Updated on 09/16/2011 8:49AM

Take Charge Lady scares 'em off

Forbidden Apple (above) and Take Charge Lady are likely favorites in their Great State Challenge races.

HOUSTON - When the fields for the inaugural Great State Challenge were drawn on Wednesday, only 49 of the 84 horses invited to compete in the six-race series were entered. The Juvenile and Turf drew the largest fields, with 10 entrants each, while the Distaff and Classic attracted the smallest, with six each.

Overall, 10 states will be represented in the series, which is to be held at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday. Kentucky has the most horses in the Great State Challenge with 11, followed by Texas and Maryland with eight. All of the races are worth $275,000.

Take Charge Lady should start as the shortest-priced horse in the Great State Challenge. She was made the 2-5 favorite in the Distaff by Daily Racing Form handicapper Mike Watchmaker, and her imposing entry caused the field to lose some starters. Take Charge Lady will break from the rail under jockey Edgar Prado.

The Classic also drew a short field, and with probable favorite Easyfromthegitgo, the Iowa Derby winner, coupled with Big Numbers, it means there will be just five betting interests in the race. The Classic did, however, pick up a new horse in Continental Red, whose connections' first preference had been the Turf.

Of the draw, Bob Bork president of Sam Houston, said, "I wasn't disappointed. Certainly you'd like to see a couple more horses in the Distaff and the Classic, but they're good quality fields and the rest of the races are full and that's a good start.

"Take Charge Lady probably scared a couple of horses off, but that's okay. It's nice to have a horse like that come in here."

For the Turf, favoritism will likely go to Forbidden Apple, who breaks from post 3 under Corey Nakatani. In other races, the Sprint drew a field of eight led by My Cousin Matt and Day Trader, while the Juvenile Fillies drew nine horses led by stakes winner Souris and Midnight Cry, who is Grade 1 stakes placed.

Only the Best, who has won stakes in his last two starts in California, Private Gold, and Posse are among the leading contenders for the Juvenile.

In addition to earning purse money, horses will be awarded points for their finishes in the Great State races. At the end of the program the state with the highest-scoring horses will be declared the NTRA Great State Challenge Champion. Along with the title, the winning state gets a trophy and bragging rights.

Assembling the fields for the Great State Challenge has been a lengthy and complex process. In early October, state breeders organizations began putting together a list of their leaders in each division. The lists went through revisions, depending on owner intent to run in the Great State Challenge.

Eventually, the lists were submitted to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup, which is the administrator of the Great State Challenge. From there, a panel of racing secretaries ranked the horses in order of preference for each of the races, with no state allowed to have more than two starters for each race. Invitations went out on Nov. 25, while horsemen accepted or declined during a pre-entry period that closed Nov. 26.

Over the last week, injuries, other racing opportunities at home, and travel costs kept some of the horses out of the competition. But, the fields that were drawn Wednesday make for some interesting match-ups and will provide host track Sam Houston with its finest card ever.

To give the program added punch, the track will run four other stakes along with the Great State Challenge, making the 10-race card worth $1.8 million in purses, a record for Texas.

The undercard stakes are the $30,000 Cy-Fair led by the Steve Asmussen-trained pair of Cielo Girl and Goodness; the $30,000 San Felipe Stakes, which drew the Asmussen-trained McKinney; and two $50,000 divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes, one of which drew Great State Distaff entrant Eagle Lake.

The Great State Challenge post-position draw was held at Reliant Stadium, home of the new Houston Texans NFL team. The team is owned by Bob McNair, who owns Stonerside Stable and who will run Catalissa in the Great State Challenge Juvenile.

The forecast for Saturday calls for partly sunny skies with highs in the low 60's. Earlier this week, there was rain in the area, but it was expected to be mostly sunny on Friday. Special post for the first race Saturday is 1 p.m. Central.