$109,500 Sam Houston Maiden Classic Highlights the Weekend Racing Action at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, April 12, 2017) - The weekend ahead at Sam Houston Race Park begins on Friday, April 14 with trials for the $197,700 Sam Houston Derby (G3). Live racing gets underway at 7:00 p.m., with the popular 50-cent Beer Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Saturday is Dollar Night, with $1 admission, live racing programs, hot dogs, soda and draft beer (from 4:30 -10:00 p.m). Saturday night's post time is 6:00 p.m., with two featured stakes: the $18,900 AQHA Texas Distance Challenge and $109,500 Sam Houston Maiden Classic.

Eight Trials for the $197,700 Sam Houston Derby on Friday Evening

The Friday evening card will feature eigh trials for the $197,700 Sam Houston Derby (G3). An array of talented juveniles and futurity champions will begin their three-year-old campaigns in the 350-yard trials.

The first trial, to be run as the second race of the card, feature a contentious group, including Je and Thee, the fastest qualifier to the 2016 Sam Houston Futurity, as well as Desdemona Rambler, who ran third for trainer Brian Stroud in the Sam Houston Futurity before winning the Dash For Cash Juvenile at Lone Star Park. So Rapido, a Corona Cartel colt trained by Judd Kearl, makes his three-year-old debut after qualifying to the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park. 

Platinum Fdd, winner of last July's $272,000 Firecracker Futurity at Delta Downs, runs in the seventh race.  Conditioned by Eusevio Huitron, the son of First Down Dash will reunite with jockey Damian Martinez.

The final trial will also feature two notable contenders. Texas horseman Jose Sanchez will saddle Jess Call Me Carter, winner of the $540,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) last April for owner Joel Tipton. The gelded son of Carters Cartel has not run since last May at Ruidoso Downs but has posted several solid works for his return. Breaking from the far outside post is One Sweet Merlot, winner of the John Deere Juvenile Retama Challenge for Kearl last August. 

Both Kearl and Sanchez are well represented in Friday's trials. Kearl leads all conditioners with 14 trial entrants, and Sanchez will saddle six.

The ten fastest qualifiers will return for the final on Saturday, April 29; the same night as the running of the $483,600 Sam Houston Futurity (G2). 

The $109,500 Sam Houston Maiden Classic to be Contested Saturday Night 

The ten fastest qualifiers from 11 trials on Friday, April 1 will return to action Saturday evening in the $109,500 Sam Houston Maiden Classic. 

The fifth trial of the evening produced the fastest qualifier when Streamlyner, a three-year-old colt by Brimmerton out of the Corona Cartel mare Allamerican Corona, covered 350 yards in :17.572. Bred by AQHA champion breeder Bobby D. Cox, Streamlyner was making his sixth career start for owner Gilbert Morales. Jockey Luis Vivanco was in complete control, drawing off by 2 1/4 lengths. He is trained by Jorge Luis Barrera and will break from the rail as the 5-2 choice.

Hotscotch N Courage, a three-year-old daughter of Captain Courage owned and bred by Pamela S. Stone, broke her maiden impressively in the eleventh trial. Making just her second start, she closed powerfully from her outside post under Francisco Calderon in :17.648. The bay filly is conditioned by Leon Bard, who won last year's Sam Houston Maiden Classic with fastest qualifier, Kid Can Dash.

"This filly was very immature as a two-year-old," said Bard. "She was not ready to compete in any of the futurities. After her race at Lone Star (on October 20), I told Pam that we needed to turn her out and just let her be a horse."

Bard was pleased with her trial win and reports that she came out of the race in good order.

"She's doing well, and I like her draw, but that Streamlyner will be tough in the final," added Bard.

The Sam Houston Maiden Classic will run as the eighth race on Saturday's card.

Distance Specialists to Compete in the $18,900 AQHA Texas Distance Challenge

The $18,900 AQHA Texas Distance Challenge will feature six impressive American Quarter Horse distance specialists competing at the distance of 870 yards.

EC Cartel, owned by Alejandra Carrion and trained by Kearlwill make his fourth appearance in this stakes. The eight-year-old Tinys First Corona gelding was bred in Texas by Enrique Carrion and has won six of his 18 "hook" races. Jockey Donell Blake, who piloted Fire on the Fly to victory in last year's edition of the race, has the mount and will break from post position two as the 9-5 morning line favorite. He rode the talented veteran to victory in the AQHA Distance Challenge at Lone Star on October 1.

Drawing the enviable rail post position is Bet I Make U Famous, owned by Vernon Harman and Robert Moudy, III. Trainer Trey Ellis will saddle the five-year-old son of One Famous Eagle. Alfonso Lujan rode the sorrel gelding to a second-place finish in the Marathon Stakes on January 7 at Louisiana Downs.

"This will be his first start at Sam Houston," said Ellis, who will stable Bet I Make U Famous in his good friend Kearl's barn this weekend. "He drew a great post for this race and has always been a consistent runner for us."

The Field Cricket, ran second in the 2013 and 2014 AQHA Texas Distance Challenge Championship for owner Claud Denson. He is the highest earner in the field with $171,797 in 50 career starts. Jesse Yoakum will saddle the nine-year-old, who will be ridden by his son, Jerry Lee. Yoakum also trains Brookstone Dash, making his 870-yard stakes debut under rider Damian Martinez.

The field also includes Stolis Pro, bred and owned by Jerry Windham, who was last year's runner-up in this feature, and Ty Remington's multiple-stakes winner Jess Twice Cash.

The winner of the AQHA Texas Distance Challenge will earn a berth to the $105,000 Distance Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows on October 14.

Judd Kearl and Luis Vivanco Top Standings at Sam Houston Race Park

Trainer Judd Kearl is off to a fast start in the 2017 Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet with 10 wins. He has won seven Sam Houston leading trainer titles to date. Leon Bard has some very nice runners in his barn and is second in the standings with five wins and a sizzling 71 percentof his starters hitting the board. Angel Sanchez, who has two Sam Houston training titles, is third with four victories.

Luis Vivanco leads all riders with 10 wins. The 34-year-old rider won five races on the April 1 card. He has been honored as Sam Houston Race Park leading rider four times, including last year when he finished in a tie with Rodrigo Vallejo. Another rider to watch is Francisco Calderon, who qualified three runners to the Sam Houston Futurity. He has made eight trips to the winner's circle, with Vallejo rounding out the top three with seven wins since the meet commenced on March 31.

Pete A. Scarmardo has won two races and the three-time leading Sam Houston Race Park owner shares the lead with Holly Hooper, Filimon Saucedo, Paragon Farms, LLC, Shirley Richardson and Pete and Greta Guerra as we head into the third week of the racing season.

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