Fall racing season concludes with exciting near 10-way dead heat

November 18, 2019

Valiant High prevailed over nine other horses to win the Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Derby. The stakes race offered $77,920 in prize money and was featured during the final day of fall Quarter Horse racing at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs.Valiant High prevailed over nine other horses to win the Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Derby. The stakes race offered $77,920 in prize money and was featured during the final day of fall Quarter Horse racing at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs.

Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs completes 2019 fall racing season

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The 2019 American Quarter Horse Association racing season has concluded for the 10th consecutive year at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs.

The 28-day meet featuring AQHA, Appaloosa and Paint stakes races offered $2.4 million in overnight purses for Quarter Horses and $365,000 for Paints and Appaloosas, with races posting at noon each day.

This year, $19.6 million was wagered during the fall and spring meets at the Downs.

“We are confident that Will Rogers Downs provides one of the safest and most consistent racing surfaces in the country. We also intend to continue furthering our safety protocols and initiatives to complement national trends and standards,” said John Lies, racing secretary, announcer and oddsmaker at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs.

Mr. Dillard, a 2-year-old Oklahoma-bred gelding by He’s Relentless, earned the 2019 fall Horse of the Meet title. His three wins include a notable victory in the Black Gold 350 Championship Futurity Trials and were followed by a game second-place finish in the Black Gold 440 Championship Futurity Finals, worth $252,876. The big sorrel gelding led all other runners at the meet with $149,653 in earnings for owners L Hendrix Horses LLC and trainer Sam K. Howard.

Jockey Justine Klaiber rode 33 winners at the meet to earn 2019 Jockey of the Meet honors, with only one win over the runner-up and 2018 titleholder Cody Smith, who had a still very impressive 32 wins. Klaiber rode 26 Quarter Horse winners and seven mixed winners to achieve top honors, while Smith rode 20 Quarter Horse winners and 12 mixed winners. The pair were well clear of the next four riders who finished with 23 or 22 wins in the final standings.

The leading trainer for 2019 was Eddie D. Willis, a repeat of his 2018 accomplishment, with another meet-leading showing to earn the leading trainer buckle. His barn sent out more than twice as many runners as any other trainer at the meet and earned 30 wins, 27 seconds and 13 thirds from 165 starts.

Owners Dan and Kaye Jones enjoyed a tremendous strike rate to clinch leading owner honors with nine wins and two seconds from just 14 starters, primarily in the mixed division with trainer Matt Whitekiller, who finished second in the overall trainer standings behind Willis.

A meet met an exciting closed on Nov. 9, when the Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Derby was almost a 10-way dead heat, a mystery in itself, with all nine contenders finishing with only a length covering the field. Valiant High was declared winner over his rivals, capping off the season with a true horse race.

Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs is located 3 miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit www.cherokeecasino.com and click on the Will Rogers Downs tab, or call (918) 283-8800.