Challenge


Nicos First Cartel Slight Surprises In $56,100 AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge
Nicos First Cartel, under jockey Alejandro Medellin, easily won the $56,100 AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge today at Albuquerque Downs.

Coady Photography
Nicos First Cartel Slight Surprises In $56,100 AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—SEPTEMBER 17, 2022—Nicos First Cartel (13-1) got his first career stakes win in the $56,100 AQHA Albuquerque Distance Challenge today at Albuquerque Downs.

The son of First Prize Perry was second in the 2020 edition of this race and third in last year's Albuquerque qualifying race for the Grade 1 Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship.

Under jockey Alejandro Medellin, Nicos First Cartel broke on top, cleared the field and drew off with a 2-1/4 length wire-to-wire victory over a field that included reigning AQHA Distance Champion Wascallywittlewabbit. Trainer Jesus Carrete saddled the 6-year-old Arizona -bred gelding for owner Erica Carreon.

Bred by Fernando Canales, from the Royal Cartel mare Cartel Moon, Nicos First Cartel has won six of 32 career starts. The $28,050 Distance winner's purse today pushed his earnings mark to $145,070.

The win also garnered Nicos First Cartel his first invite to the $100,000-est. Grade 1 Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship to run October 22nd during the Bank of America Challenge Championships Night at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

The winning connections of Nicos First Cartel accept the AQHA-Albuquerque Distance Challenge Stakes trophy on Saturday at The Downs. © Coady Photography

Grey Handsome picked up $12,061 for his second-place effort under jockey Gerardo Vera. Donna McArthur trains the Hez Our Secret 6-year-old for owner-breeder A.J. Renner.

The North Dakota-bred gelding, out of Miss Free House (TB) by Free House(TB), has earned $32,857.

Champion Wascallywittlewabbit drifted out at the quarter under jockey Benito Baca then gave way to finishing one-length back in third. Trainer Michael Joiner conditions the 14-time winning son of Heza Motor Scooter for owner Rogers Farms. Mike Weatherly bred the Grade 1 winner in New Mexico from the Rabbits Rainbow mare Rabbits N Diamonds.

The heavy post time favorite entered today race off a four-race win streak that included the Remington Park Distance Challenge (G1), Zia 870 Championship Stakes (RG1) and the Pauls Valley Stakes (G2).  Wascallywittlewabbit has earned $380,359.

Nicos First Cartel returned $26.20 to win, $6 to place and $3.20 to show.

American Favorite, Bojangles Comin and You Rock My Hocks completed the field.

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Albuquerque Downs Racetrack and Casino is located in the heart of Albuquerque at Expo New Mexico, the home of the New Mexico State Fair, and general admission and parking are always free (via the casino entrance on Louisiana and Central). For more information, visit abqdowns.com and click on the "Racing" link at the top of the homepage.