|Trials for the Sam Houston Futurity and the $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Highlight Weekend Racing at SHRP
(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, March 23, 2011) - One of the most exciting weekends of the 2011 American Quarter Horse meet at Sam Houston Race Park begins with a special post time of 2:00 p.m. on Friday, March 25. Due to the record nominations for the first major futurity in the region, the Sam Houston Futurity (G2), there will be a record 18 trials run on Friday.
The ten fastest two-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 $595,000 and will be the highest since the inaugural running in 1994 with a purse of $525,525.
It will be an exceptionally busy day for many trainers, especially Judd Kearl who will saddle 17 entrants for the trials of the Sam Houston Futurity. Heath Taylor has 11; Jorge Haddad will be another horseman on the run with ten entered and Bobby Touchet hopes to qualify some of his nine two-year-olds.
The majority of the 171 entered two-year-olds will be making their racing debuts, but there are a handful of horses making their second start including RC Straight Runaway, who broke his maiden on March 7 at Louisiana Downs; Shut Up and Catch Me, second-place finisher in the same race and Zip N Kool, who ran second at Sam Houston on March 12. Many have competed in training races at Remington Park, Retama Park and Sam Houston Race Park, but each race promises to showcase a precocious and potential American Quarter Horse rising star.
Eric Johnston, Sam Houston Race Park vice president of racing, looks forward to an exciting day of racing on Friday.
"The response from the horsemen for the first major futurity in our region has surpassed our expectations," said Johnston. "Judging from what we saw in our training races on March 9, there will be no shortage of talent in any of the 18 trial races. We appreciate the support of each of the owners in setting this record purse at Sam Houston Race Park."
The weekend continues on Saturday, March 26 at 7:00 p.m. with five trials for the $152,800 Sam Houston Derby and two stakes, the $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) and finals of the $80,000 Sam Houston Maiden Classic.
All-Time Quarter Horse Money Earner Stolis Winner to Run in Saturday's Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship
A deeply contentious field of older horses will compete in the $100,000-added Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) on Saturday evening at Sam Houston Race Park.
The eight-horse field includes defending champion, Stolis Winner, who is the all-time money earning horse in American Quarter Horse history. Bred and owned by AQHA past president, Jerry Windham of College Station, Texas, Stolis Winner broke the record of $2,126,309 held by Refrigerator at the 2010 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) last November at Fair Grounds. With an additional start on December 26 in the $350,000 Sunland Championship, Stolis Winner currently boasts earnings of $2,163,581.
The career accomplishments of Stolis Winner are prolific. He was honored as AQHA 2008 world champion and is a five-time Grade 1 winner, including the All American, Rainbow and Heritage Place futurities.
Windham and trainer Heath Taylor are pleased with the soundness of their five-year-old gelding, who had a rest at the beginning of the year before resuming training. Jockey J.R. Ramirez has been working Stolis Winner at Sam Houston and will have the mount on Saturday, according to Windham.
"The horse is sound and has been training well," said Windham. "We just need some luck in having him get away from the gate without the ground breaking from under him. He's stayed at Sam Houston for the past ten days. We wanted him to get settled in and hopefully he will run well on Saturday."
Windham said that Stolis Winner may run at Remington Park if need be to get qualified for the Bank of America Challenge Championships at Los Alamitos on October, 29.
His competition will include 2010 Adequan Derby Challenge Champion Acorn, multiple graded stakes mare, XO Kate, The Louisiana Cartel, Shake Em Special Pop and Comin Thru, who defeated Stolis Winner in last year's Sam Houston Classic. The Judd Kearl-trainee was voted 2010 American Quarter Horse of the Meet last year at Sam Houston Race Park.
Kearl admits he will "never forget" the 2010 Sam Houston Classic, which took place on Friday, the 13th of August. Comin Thru, at odds of 7-1, won a photo finish over Point Of Deception for owner Mickey Tiner of Angleton, Texas. It was the fourth consecutive win at Sam Houston for the Texas-bred son of Separatist, who was ridden in each start by Rodrigo Vallejo.
