|Native Annie and There Goes Rocket
Win Their Divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes at SHRP
Houston, Texas (January 22, 2005) - Trainer Neil Howard,
jockey Robby Albarado and owner Will Farish had more than one reason
to celebrate on Saturday, January 22. They began the day in New
Orleans with a victory by Shadow Cast in the $60,000 Truly Bound
Handicap and finished with a thrilling win by Alumni Hall in the
$100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park.
Alumni Hall is owned as part of a wonderfully successful racing
partnership between lifetime friends Will Farish, W. Temple Webber
and James Elkins. Just one year ago, another one of their racing
stars, Mineshaft was crowned Horse of the Year and Older Male at
the Eclipse Awards. Trained by Neil Howard and ridden by Robby Albarado,
Mineshaft won four Grade 1 stakes including decisive wins in both
the Woodward Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The same connections were victorious tonight at Sam Houston Race
Park with another son of A. P. Indy as Alumni Hall captured the
$100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup. Conditioned by Howard and ridden by Albarado,
the 6-year-old chestnut out of the Alydar mare, Private Status,
is making up for lost time and appears to be putting it all together
at this stage of his career. Howard's assistant, Joe DeSantis saddled
Alumni Hall at Sam Houston Race Park and was proud of his effort.
"It was a long time coming, but he has really rewarded us,"said
De Santis in the post-race interview. "We thought a lot of
him for a long time and it's been a nice year for him. He didn't
even make a start until he was five. It will be a year since he
broke his maiden last April at Keeneland. From there he has been
keeping good company and running well, so we're real happy with
"It's been a wonderful experience for all three of us and
we just hope that our luck keeps going," added Houston-based
co-owner, W. Temple Webber.
A cold front blew into the Houston area and changed the temperature
from 70 degrees in the early afternoon to a chilly and blustery
47 degrees. Winds were gusting from 22-30 m.p.h., but Albarado had
no complaints about the conditions. He guided Alumni Hall over the
mile and one-eighth distance in 1:51.10.
"This is always a very good race," said Albarado. "I
won it with the very talented Valhol and was second last year (on
Freefourinternet). Today, fortunately, Mr. Farish and Mr. Webber
gave me the opportunity to come up to Houston and do it again. Neil
Howard and I have a good teamwork, a good chemistry. Joe De Santis,
his assistant, does a great job. The whole barn is in sync and it
provides a lot of confidence for everyone involved."
Colonial Colony, a 7-year-old son of Pleasant Colony, owned by
Chris Nolan and trained by Dallas Stewart, ran second. Larry Melancon
came in from Fair Grounds to ride and was moving well at the top
of the lane, but could not match strides with Alumni Hall.
"He ran well," said Melancon. "He really improved
from last time he ran, last time I rode him. I just got a little
wide and was stuck there."
Amanda Crandall rode Toratora, at 30-1 to a third-place finish
for owner/trainer Kamal Sheena.
" The trainer told me that he did his best running from off
the pace but that if he was on the lead not to fight him,"
said Crandall. "Nobody took the lead and when we were on the
lead going onto the backstretch he just took off with me. I was
able to keep a comfortable pace and when Alumni Hall went by, my
horse kind of backed off the bit, then when I asked him he dug in
and ran hard down the stretch."
Alumni Hall, sent off at odds of .80-1, paid $3.60 for the win.
He earned $60,000 tonight, his biggest payday which increased his
lifetime bankroll to $251,045. Intelligent Male, Goosey Moose, Verdict's
Peak and Wally's Choice completed the order of finish.
Academic Angel Defeats Native Annie in the $50,000 Sam
The first stakes of the evening was the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff,
a 1 1/16 mile contest. A full field of 10 fillies and mares ran,
and Academic Angel, trained by Steve Asmussen, prevailed in an exciting
stretch duel with Bob McNair's Native Annie.
