11/08/2004 12:00AM

Snowman wins, Azoom upset


The dominating win by SLM Snowman in the $300,000 headlined the five Grade 1 stakes comprising the MBNA America Challenge Championship on Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park.

Sam Houston Race Park set a live handle record of $1,335,862 on the 10-race card. An all-source record was assured with $1,815,798 wagered and the total handle from Los Alamitos not available.

SLM Snowman won the MBNA America Challenge Championship for older horses by 1-3/4 lengths while under a strangling hold by jockey Jacky Martin. The win earned the gelding an invitation to the Grade 1, $500,000 Champion Of Champions on Dec. 11 at Los Alamitos.

The Challenge Championship victory made SLM Snowman one of the contenders for the 2004 world champion title. He is undefeated in five starts and a Champion of Champions victory could secure the world championship.

"He just destroyed them. I had a ton of horse left," Martin said of the win in 21.722 seconds for 440 yards.

SLM Snowman paid $10.60, $6.60 and $4.20. Runner-up Valors Gold returned $16 and $8. Sky Lane Pie paid $9.20 to show.

Dash On A Mission won the $150,000 Ford Juvenile Challenge and Azoom, the 2-5 favorite, got a horrendous start and finished in seventh place, the sole off-the-board performance of his 14-race career.

"He was a problem in the gate," Azoom?s jockey Rodrigo Vallejo said. "He can run back in two weeks, but one week is not enough." Azoom won the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity on Oct. 29 at Sam Houston.

The Los Alamitos-based Dash On A Mission, the 9-2 second choice, ran a flawless race to cover the 350 yards in 17.605 seconds and pay $11, $5.60 and $4. Eye Yin You, a neck back, returned $5.80 and $3.80. First Comment paid $6.40.

Dash On A Mission won his third straight race and will now be pointed to the Los Alamitos Winter Derby, according to trainer Denny Ekins.

A New Hero, another Los Alamitos-based horse, was the winning 8-5 favorite in the $175,000 Bayer Legend Challenge Championship for sophomores. He ran the 400 yards in 20.021 seconds for his third consecutive victory. Self Assertive finished in second, but was placed third for interference. I Make Em Shake was awarded second place.

Favored A New Hero returned $5.20, $3.60 and $3.40. I Make Em Shake was worth $6.20 and $5.80. Self Assertive paid $6.60.

In the $100,000 John Deere Challenge Championship for distaffers, Sixy Thru Traffic won a battle with Prima LD for a neck win in 19.975 seconds for the 400 yards. Prima LD finished 3/4-length ahead of third-place finisher Precious Clarise.

Sixy Thru Traffic returned $7, $3 and $2.60. Odds-on favorite Prima LD paid $2.80 and $2.60 while Precious Clarise was worth $4.40.

Run And Pray benefited from a trip perfect to win the $100,000 MB Barns Challenge Championship over 870 yards in 45.118 seconds. The 5-year-old gelding stalked early leader Rulon Goodman and then jockey John Hamilton rallied Run And Pray through an opening on the rail to win by 3/4 length.

Run And Pray returned $13.80, $6 and $3.80. Rulon Gardner paid $4.80 and $4. Seek N Destroy returned $4.20.