rematch. Run Mr won the Grade 2 NMHBA Stakes, while Speed Button Miracle has a win and two close seconds in her last three starts.