Academic Angel, a 6-year-old daughter of Royal Academy, was ridden
by Donnie Meche. He deftly guided to a rail-saving trip on the final
turn at the top of the stretch and she dueled with Native Annie,
prevailing by a neck at the wire. The final time, on a fast track
"I think we saved some ground and that made the difference,"
said Meche. "We broke out of the six-hole and I didn't want
to go wide, so I eased her back and dropped her over. She grabbed
a hold of the bit and dragged me around. We saved ground on both
turns and then she opened up at the head of the lane and she just
went on from there."
"She's a very good mare," said Asmussen. "She's
been so consistent for us and won so many nice races. She's about
to head off to the breeding shed; it was very nice of her to head
off after a win for us."
Asmussen has been nominated for an Eclipse Award with the presentation
slated for Monday evening in California. He was asked how he was
feeling about the big night.
"We're flying out to Los Angeles for the Eclipse Awards,"
added Asmussen. "Very excited to be nominated. We've had a
great year and I am very appreciative of my owners and all the help
I've had this year."
"Larry (Melancon on So Much More) kept me pinned behind those
leaders down the back side," said Marquez. "Then when
it opened up she just drug me to the lead. The other filly had the
inside position and mine gave it everything she had and just couldn't
Trainer Michael Stidham has guided Native Annie to a lifetime
record of six wins from 11 starts and her stellar record earned
her the title of the Texas Thoroughbred Association's 2004 Champion
"She ran a great race," said Stidham. "Carlos gave
her a great ride. The other filly cut the corner and got the advantage.
I'm proud of her effort. She always gives an honest effort."
Rider Terry Stanton had a lot of filly in the end as Bonnie J.
was closing gamely down the lane. The 5-year-old mare was making
her first start since October 31 at Lone Star Park where she finished
third in the $100,000 Bluebonnet Stakes.
"She's just a super ride," commented Stanton. "You
just don't think she's going to get out of her own gallop. But I
rode on her at Lone Star on the grass. She's just great to ride."
Academic Angel paid $6.80 as the second betting choice. The 6-2
exacta returned $15.40 and the 6-2-11 trifecta paid $142.40. The
rest of the field included So Much More, Mini Brush, Wild Over You,
Lady Mallory, Gonetorule, Bridal Gal and Melrose Nanny.
Two Down Automatic Convincing Winner in the $50,000 Sam
Houston Sprint Handicap
Two Down Automatic returned to the winner's circle tonight as he
rallied for a victory in the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup. This
was the second win this meeting for the Steve Asmussen-trainee and
owners, Dapple Stables LLC. The 4-year-old son of son of Smoke Glacken
won the $40,000 Conroe Stakes on December 11.
The father-son owners of Bill and Bobby Ralston and Jim McCauley
are very proud of Two Down Automatic who ran second to Smarty Jones
last February in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
"It was a tough race," said Ralston. "We were excited
and sort of skeptical as they came down the stretch. Donnie did
a great job of bringing him in. This horse has given us a really
good ride; we sure are proud of him."
Donnie Meche once again took command of the rail will make the
trip to Houston to ride for Asmussen who has won three stakes so
far this Thoroughbred season at Sam Houston Race Park.
"It just worked out that way," said Meche. "He
broke sharp and wanted to go to the lead, but I would have been
four or five wide on the turn. I saw that the horse on the rail
was starting to ease so I dropped him back and the rail opened up.
It was just like the trip I had on the other horse I rode for Steve.
Thank God for a good night and a good trip."
High Strike Zone with Ted Gondron aboard, had the lead at the
top of the stretch before Two Down Automatic took control.
"He tried very hard," said Gondron. "The 5 (Philadephia
Jim) took me 5 wide and opened up the rail for the winner. No doubt
my horse wins the race if the Two Down Automatic has to go around,
or even if he had to wait longer."
Two Down Automatic was sent off as the favorite and paid $5.40
to win. The 8-10 exacta paid $45.20. Texas-bred Charming Socialite
was third followed by Philadelphia Jim, Matched, Catalissa, Artemus
Sunrise, Won CC and Record Assembly.