|Three Divisions of the Texas Twister to Be Contested on Friday, April 20 at Sam Houston Race Park
(Houston, Texas, Wednesday, April 18, 2012) - The $15,000 Texas Twister, at 110 yards, returns for its fourth renewal on Friday, April 20 at Sam Houston Race Park. The popularity of the super sprint stakes resulted in three divisions, which will be run as the sixth, seventh and eighth races of the Friday night card.
Eric Johnston, vice president of racing, tested the waters in 2009, and the Texas Twister, in which the contenders battle to the finish line in less than seven seconds, continues to attract record nominations.
"The race has been well-received by horsemen every year," said Johnston. "All three divisions have full fields of very talented runners, and we look forward to showcasing these exciting stakes on Friday evening."
One of the two winners from last year will return to defend her title. Executive Tone won the first stakes of her career last April in the 2011 Texas Twister and is entered in the seventh race. The 5-year-old daughter of Executive Menace is trained by Juan Saucedo and owned by his father, Filimon. The Texas-bred mare is a true "horse for the course" at Sam Houston with five wins from six starts. She will be making her first start since last May under rider Eleazar Rivera Hernandez.
Eleazar has been galloping her and she has been doing great. "The main goal is to keep her settled in the gate as she tends to get anxious. But when she is calm, she always runs well."
Saucedo also has high hopes for Texas Kool, who drew the outside post in the first of the three Texas Twister stakes. Owned by Marina Nino, the 4-year-old son of First N Kool concluded 2011 with back-to-back victories at Lone Star Park.
"He set the track record for the distance of 100 yards," noted Saucedo of his victory on October 29 when Texas Kool blazed to the wire in :6.210 seconds.
Top earners entered in the Texas Twister include Charal Kid, a multiple stakes winner from the barn of Eusevio Huitron who has bankrolled $435,819 in his prior 39 starts and Silver for Me, winner of the 2011 Ruidoso Futurity. The Leon Bard trainee defeated eventual All American Futurity winner Ochoa in that stakes last June. Silver For Me has earned $267,849 and will be ridden by Jose Alvarez in Friday's sixth race.
Other contenders include 2011 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes winner, Massima, bred, owned and trained by Jorge Haddad and Shineys Magic T, who will shorten up from his 550-yard stakes win last month in the Ricoh Stakes for trainer Jesse Yoakum.
$35,400 TQHA Claiming Derby Highlights the Saturday Night Card
Fastest qualifier Firstprizegol returns to action on Saturday night in the finals of the $35,400 TQHA Claiming Derby. Sam Houston Race Park hosted trials for the 350-yard stakes on April 5 and the Texas-bred son of Gol to Go was clocked at :17.633 under rider Carlos Castro. It was a valiant comeback race for Firstprizegol, owned by Jose Farias and trained by Cleto Martinez, Jr., who had not run since August 25 at Retama Park.
The trials lived up to their "claiming" title as three of the ten fastest qualifiers were claimed for $7,500 and will race for new owners in the final.
Second-fastest qualifier Ocean Bank (:17.739) was ridden by Alfonso Lujan and was claimed by Juan Manuel and Laura Vidal. Fourth-fastest qualifier Winning on My Mind was claimed by Douglas O. Taylor and will be saddled by Judd Kearl on Saturday. Parlay Azoom, the fifth-fastest qualifier was claimed by owner/trainer Don R. Poteet.
The winner will receive a check for $14,160, which is a healthy return on the $7,500 claim investment, and one of the reasons the Texas Quarter Horse Association (TQHA) created the derby.
"Our claiming futurity was very popular," explains Rob Werstler, TQHA racing director. "If you spot the right horse, you can be rewarded with a nice payday. It gives the owners an opportunity to qualify for a derby early in the year."
The winning owner who made the nomination will receive $1,000 from TQHA which might take a little sting out of seeing his or her claimed horse win a $35,400 stake.
The TQHA Claiming Derby will run as the ninth race of Saturday's 11-race card with an estimated post time of 10:28 p.m.
Promotions and Concert Series Set at Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park will offer a variety of promotions for the 2012 Quarter Horse meet. Every Thursday features free admission for all racing fans Upcoming events include the popular Crawfish Boil on April 28; live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 138th Kentucky Derby with Mint Juleps and the annual Kentucky Derby Hat Contest on May 5, a special Sunday live racing program in honor of Mother's Day on May 13 and live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19.
The 2012 Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park will take place on the Bud Light Stage and will feature artists performing on Friday and Saturday nights following live quarter horse racing. Ticket prices begin at $10 and can be purchased at shrp.com.
The performers are:
Friday, April 20 - Cory Morrow with Amanda Nagurney
Saturday, April 28 - The Outlaws with Whiskey Myers
Saturday, May 12 - Bob Schneider with Honeybrowne
Friday, May 18 - Roger Creager with The Jeff Boortz Band
Saturday, May 19 - 38 Special with Blackberry Smoke & Folk Family Revival
Big Weekend for Cindi and Toby Keeton
Although there are millions of working couples who juggle family and career demands, few could match the recent whirlwind of activity of Cindi and Toby Keeton. Toby, who has been one of the top trainers at Sam Houston Race Park since 1994, is overseeing his horses at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, entrusting the Houston string to Cindi. She has done an admirable job, and the weekend of April 14 -15 is one the Keetons will not soon forget.
