Heza Bell Perry
Alluring Lil Menace and Heza Bell Perry Win the First Two Stakes of the 2017 Quarter Horse Meet at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Friday, March 31, 2017) - It was an action-packed opening night of the Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse meet, with two AQHA world champions running on the nine-race program. Alluring Lil Menace won the first stakes of the 2017 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse meet, the $20,000 Miss Sam Houston Stakes, and Heza Bell Perry drew off in the $20,000 Harris County Stakes.

Alluring Lil Menace Tops Eight Fillies in the $20,000 Miss Sam Houston Stakes

The first stakes of the Quarter Horse racing season was the 350-yard Miss Sam Houston Stakes for accredited Texas-bred fillies and mares. Nine runners were entered, with Alluring Lil Menace closing gamely for the victory. The four-year-old daughter of Specially Alluring is owned by Almada Racing and trained by Josue Ponce.

Jockey Luciano Duenez picked up the mount, originally assigned to Manuel Gutierrez, and drew to a neck win over the field's top money-earner Barefoot Beach. It was the first stakes win for the 21-year-old rider, who was grinning ear to ear in the winner's circle.

"Thank the Lord for everything and to (2016 Sam Houston leading jockey) Luis Vivanco for teaching me how to ride," said Duenez. "I appreciate Josue Ponce letting me ride this great filly. She stood good in the gates and was really coming at the end."

This was the fifth win from 10 starts for Alluring Lil Menace, who covered 330 yards in :16.653 seconds into a 12 mph head wind. Sent off as the third betting choice, she paid $9.60 for the win. AQHA champion trainer Judd Kearl completed the superfecta with Barefoot Beach, Honey Ryder B, and Political Dynasty.

Heza Bell Perry Convincing Winner in the $20,000 Harris County Stakes

Closing out the opening night racing program was the 550-yard Harris County Stakes. Favoritism went to 2014 AQHA World Champion Jrc Callas First, but it was Heza Bell Perry who powered home for the victory.

The six-year-old son of Heza Fast Dash was making his 26th career start and first at Sam Houston Race Park. Stakes-placed in Louisiana for his owner and trainer Javier Noel Contreras, he closed powerfully under rider Alfonso Lujan, winning by 1 3/4 lengths in :27.212. The Louisiana-bred gelding earned a 107 speed index.

"He left good and really accelerated," said Lujan. "He got a little tired at the end, but ran an honest race. I'd like to thank Javier for all his hard work; he had him ready, and he ran an outstanding race."

"We decided today was the day to try 550 yards," said Contreras. "He beat some very good horses."

Corona La Jolla, under Rodrigo Vallejo, ran second, followed by Super Sonic and Stolis Pro. Jrc Callas First, who won the 2014 edition of this stakes, finished sixth for trainer Brian Stroud.

Heza Bell Perry ($9.00) will return in the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2), according to Contreras.

Dutcher Fastest Qualifier to the Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship

Two trials were contested this evening to determine the ten fastest qualifiers for the $103,320 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2).

Trainer Judd Kearl and rider Rodrigo Vallejo won both trials, with Dutcher ($5.00) setting the fastest time of :21.429 in the second trial. The five-year-old was bred in Louisiana by Jumonville Farms, who owns the son of Apollitical Jess in partnership with Brian Ranch.

"I've had him since January, and he ran a nice race out there tonight," said Kearl.

2016 Sam Houston Derby winner, Rogelio Garza Guarardo's TLC Dale, ran second in that trial, notching the second-fastest time of :21.627 under Damian Martinez.

Jessies First Down ($2.60) won the first trial, covering 440 yards in :21.639 seconds. The six-year-old son of Fdd Dynasty is owned by Ted G. Abrams, Sr. and was honored as 2016 AQHA World Champion.

"He looked good in his first race back," said Abrams. "That was a stiff wind they were running into."

The ten fastest qualifiers will return for the final on April 16. The winner will represent Sam Houston Race Park in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), which will take place on October 14 at Prairie Meadows.

Trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic on Saturday, April 1

Each of the 12 races on Saturday, April 1, are trials for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic. The fastest ten qualifiers of the 350-yard trials will advance to the final on Saturday, April 15. Last year's winner was the fastest qualifier, Pete Scarmardo's homebred Kid Can Dash, a three-year-old son of Down N Dash, trained by Leon Bard and ridden to victory by Francisco Calderon.

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