Alumni Hall
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Alumni Hall
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

MAXXAM Winner's Circle
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Academic Angel
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Two Down Automatic
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

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 him."

"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 Houston Distaff

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 was 1:46.14.

"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 get by."

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 3-Year-Old Filly.

"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.

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