Distance Specialists Set for the $23,895 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge on Saturday, April 16 at Sam Houston Race Park

(Wednesday, April 13, 2011) - A field of seven American Quarter Horse distance specialists will compete in the $23,895 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge, the 870-yard feature race on the Saturday, April 16 race card at Sam Houston Race Park.

Blue Ribbon Dash, the 10-year-old owned and bred in Texas by Donna Mushinski and trained by her husband, Kie, will try to replicate his winning effort from 2009. He won the Red Cell Texas Challenge and represented the region in the Red Cell Distance Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos. The gelded son of First Place Dash will be making his 56th career start and will break from post position three under rider Luis Vivanco. Trainer Mushinski continues to see a spirited, competitive fire in the veteran.

"He still wants to race and is training well," said Mushinski. "In the mornings, he is out there jumping, playing and trying to kick at other horses."

Mushinski hopes that his charge will win on Saturday and make a return visit to Los Alamitos on October 29.

"The competition on a national basis may not be as tough this year as we faced two years ago", commented the trainer on facing both Snowbound Superstar and Gone to the Mountain in 2009.

His rivals in the Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge include Cat Five Storm, a four-year-old daughter of Panther Mountain. She will break from the coveted rail post and has won two of her last three races at Louisiana Downs for trainer Oscar Lopez. Sam Houston's top conditioner, Judd Kearl will saddle Feature Showtime, a four-year-old owned and bred by Mickey Tiner. This will be the first 870 yard start for Feature Showtime, who will be ridden by leading Sam Houston jockey, David Alvarez. Trainer Larry Kopycinski will run Bugs Main Feature, who is winless at Sam Houston, but has won two of his three career starts since he began competing in 870 yard races.

Live racing resumes Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday's card gets underway at 7:00 p.m. as well. Post time for the Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge, which will run as the ninth race, is 10:28 p.m. (CT).

Thrill of a Lifetime for Owner of $600,000 Sam Houston Futurity Winner Jess Tee Off

Last Saturday night, the highly talented Jess Tee Off won the richest race of the Sam Houston American Quarter Horse season, the $600,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G2). Her owner, Ruben Garcia of LB Ranch LLC in Mission, Texas, continues to savor the exhilarating victory by his two-year-old, who was trained by Kearl and ridden by Rodrigo Vallejo.

"It still feels like a dream," said Garcia. "Maybe it wasn't the All American Futurity, but to me, it was just as special."

Garcia admits to being a tad superstitious and did not come to Houston to watch the third-fastest qualifier in the final. Instead, he and his wife, Elizabeth, surrounded by friends and family, watched the race on TVG from their home in Edinburg, Texas.

He gives credit to many people beginning with his friends Ben Garza and Jose Lopez, Jr. who spotted the son of Tres Seis out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Jess Linda Tee at the Ruidoso Sale.

Garcia made a correction on the $11,000 sale price for Jess Tee Off that Garza mentioned in the post race interview.

"He was thinking of the other horse we bought in the sale," said Garcia. "We paid $7,700 for Jess Tee Off."

His investment resulted in a winning paycheck of $240,000; but the excitement and prestige of the race were just as meaningful to Garcia as the financial gain.

Jess Tee Off is the first horse Kearl has trained for Garcia and the owner is effusive in his praise of both Kearl and Vallejo.

"I have had good horses in the past, but never in the hands of such a capable trainer," acknowledged Garcia. "Judd did an awesome job taking care of him and bringing him back from the trials. Rodrigo and I go back many years and he has been impressed with this horse since his schooling race in Edinburg."

Winning a six-figure futurity has been an eye-opening experience for Garcia. He has already fielded offers for Jess Tee Off, but for now, the horse will remain in Texas and prepare for the $1 million Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park in November.

"This experience has changed my perspective on owning a racehorse," said Garcia. I knew he had talent, but to see the heart of a champion was incredible."

Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings

David Alvarez remains the leader the jockey standings with 22 wins from 107 starts. Luis Vivanco made five trips to the winner's circle last week and is second with 17 wins. Luis Ramirez follows closely with 14 victories and Jerry Lee Yoakum is next with 13 wins.

Judd Kearl, is in pursuit of his fourth leading trainer title at Sam Houston and is the current leader with 12 wins. With the victory in the $600,000 Sam Houston Futurity, Kearl is the leading money earner with $359,883 in purses. Jorge Haddad, who is also having an excellent meet, is second with 10 victories. John Buchanan moved into third place with seven victories and James Gerhards is next with six wins. Heath Taylor, Abel Morin, Juan Carlos Sauceda and Angel Sanchez are tied with five wins each.

In the owner standings, Haddad tops the standings with eight wins from 22 starters. Bobby Cox and A.D. Maddox are tied for second with five victories each and Richard McGehee and Sherrie and JB Morace are also tied with four wins each.

Kentucky Derby Contenders to Run Saturday at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland

With the unexpected loss of Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo in last weekend's Wood Memorial, the 137th Run for the Roses is wide open. Sam Houston Race Park will simulcast the final two prep races for the 2011 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, April 16. Oaklawn Park will host the Grade 1, $1 Million Arkansas Derby with a field to include Bob Baffert's main Derby contender, The Factor. Others expected in the mile and one-eighth Arkansas Derby are Archarcharch, Caleb’s Posse, Nehro and Sway Away.

The Keeneland polytrack will be the final test for a full field in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. Santiva, the Risen Star winner, has been installed as the 3-1 morning-line choice. Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out three runners: Sensational Slam, Queen’splatekitten and Praetereo in the 87th running of the Blue Grass.

Lone Star Park Kicks of 2011 Thoroughbred Meet on Thursday, April 14

Thoroughbred racing returns to Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie on Thursday, April 14 and continues through July 10. The meet begins with the traditional running of the $50,000 Premiere Stakes with Coyote Legend, from the barn of Bret Calhoun, installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite. Jockeys Quincy Hamilton and Lindey Wade, who finished in a tie for the leading rider title at Sam Houston Race Park, both have mounts on opening night.

Wade Bowen in Concert This Friday at Sam Houston Race Park

Weekend nights will feature Live Quarter Horse Racing and a post race concert as part of the 2011 Verizon Wireless Concert Series on the Bud Light Stage. The performers include Wade Bowen this Friday, April 15; Cody Canada & The Departed on April 22; Eddie Money on April 23; Mark McKinney on April 29; Mickey & The MotorCars on May 6 and Brandon Rhyder on May 13. Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show.
ESPN Radio Presents Inaugural “Undie 500 Run.” This Saturday will feature the inaugural “Undie 500 Run” presented by ESPN Radio as 20 grown men take to the starting gate in a 30 yard dash wearing nothing but boxer shorts! The winner of the “Undie 500” will be decided after the 7th race with and approximate post time of 9:36 p.m. and will win an all expenses paid trip to the Indianapolis 500.

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 which marks the return of the extremely popular Wiener Dog Races, a special post time of 1:00 p.m. and brunch featuring $2 Bloody Marys and Mimosas. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.

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