10/27/2011 1:45PM

Los Alamitos: Spit Curl Diva ready for Challenge Championship


Spit Curl Diva was overmatched when she ran in the 2010 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos, the Quarter Horse mare’s first trip to California from the Midwest.

“She’d never been on the track before, but we had to give the Champion of Champions a shot,” co-owner Tom Lepic said Wednesday.

Spit Curl Diva earned a return engagement for a major stakes at Los Alamitos this fall, when she won the Prairie Meadows division of the Challenge Championship on Sept. 3. A few days later, she was bound for California to prepare for Saturday’s $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship, the series final.

“This year, we’ve been here six weeks now,” Lepic said. “She’s settled in really well, and she’s blossomed in the last seven or 10 days.”

The altered schedule could lead to the biggest win of Spit Curl Diva’s career. A 5-year-old co-owned by Lepic of Iowa City, Iowa, and Sarah Morgan of Guthrie, Okla., Spit Curl Diva has won 19 of 35 starts and $807,903. She has won 12 stakes at seven tracks, ranging in size from defunct Blue Ribbon Downs to Fair Grounds and Lone Star Park.

The win in the Prairie Meadows race Sept. 3 gave Lepic and Morgan the reason they needed to send Spit Curl Diva to California. Racing on a muddy and sealed track, Spit Curl Diva led throughout the 440 yards and won by 1 1/4 lengths in a track record 21.16 seconds.

“It made everybody realize what kind of mare she really is,” Lepic said. “I think she’s getting stronger with age. That was a great race for her, and we hope she can duplicate that race again.”

For the last two years, Spit Curl Diva has been trained by Jody Brown and ridden by her husband, David. For the current trip to California, Spit Curl Diva is trained by national champion trainer Paul Jones. David Brown retains the mount.

The Challenge Championship is the top race on Saturday’s program of stakes in a series organized by the American Quarter Horse Association.

There are four other stakes worth $125,000 or more Saturday. The runners in the Challenge races consist of horses who have won or placed in qualifying stakes around the country through the year.

The Challenge Championship includes Stolis Winner, the all-time money-winning Quarter Horse with career earnings of $2,231,661. Stolis Winner won the 2008 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs but has just one win in five starts this year, the Remington Park division of the Challenge Championship. Stolis Winner finished ninth in the Los Alamitos Championship on Oct. 9, his first career start in California.

“We were trying to get him over that track,” owner-breeder Jerry Windham said. “He didn’t break very well. I just hope he performs better than what he did. I know he’s got the capability.”

The Challenge Championship drew a field of 11, including the Fair Grounds stakes winner Acorn and Rylees Boy, unraced since winning the Remington Park Championship in May.

All 12 of Saturday’s races at Los Alamitos are stakes. The first major race, the evening’s seventh, is the $125,000 Distance Championship over 870 yards. Docs Dusty Okie, a winner of five of his last six starts in, of course, Oklahoma, makes his California debut.

Illegal Smile, third in the PCQHRA Breeders’ Futurity at Los Alamitos on Oct. 1, will be favored in the $150,000 Juvenile Championship over 350 yards.

There are seven stakes winners among the 10 entrants in the $200,000 Derby Challenge over 400 yards. Aquafina, trained by former jockey James Lackey, breaks from the outside. Aquafina won the Los Alamitos Derby Challenge division in August.

Fovee, the winner of the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Handicap for fillies and mares in September, will be a strong favorite in the $125,000 Distaff Challenge Championship over 400 yards, the race preceding the Bank of America Challenge Championship.