Fastest Qualifier Ivan James Wins the $621,100 Sam Houston Futurity

(Houston, Texas - Saturday, April 25, 2015) - The finals of the richest race of the 2015 Quarter Horse Meeting, the $621,100 Sam Houston Futurity (G2), took place tonight at Sam Houston Race Park. The honors went to the fastest qualifier, Ivan James.

The son of Ivory James out of the Dashin Bye mare First Dashin Bye is bred and owned by Jorge Meraz of Bastrop, Texas. Breaking from post position five under rider Raul Ramirez, Jr., the bay colt led gate-to wire, drawing off to a 1 ¼ length victory. He covered 330 yards in :16.701, faster than his maiden-breaking trial win in :16.748.

Trained by Angel Sanchez, Ivan James now posts a perfect two-for two career record and earned $248,440 this evening.

"Fast horses make it so easy," said Ramirez. "The first time I worked him, I knew he was special. He just keeps getting better and better. Angel is a pretty good horseman, and has a great team."

Meraz also bred Ivan James and as well as Miss Aguilar, a Tres Seis filly who finished fourth. He was joined by family and friends, but took a minute to acknowledge Ivan James' dam, First Dashin Bye.

"First Dashin Bye was very special," said Meraz. "I think her son will be the same! We plan to run him in the Firecracker Futurity and then the Texas Classic Futurity."

Ivan James was sent off as the favorite and returned $3.80 for the win. This is a Deal, a Dealagame gelding owned and bred by Pete Scarmardo, ran second, followed by tenth-fastest qualifier Ec Jet One and Miss Aguilar.

This was the first Sam Houston Futurity title for Sanchez, who served as assistant to Duane Hartsell when he won the 2002 title with Shiney Sign. It was also the first win in the prestigious race for the 33-year-old Ramirez. His brother Saul won the 1994 edition of the race aboard A Touch of Victory, as well as the 2010 Sam Houston Futurity with Sixes Liaison. Their cousin, J. R. Ramirez was victorious in 2002 on Shiney Sign.

This is the largest purse for the Sam Houston Futurity since its first running in 1994, with the winner receiving $248,440. The previous highest purse was $600,000 in 2011. This year's champion will join a noted list of the Sam Houston Futurity, which includes 2014 AQHA Champion Two-Year-Old Kiss My Hocks (2014) and Azoom. who won 11 races in 2004. Other notable winners include Snowy Alibi, Sassmaster and Jess Tee Off.

Moonin The Eagle Dominates in the $203,300 Sam Houston Derby (G3)

Seven trials were run on April 3 for the $203,300 Sam Houston Derby (G3). The-final trial produced the fastest time of the evening with a sharp effort from Moonin The Eagle, who cleared his rivals by three lengths, covering 350 yards in :17.310, just off the track record of :17.238.

The striking gray son of One Famous Eagle returned in fine form this evening under Esgar Ramirez, powering to victory in :17.306, almost three lengths ahead of runner-up Volcoms Thunder. He earned a 104 speed index this evening.

"He's just an amazing horse," said Ramirez. "He is so professional; just waits for the gate to open and does it so easily."

This was the fourth consecutive win for the colt, who shipped to Houston off a successful meet at Hialeah Park, highlighted by a victory in the South Florida Derby on March 1. He is owned by Gregario Garcia Garza and was bred in California by the Vessels Stallion Farm LLC. Trainer Rolando Almanza had high praise for his runner.

"I thought he would do well, but he was really good," said Almanza. "Esgar was wonderful, and I thank my owners for believing in me and giving me such good horses."

Volcoms Thunder, the fifth-fastest qualifier in trials, overcame a tough break to finish second, with Glimpse of Dash, runner-up to Kiss My Hocks in last year's Sam Houston Futurity (G2), running third.

The conditioner was unsure of the next start for Moonin the Eagle, feeling that he deserved a rest following the ambitious campaign at Hialeah and in Houston.

"I have to talk it over with Greg, but I would really like to send him to Ruidoso for the All American Derby," said Almanza. "That would be a dream come true."

Empty Arms Pulls the Upset in the $50,000 Sam Houston Juvenile

The $50,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes kicked off the stakes action on Saturday evening. The stakes featured American Quarter Horses that competed in trials for the Sam Houston Futurity on April 4, but missed the cut-off time of :17.085 seconds.

Empty Arms broke like a rocket under Santos Carrizales, powering to the wire in :17.065. Trained by Leon Bard for owner Pete Scarmardo, the Oklahoma-bred daughter of Tac It Like a Man, broke her maiden in style. Purchased by Scarmardo for $11,000 at the Ruidoso Select Sale, she rewarded her backers with a win payout of $55.40.

"Leon told me the filly was doing better than in the trials and she would surprise us," said Carrizales.

Bard saw her potential when she began training at Retama Park.

"She was an excitable, fractious filly that just needed to get her act together," said Bard.

Scarmardo was proud of Empty Arms and reported that she is paid into several futurities at Ruidoso Downs and will be heading to New Mexico next month.

Mr Bac Traffic rallied for second under Raul Ramirez, with Carters Sixty Six completing the trifecta.

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