Trials for the Merial Texas Distaff Challenge Set for Saturday, March 19 at SHRP

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, March 16, 2011) - The second weekend of the 2011 American Quarter Horse meet at Sam Houston Race Park gets underway on Friday, March 18. On Saturday evening, fillies and mares will compete in trials for the Merial Texas Distaff Challenge. The top ten qualifiers will return for the final which will be run on Saturday, April 2.

Trainer Judd Kearl won the Merial Texas Distaff Challenge last year with Wowzer Won. He has three mares entered in the two 400-yard trial races. Ms Riptide and Zoomin on By will run in the first trial and Kearl will saddle Dont Bac Down Lucy in race six, the second trial race. Kearl, who was the 2010 leading trainer at Sam Houston, looks forward to the two races on Saturday.

"Ms Riptide qualified for both derbies last summer at Sam Houston," said Kearl. "She was the fastest qualifier for the Dash for Cash Derby at Lone Star Park. Zoomin on By is a nice mare; I wish we hadn't drawn side by side, but I hope all three will qualify for the final."

A very exciting regional race will be run on Saturday, March 26 at Sam Houston Race Park when the $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) will take place. Nominated horses include Stolis Winner, who is the all-time money leading American Quarter Horse; Acorn, winner of the Adequan Derby Challenge Championships at Fair Grounds; multiple stakes winner, XO Kate and Comin Thru, the 2010 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse of the Meet. The draw for the Bank of America Texas Challenge will be held on Wednesday, March 23.

The winner will earn a berth into the Bank of America Challenge Championships at Los Alamitos in October.

Trainer Janet VanBebber Wins Her 1,000th Career Race

American Quarter Horse trainer Janet VanBebber is well-known to Houston racing fans. On Tuesday, March 15, she made history by saddling her 1,000th career winner. She won the sixth race at Louisiana Downs with Playthegame Withease for owner Robert Latham of Houston.

VanBebber has trained horses at Sam Houston Race Park since 2001, when she took over the VanBebber barn for her late husband, Steve VanBebber. She won 313 races in Houston and remains the all-time Sam Houston Quarter Horse trainer over Toby Keeton (308), Kenneth Roberts (237), John Buchanan (216) and Judd Kearl (209).

While VanBebber is now based in Louisiana, she has fond memories of Sam Houston Race Park and the wins leading to her milestone accomplishment.

"I always felt at home at Sam Houston," said VanBebber. "It is a beautiful facility with a wonderful racing surface. Many of my horses ran well on that track and were able to stay sound and showcase their talents on a national level."

VanBebber won five training titles at Sam Houston Race Park and will be back next weekend. She will saddle Shut Up and Catch Me in trials for the $550,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on Friday, March 25 and Acorn, who will run in the $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) on Saturday, March 26.

Born in Norco, California, VanBebber, 45, is the only female conditioner in American Quarter Horse racing history to win 1,000 races.

Special Post Time Set for Friday, March 25

Due to the record nominations for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2), there could be as many as 20 trials run on Friday, March 25. As a result, Sam Houston Race Park has moved its 7:00 p.m. post time to 2:00 p.m. The ten fastest 2-year-olds will advance to the final which will be run on Saturday, April 9. The purse for the Sam Houston Futurity is expected to exceed $550,000 and will be the highest since the inaugural running in 1994 with a purse of $525,525.

Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings

David Alvarez started the meet with a bang, winning five races on opening night. He has the lead in the jockey standings with six wins from 20 starts. Jerry Lee Yoakum and Luis Ramirez are tied for second with 3 victories each and Juan Torres follows with two trips to the winner's circle.

Jorge Haddad leads the trainers with four wins. Haddad saddled the top two qualifiers in trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic on opening night of the meet. Ben Garza is second with two wins and eight horsemen have one win for the two-day first weekend.

In the owner standings, Haddad tops the standings with three wins from five starters.

Day at the Capitol Set for March 31

The 2011 Texas legislative session is underway and members of the Texas racing industry are hopeful that lawmakers will consider moving forward to legalize slot machines (video lottery terminals) at Texas racetracks.

Win For Texas has announced a Day at the Capitol on Thursday, March 31 as a state-wide opportunity to meet legislators and ask their support on this critical issue for Texas racing. Supporters will gather with horses and greyhounds at the South steps of the Capitol to hear from the state and industry leaders on the legislative initiative.

Round trip buses will leave from Houston, Grand Prairie and San Antonio on Thursday morning. Anyone interested in joining this lobbying effort must rsvp at by March 25.

Cirque Du Soleil Production OVO Opens to Rave Reviews

With its expansive parking lot, Sam Houston Race Park welcomed back a second "big top" Cirque du Soleil production. OVO, explores the world of biodiversity and beauty of a colorful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement. The national performance will run now through March 27, 2011 under the Grand Chapiteau at Sam Houston Race Park. Tickets are on sale now, visit

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