"I remember the race like it was yesterday, said Kearl.”It was the only time I ever cried after a win. He proved he could handle 440 yards and it was such a thrill for Mickey and his family."
Trainer Janet VanBebber will saddle Acorn, who reached national prominence last year winning the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship at Fair Grounds. The four-year-old son of Oak Tree Special, bred and owned by Rose Mary Chandler of Luling, Texas, has won nine of his 14 lifetime starts.
"This will be the first time he has attempted 440 yards," said VanBebber, who has won five leading training titles in Houston. "He's coming off a brief rest, but is training well and doing great. I would have preferred to run him in trials, but think he's had two good works and likes the Sam Houston surface."
The 2011 American Quarter Horse continues through Sunday, May 15th with races every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Jakes Charming Jody Leads Finalists in the Sam Houston Maiden Classic
The finals of the $80,000 Sam Houston Maiden Classic will be run on Saturday night. Jakes Charming Jody, a three-year-old daughter of Jody O Toole was the fastest qualifier in trials run on March 11. Trained by Jorge Haddad, she won her trial in :17.742 for owner/ breeder Gary Kurz. Haddad also trains the second fastest qualifier, Ms Tnt, who was clocked in :17.829. He reports that both came out of their trials in good shape and are primed for top efforts in the 350 yard final.
"Both of the fillies came out of their races very well," said Haddad. "We schooled them in the gate yesterday and feel they are ready to run a good final."
Sam Houston leading rider David Alvarez will retain the mount aboard Jakes Charming Jody, who drew post position 10. Ms Tnt will be ridden by jockey Rodrigo Vallejo.
This will be a huge weekend for Haddad who will saddle 10 in Friday's trials for the Sam Houston Futurity and The Louisiana Cartel in the $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge.
"He ran a very good race in the open allowance on March 12," said Haddad of the four-year-old son of Corona Cartel.
Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings
David Alvarez continues to dominate in the jockey standings with 12 wins from 47 starts. Luis Vivanco is second with seven wins and Jerry Lee Yoakum follows closely with six victories. Luis Ramirez and Juan Torres are tied with four trips to the winner's circle.
Judd Kearl, who was the leading trainer at Sam Houston last summer, won four races to move into a tie for first place with Jorge Haddad. Both have five wins. Haddad saddled the top two qualifiers in trials for the $80,000 Sam Houston Maiden Classic on opening night of the meet and Kearl had a big night on Saturday as he qualified three mares for the $21,140 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge last Saturday. Juan Carlos Sauceda has three wins and Guy Hopkins, Abel Morin, Ben Garza, Heath Taylor and Fernando Velazquez each have two victories.
In the owner standings, Haddad tops the standings with four wins from seven starters. Mickey Tiner, Filimon Saucedo and Fernando Velazquez follow with two wins each.
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 email@example.com by March 25.
TICKETS ON SALE at Sam Houston Race Park
Friday nights will feature live Quarter Horse Racing, 50 Cent Beer and a post race concert as part of the 2011 Verizon Wireless Concert Series on the Bud Light Stage. The performers include, Reckless Kelly on April 8; Wade Bowen on April 15; Cody Canada & The Departed on April 22 and Mickey & The MotorCars on May 6. Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. Tickets are on sale now at www.shrp.com.
Additional special events are set for Saturday, April 2 when Sam Houston Race Park will host a BBQ Cook-Off with live music and a Crawfish Boil & Live Zydeco Band on April 16. The first Saturday of May will feature live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 137th Kentucky Derby with Mint Juleps and the annual Kentucky Derby Hat Contest. May 8th is Mother’s Day where a special brunch will feature $2 Bloody Marys and Mimosas. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Cirque Du Soleil Production OVO Continues Through March 27
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 from March 10 -27, 2011 under the Grand Chapiteau at Sam Houston Race Park. For ticket information visit www.shrp.com.