||Merial Texas Distaff Challenge and Texas Twister Highlight Saturday Night's Card at Sam Houston Race Park
(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, April 27, 2016) -
Just three more weeks remain in the 2016 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse season. The action resumes Friday, April 29 with the popular 50 cent Beer Friday from 6:00-9:00 p.m. On Saturday, April 23, live racing gets underway at 6:10 p.m. with two stakes, the $26,100 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge and the $15,000 Texas Twister. Following the conclusion of live racing on Saturday evening, Blackberry Smoke will perform on the Bud Light Stage.
Eight Fillies and Mares Set in the $26,100 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge
Sam Houston Race Park will host the $26,100 Merial Texas Distaff Challenge Saturday evening. A field of eight fillies and mares will compete at 400 yards, with the winner earning a berth to the national championship in October.
Kitty Kat Galore B, a four-year-old daughter of Fdd Dynasty owned by Bryon Gardner, is the 9-5 favorite. Trained by Judd Kearl, she has stakes wins at Lone Star Park and faced tough company earlier this year at Hialeah Park. She won the Miss Houston Stakes here on April 1 at 330 yards. Kearl, who will give a leg up to leading rider Rodrigo Vallejo, feels she is even better at 400 yards.
"The longer the better," said Kearl. "She's a great big filly, and she came into her own late in her two-year-old campaign. Her biggest strength is her heart; she tries hard every time. I thought we were beat 30 yards from the wire in the Miss Houston, but she dug in."
Kearl will also saddle Lil Effortless Reign, who will make her stakes debut for Scarlett Hill Farm, Inc.
Pete Scarmardo's Time for Wine will be in pursuit of her third career win. She will have the very capable duo of trainer Leon Bard and jockey Francisco Calderon behind her. The four-year-old Mr Jess Perry mare broke her maiden here last May and competed in the John Deere Challenge last summer at Retama Park. Calderon reports that she is working well for her 2016 debut.
"She's a nice mare and is doing really well," said Calderon. "In her last start at Lone Star, she fell face first out of the gate, but got in stride and finished fourth. Kitty Kat Galore is the one to beat, but our mare is ready."
Vital Temp, a four-year-old daughter of Tempting Dash trained by Angel Sanchez, returns to action with Luis Vivanco in the irons. She stumbled in the Miss Houston Stakes, losing her rider, and hopefully will have better luck this Saturday.
The winner will represent Texas in the $125,000 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1) at Los Alamitos on October 29.
Ten "Super" Sprinters Entered in the $15,000 Texas Twister
The $15,000 Texas Twister, at 110 yards, will return for its eighth renewal at Sam Houston Race Park. Always a fan favorite, the race is completed in less than seven seconds, more often than not, with a blanket photo finish!
Two horses owned by Texan Pete Scarmardo drew side by side in the far outside posts. Snipes and Bites, a five-year-old son of Vrrroom trained by Brian Stroud, was installed as the 3-1 morning line choice. He has won eight of his 23 career starts and will wheel back after a very close second in the $20,000 Delta Dash on April 23. Luis Ramirez has the mount. Scarmardo's homebred Kid Can Dash is undefeated here this season and was very impressive on April 9 as the favorite in the $98,300 Sam Houston Maiden Classic. Francisco Calderon, having the best meet of his career, retains the mount for trainer Leon Bard.
Red Corona Warrior is the high earner in the field, with $111,971 earned in his 15 career efforts. Owned and bred by the Terrazas Family and trained by Josue Ponce, the four-year-old son of Coronas Fast Dash ran second in the $128,250 Gillespie County Fairground Futurity in 2014 and prepped for this in an allowance race here on April 20. Francisco Ramirez, Jr. will guide Red Corona Warrior from post position two.
Big Meet for Jockey Francisco Calderon
Jockey Francisco Calderon is having the best meet of his career this season at Sam Houston Race Park. The 22-year-old was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and began riding in 2012.
Last year, he finished third in the standings, with 25 wins, including the Paint Futurity and Maturity stakes. He is just two wins behind Rodrigo Vallejo this meet and won the richest race of the Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet, guiding Just Call Me Carter to a decisive score in the $540,000 Sam Houston Futurity. It was the biggest race of his career, and he admits that it still hasn't sunk in.
"I was so happy," said the young rider. "I still can't believe it, but am so grateful for the opportunity."
Calderon had to learn from the ground up and credits jockey Ignacio Bustamante for teaching him the ropes.
"I did everything I was asked to do in the barn," said Calderon. "Ignacio told me 'you have to know a horse before you get on a horse'. So I groomed, fed, mucked stalls; it was all important."
Riding first call for trainer Leon Bard has also been a huge boost to his stats.
"Leon asked me to ride first call for his barn," added Calderon. "It was an opportunity that I could not pass up. He's a good horsemen and a great person. I don't feel any pressure riding for Leon; he has confidence in me, and that means a great deal."
So Calderon curtailed the celebration from last Saturday and is hoping that he might win his first ever riding title when the Sam Houston meet wraps up on May 14.
"On Monday morning, I was the first rider on the track working horses," explained Calderon. "People were asking why I was out there after winning the big futurity. I want to keep working hard and win even more big races!"
Judd Kearl and Rodrigo Vallejo Remain on Top at Sam Houston Race Park
Trainer Judd Kearl continues to lead in the trainer standings for the 2016 Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet with 23 wins. Last year's leading trainer, Angel Sanchez, is second with 14, including a victory last Saturday in the $540,000 Sam Houston Futurity with Call Me Carter. Leon Bard follows with 13 wins, and Brian Stroud is fourth with nine victories.
Kearl's first call rider, Rodrigo Vallejo, is the leading jockey with 22 wins following the first five weeks of the racing season. Francisco Calderon had a very memorable week, winning six races, including the richest race of the meet, the Sam Houston Futurity. He is now second in the standings with 20 trips to the winner's circle. Luis Vivanco is third with 18 wins, and Luis Ramirez rounds out the top four with seven wins.
Pete A. Scarmardo is the leader in the owner standings with six wins, and Jorge Haddad is second with five victories. John Boegner won three races on the Monday afternoon card to move into third place with four wins this meet.
Blackberry Smoke Performs in the Q Morning Zoo Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, April 30
The entertaining 2016 Post Race Concert Series returns to the Bud Light stage this weekend, with Blackberry Smoke performing on Saturday, April 30. The series continues through May 14, and each concert is FREE with $7 live racing admission before 8:00 p.m., and $20 after 8:00 p.m. at the gate. Save $6 (just $14) on after 8:00 p.m. admission by purchasing tickets online in advance at shrp.com.
The remaining two featured performers are:
April 30 - Blackberry Smoke
May 14 - Roger Creager