06/26/2001 11:00PM

Opener features stakes trials

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The 47-date summer Quarter Horse season begins Friday night at Sam Houston Race Park with War Colors and Victory Defined running in the trials to the Grade 1 $80,000 MBNA America Texas Challenge Championship.

War Colors comes into the 440-yard trials off a win in the Grade 2 $65,555 East Challenge Championship at Delta Downs on June 9.

Victory Defined is the defending champion in the Texas Challenge Championship, one of five stakes races he won in 2000.

The 10 fastest qualifiers return for the finals on July 14.

Saturday night, Texas-breds sprint 350 yards in the $10,000 Stephen F. Austin Stakes. Sigaroid, a stakes winner at Los Alamitos last year and runner-up in the 1998 Grade 1 Remington Park Futurity, is expected to run.

Stormy Cheval, a four-time stakes winner in Texas last year, is also nominated.

The meet, which runs through Sept. 16, will feature Texas-breds again on July 28 with the Texas Summer Showdown. The five stakes races will offer $140,000 in purses.

Leading the season's 29 stakes races are the Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity and the Grade 2 Sam Houston Derby on Sept. 8. Last year, the Futurity had a $275,200 purse and the Derby offered $75,500.

The average daily purse distribution is pegged at $61,500 and the total stakes purses are expected to exceed $1 million.

Tropical Storm Allison tried in vain to disrupt the Sam Houston opening. The storm started on June 8 and dumped 18 inches of rain over five days. As a result, the track was not opened for training until June 19, three days later than scheduled.

First post time is 7 p.m. Central for racing on Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sundays.