|Shiney Sign and Trainer Duane Hartsell Make History in the $314,500 Sam Houston Futurity
(Saturday, September 7, 2002) - Trainer Duane L. Hartsell entered the winner's circle and the history books at Sam Houston Race Park when his talented 2-year-old colt Shiney Sign captured the $314,500 Sam Houston Futurity (G1). The final stakes race of the 2002 American Quarter Horse meeting was run in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay, which dumped heavy rain overnight and rendered the northwest Houston racetrack sloppy.
Shiney Sign, bred by Jerry Windham and owned by Morris E. Cavasar of Victoria, Texas, had no problem with the off track. He had handled a similar condition on July 13 when he ran second in the finals of the $276,100 TQHA Sales Futurity. Ridden tonight by Sam Houston Race Park leading jockey J. R. Ramirez, Shiney Sign was brilliant, closing powerfully on the outside of the track and winning by 1 ¼ lengths. The Texas-bred colt crossed the wire of the 400 yard stakes in a time of :19.968. He earned $125,800 for the victory in the Sam Houston Futurity, his third win from just five career races.
The victory for Hartsell was memorable, not only because he captured the richest race of the 2002 Quarter Horse meeting, but he became the first trainer since Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994 to win both the Sam Houston Derby and Futurity in the same year. Earlier in the evening, Hartsell saddled Spark A Fortune a 3-year-old gelding who won the $95,700 Sam Houston Derby. Owned by Jana Riley of Page, Texas and J. Tommy Hays III of Elgin, Texas, Spark A Fortune was sent off at odds of 16-1 and won a photo over another longshot, Diamonds For Toni under a confident ride by Juan Vazquez. This was the first stakes victory for Spark A Fortune who finished second in the 2001 Sam Houston Futurity at odds of 43-1.
Hartsell lives in Nixon, Texas and has been training Quarter Horses for 20 years following his introduction to racing as a jockey. He has a fairly small barn, but had a dream meet, winning 17 of 41 starts, and towering over all other trainers with a stellar win percentage of 41%. Heading into the final night of the meet, Hartsell had Spark A Fortune in the Sam Houston Derby and two excellent runners in the Sam Houston Futurity, Shiney Sign and fastest qualifier, MJ Gold.
"The horse who beat us in the TQHA Sales Futurity (Oak Tree Special) is in my opinion one of the top five stakes horses in the country," said Hartsell. "We knew it was a great horse that beat him. It was just our time tonight."
Jockey J. R. Ramirez had the ever-difficult job of deciding which qualifier to ride back in the final. He was aboard fastest qualifier MJ Gold and Shiney Sign in the trials, and waited until after the draw on Wednesday to make his final decision.
"Shiney Sign had run back so well in the TQHA Sales Futurity," noted Ramirez. "He got caught at the finish line and I just told Duane it was a hard decision for me but I was just going to see who drew the better post. The filly drew the two hole; the colt drew the nine and I told Duane that was it. I guess I was right because stood real good in the gate and when he left there he never stopped."
Ramirez had much to celebrate on the final night of the meeting, winning two races on the card and clinching the riding title at Sam Houston Race Park. The 21-year-old rider from Laredo, Texas, finished with 41 wins and captured his first leading rider title at a Class 1 racetrack. He was quick to give credit to Hartsell and several other trainers following his victory in the Sam Houston Futurity.
"I want to thank Duane Hartsell, Bobby Martinez, Roy Roberts, Robert Madrigal, Toby Keeton and everybody that helped me out," said Ramirez, who will head to Lone Star Park for their upcoming Quarter Horse meeting.
Shiney Sign, the second betting choice, paid $8.00 to win, $4.40 to place and $3.40 to show. Alvin Brossette rode Streak On Demand to a second place finish completing the $76.60 exacta and Dash For Yonder, one of two runners from the barn of Heath Taylor, ran third for a trifecta that paid $574.60. Completing the order of finish were Mr Gatti, Zip First, Shake Em White, Deadly, Boot Scootin Task and MJ Gold. Hunters Lil Jess was scratched from the race.
Longshots produced the best payouts of the night for the Sam Houston Derby. Spark Of Fortune, sent off at odds of 16-1, returned $34.00; $13.00 and $7.00 across the board. Diamonds For Toni, winner of the Miss Houston Stakes for owner Kelly Bode, ran second. She went off at 25-1 keying an exacta that paid $608.20 and Gray Invasion at odds of 18-1 completed the $5,299.60 trifecta. The rest of the field included Gotabenuts, Backed By Speed, Shining Sky, Roses Down, Hotdoggin, Swilken Burn and Get Down Red.
Despite the inclement weather, 5,028 fans were on hand to see some of the finest races of the 2002 American Quarter Horse meeting at Sam Houston Race Park. Live Thoroughbred racing returns to the northwest Houston racetrack on Friday, November 1.