On Saturday, April 14, Cindi had a banner night with her fillies at Sam Houston Race Park. In spite of a threatening storm front that brought winds of 32 mph, Keeton remained in total control and won two of the four stakes on the card. Her victories included a game effort by Charmin Chief Corona in the $180,900 Sam Houston Derby (G3) and the $25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stake with Rightamountofwrong. In addition, she ran second with another talented filly, Thequeenhasgonenuts in the $487,700 Sam Houston Futurity (G2).
The following morning, she boarded a flight to El Paso to join Toby as he scored a huge stakes win with El Duero in the $217,147 West Texas Futurity (G1) at Sunland Park. The son of Oak Tree Special, who was bred by Jorge Haddad, was the sixth-fastest qualifier in trials, but his victory was no surprise to the Keetons.
"Toby really liked the colt," said Cindi. "In the trials he joked that the horse went and got a hot dog, but we knew when he broke on top in the final that he could win."
It was a nice reunion for the couple who have not been able to spend much time together for the past two months. Toby acknowledged last week that his wife was doing "a wonderful job" with the Houston Quarter Horses. The Keetons celebrated their first anniversary on November 21.
"Toby was very proud of me for my hard work," admitted Cindi.
Next up for many of the Keeton trainees, including Thequeenhasgonenuts, is the $1 million Heritage Place Futurity (G1) at Remington Park, with trials set for May 4-5 and the final on Saturday, May 26. The Sam Houston Race Park live racing season wraps up on May 19, so Cindi will be able to join Toby in Oklahoma City for the conclusion of the Remington Park meet.
First Grade 1 Victory for Trainer Jonathan Castaneda
Kool Country Man ran a career best race on April 14, winning the $100,620 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1). Confidently ridden by Alfonso Lujan, the 4-year-old son of Country Chicks Man, bred by Ramiro Lopez and Bob Gaston, took the lead in the 440-yard stakes and held off a determined charge by Giorgino.
It was the first stakes win for the Texas-bred gelding owned by Jose Socorro Vera Jr. and the first Grade 1 win for his 23-year-old trainer Jonathan Castaneda. The Houston-based conditioner won the $19,000 TQHA Sires' Cup Stakes last August at Retama Park with Jess Navigating.
"It was a great feeling," said Castaneda about winning the Bank of America Texas Challenge. "This horse had always run well in trials, but never came back as good in the finals."
Castaneda reports that Kool Country Man came out of the race in good order and was nominated to the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2) on May 5.
"We might be looking at the Sam Houston Classic and running one more time in Houston," said Castaneda.
Kool Country Man will advance to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows on October, 27. Sam Houston Race Park will run four other regional qualifying races for the Bank of America Racing Challenge including the $22,500 Red Cell Texas Distance Challenge on April 28; the $21,870 Pfizer Starter Allowance Challenge on May 12; $28,800; the Merial Distaff Challenge on May 13 and the $35,000 Adequan Texas Derby Challenge on May 19, the final day of the 2012 Quarter Horse meet.
One additional highlight of the Grade 1 win is that Kool Country Man joined the AQHAHorseplayernow.com National Poll. Cold Cash 123 is the leader in the 2012 national poll for older horses. Kool Country Man, the winner of Saturday night's Bank of America Texas Challenge (G1) received votes from the pollsters and was ranked seventh. Voting on the nation's top 2-year-olds will begin in May. Weekly results can be found on the American Quarter Horse Association's racing page, aqha.com.
Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings
Judd Kearl, who has four leading trainer titles at Sam Houston, continues to dominate the standings with 18 wins from 64 starts through the fourth week of the meet. The Utah native, who is now based in Madisonville, Texas has built a substantial lead over his fellow conditioners. Eusevio Huitron, who won the Sam Houston Futurity last weekend with Sassmaster, is tied for second with Michael Wakefield. Both have six wins. Jorge Haddad and Cindi Keeton follow closely with five victories and Jesse Yoakum, Angel Sanchez and Brian Stroud have each saddled four winners.
Rodrigo Vallejo, who rides first call for Kearl, has edged to a clear lead over his fellow riders with 17 wins from 62 mounts. Last year's leading rider Luis Vivanco and Francisco Raul Ramirez, Jr. are tied for second with 11 victories each. J.R. Ramirez, who won back-to-back riding titles here in 2002 and 2003, has 10 wins and David Alvarez is tied with Jerry Lee Yoakum with eight victories each.
The most competitive battle for meet ending honors belongs to the owners. There are seven owners tied for the lead with five weeks remaining this season. A. D. Maddox, J.B. and Sherrie Morace, Bobby Cox, Jack Manning, Gary Kurz, Filimon Saucedo and Betty and Lynn Bettinger, Sr. are tied for the lead with three wins to date.
$200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland this Saturday is the Final Prep for the Kentucky Derby
Just three weeks remain until the 138th Kentucky Derby, and the consensus is this could be the most wide-open Run for the Roses in decades. Keeneland will host the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes with a full field of 11 to compete in Saturday's 31st running of the grade 3 stakes. Prominent contenders include Castaway, News Pending and Golden Ticket will compete in the mile and one-sixteenth stakes with first place money of $120,000 to be awarded to the Coolmore Lexington Stakes victor.
Sam Houston Race Park will simulcast the entire card from Keeneland as well as racetracks across the country. For more information on opening days, post times and key stakes races, visit shrp.com.