Trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic Kick Off the 2015 American Quarter Horse Meet at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Tuesday, March 24, 2015) - The 2015 American Quarter Horse racing season at Sam Houston Race Park gets underway on Friday, March 27. Opening weekend for the 24-day meet will be action-packed with live racing, entertaining promotions and the Josh Abbott Band kicking off the 2015 Post Race Concert Series.

Opening night will honor the men and women who serve our country with Military Appreciation Night, offering FREE admission for military with valid ID. The festivities will include a live National Anthem performance by R&B Recording Artist Odell Grey, and the colors presented by the United States Marine Corps Color Guard.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m., with the popular 50 cent Beer Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Live racing gets underway at 7:00 p.m., and fans will enjoy the second mascot race this season, with Sam Houston mascot SAM going for the win!

Each of the 12 races on Friday evening are 350-yard trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic. The fastest ten qualifiers will advance to the final on Saturday, April 11.

Multiple Stakes Winners to Compete in Trials Saturday Night for the Bank of America Texas Challenge

There are 17 stakes on the 2015 American Quarter Horse Stakes schedule, and Sam Houston Race Park will once again participate in the Bank of America Racing Challenge, the richest and most successful program in American Quarter Horse racing today. On Saturday night, there will be two trials for $100,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1), and several notable runners will compete at the "classic" distance of 440 yards for one of ten spots in the final.

The first trial, to be run as race seven, drew six runners, including two from the barn of Leslie Padilla. Texas Classic Derby champion Lil Famous Dash will break from post position six under last year's leading rider, Rodrigo Vallejo. Owned and bred by Scarlett Hill Farm LLC, the four-year-old mare will make her Sam Houston debut on Saturday night. Kathleen O. Matey's homebred Pyro ran second in the 2015 Bank of America Texas Challenge and ships to Houston fresh off a stakes win on March 3 at Hialeah Park.

Trainer Rolando Almarza will saddle Daytona B, a four-year-old son of First Down Dash who ran second in the 2015 Sam Houston Derby last April. He qualified for the Adequan Derby Challenge last September at Prairie Meadows and won the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship on October 18. The powerful Texas-bred, owned by Gregorio Garcia Garza, ships to Houston off a two-race win streak at Hialeah Park near Miami, and is currently ranked fifth on the weekly AQHA/ Top Ten Poll.

"He handled the trip to Hialeah real well," said his conditioner. "All we want on Saturday night is for him to qualify, but this horse always gives his all. His big advantage is the way he breaks from the starting gate."

In the second trial, multiple-stakes winner The Lizzard King, Ajax Downs shipper Feature My News and Big Dashing Perry top the seven-horse field. Bobby Martinez trains Big Dashing Perry, a four-year-old son of Mr Jess Perry owned by Grant Farms LLC, Tommy Hays and Bobby Barnett. He won the Firecracker Futurity in 2013 and had a strong campaign last year, posting the fastest qualifying time in the $1.9 million All American Derby (G1) at Ruidoso Downs, and finishing fourth in the final. Martinez will give a leg up to jockey Saul Ramirez, Jr. in the second trial.

"He's doing well," said Martinez. "We were hoping to have a little more time to get him ready for the Bank of America. Our goal is to just get him qualified on Saturday night."

The ten fastest qualifiers will return for the final on April 18 and the winner will represent Sam Houston Race Park in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship.

Full Field Set for the $20,000 Harris County Stakes on March 28

The first stakes of the Quarter Horse racing season is the 550-yard Harris County Stakes. A full field will compete on Saturday night, with The Field Cricket installed at odds of 3-1. Claud R. Denson owns the seven-year-old Texas-bred, who has won nine of his 33 career starts. In 2014, he captured the $39,000 Red Cell Distance Challenge at Lone Star Park. Trainer Jesse Yoakum has given the mount to Luis Vivanco, who will break from post position seven.

Trainer Kie Mushinski was pleased with the runner-up effort of will saddle the entry of Corona La Jolla and Sophies Special in the Harris County Stakes. Both are owned by Kie's wife, Donna. Corona La Jolla, an 870-yard distance specialist, was the runner-up in this feature last year, and will be ridden by Alfonso Lujan.

"He's more of an 870-yard horse, but he's sound and can compete at 550," said Mushinski. "I was pleased to get Alfonso; he's as good as they come."

Sophies Special, a six-year-old mare, posted a career-best Speed Index of 107 last November at Lone Star Park.

"She put up a good number in that 550 yard race at Lone Star and deserves a shot in stakes company," commented her trainer.

Last year's edition of the Harris County Stakes was the beginning of a remarkable journey for Dana and Brian Stroud. The couple owned and trained JRC Callas First, who was a dominating three-length winner under rider Damian Martinez. The Texas-bred son of Winners Award followed that victory up with a relentless 2015 campaign, winning seven stakes in a row, culminating with a victory in the $150,000 Zia Park Championship.

On January 21, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) announced their 2014 Champions, and Jrc Callas First received the highest honor: AQHA World Champion. It was a proud moment for the Texas couple.

"I almost fell backwards into the plant," admitted Dana. "We never dreamed we would own a world champion, but he just kept improving. Brian doesn't like to boast, but I think after he won the Refrigerator (at Lone Star Park), he knew how special our horse was."

Jrc Callas First had a small chip removed from his knee and is swimming his way back to health with the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic on May 9 on the radar.

Josh Abbott Band Opens Spring Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park

The 2015 American Quarter Horse Meet will feature the entertaining post-race concert series announce the 2015 Post Race Concert Series on the Bud Light stage, will take place most Saturdays beginning on March 28 and concluding on May 16. These live performances are free with $7 live racing admission before 8:00 p.m., and $20 after 8:00 p.m. Tickets purchased on line in advance are just $14 for after 8:00 p.m. entry. The following performers will follow the last of 10 Quarter Horse races each evening.

March 28 - Josh Abbott Band
April 11 - Easton Corbin
April 18 - Roger Creager
May 1 - Jason Boland and the Stragglers
May 9 - Casey Donahew Band
May 16 - Cody Johnson* - Special Concert on Preakness Day also featuring Cory Morrow and Gary P. Nunn (*This concert will start at 6:00 p.m.)

Tickets are available online at, at participating Houston-area Randalls locations, or by calling 800-211-3381.

Post times for the 2015 Quarter Horse Meet are set for Thursday and Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Special 1:00 p.m. post times are set for Saturday, May 2 (Kentucky Derby); Sunday, May 10, (Mother's Day); and Saturday, May 16,( Preakness), the final day of the meet.

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