Two World Champion horses battled up front in Sunday’s Grade 2, $36,327 AQHA Remington Park Distance Challenge and they softened each other up for the late-running Dak, who pulled off the major upset.

On paper, two-time American Quarter Horse Association Champion Distance horse Wascallywittlewabbit (2022 and 2021) and Shockinglyfamous, last year’s AQHA Champion Aged Stallion, appeared to be the horses to beat in this spot and Dak thanked them for their speed duel as he swooped by them in the stretch for the victory.

Wascallywittlewabbit had won 13-of-21 starts and was a multiple stakes winner at the 870-yard distance with $359,667 earned around the hook. He had won 5-of-7 starts at Remington Park, earning $150,080 here. Shockinglyfamous had won 3-of-8 starts at 870 yards for a bankroll of $101,622. He is also a multiple stakes winner and had won $116,170 at Remington Park. In contrast, Dak had never won a stakes race at 870 yards and had only earned $1,486 at this Oklahoma City track in one start, running fifth in the $50,000 SLM Big Daddy Stakes at 550 yards in early March. Shockinglyfamous won that race, finishing 2-3/4 lengths ahead of Dak. Wascallywittlewabbit ran second in the SLM Big Daddy.

On Sunday, Shockinglyfamous was sent off as the even-money wagering favorite but the 7-year-old Champion horse was the first to back out of it in the stretch as Wascallywittlewabbit, the hard-knocking 8-year-old gelding and the 9-5 second favorite, tried in vain to hold off the late-charging Dak. With Salvador Martinez in the saddle of this grey streak, he had all the momentum nearing the wire and squeezed past the champion by a half-length at the finish line. Dak did get some support at 6-1 odds due to his 2-for-3 record around the hook, going into this race. He had beaten allowance horses in both those turn victories.

This was a big step up in class, but he handled it well for trainer James Gonzales III and owner Blue Star Racing of Midland, Texas.

“I watched replays of his wins,” said Martinez. “I knew he liked the outside and liked to come flying late down the lane. I saw the two other horses chasing each other up front and I said, ‘Good for me.’ “

Gonzales’ son and assistant trainer, Sebastian, said he felt a big race for Dak was coming.

“The SLM Big Daddy was a good race to get some air into him (Dak),” he said. “I knew he would kick on in this longer race. We knew he could run and that he had a lot of talent around the hook.”

Wascallywittlewabbit was easily second, 4-3/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher R U Freal (34-1), who passed a tiring Shockinglyfamous in fourth, who was two lengths behind the longshot.

Dak, a 7-year-old gelded son of Dominyun, out of the Fishers Dash mare Fleet Ellis, paid $15.80 to win, $6 to place and $4.60 to show and stopped the timer at :45.102 over the fast track for a 99 speed index.

Dak’s previous wins at 870 yards came at Sunland Park in New Mexico in a conditioned allowance race on Jan. 21 of this year and at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas in October last year, against an optional allowance/claiming $20,000 conditioned field.

Dak earned $18,163 for the victory and improved his record to 27 starts, eight wins and six seconds for a lifetime bankroll of $409,106. He was bred in Texas by Bullard Farms. This was the first win in the AQHA Remington Park Distance Challenge for all of the connections of Dak.

Remington Park racing continues next week with a Thursday-Saturday racing schedule, April 6-8. The first post is 6 p.m. (Central) nightly. There will be no live racing Easter Sunday, April 9.

Tracked by more than 172,000 fans on Facebook and 10,700 Twitter followers, Remington Park has provided more than $316 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park features the 2023 American Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa season through June 3. Remington Park presents simulcast racing daily and non-stop casino gaming. Visit remingtonpark.com for more information.