Fort Prado
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Connelly trophy presentation
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Charming Socialite
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Fort Prado an Effortless Winner in the Grade III Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park

Houston, Texas (April 8, 2006) - On a beautiful, clear Spring evening in Houston, a new champion was crowned in the richest race of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting, the $193,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, the first graded Thoroughbred stakes in the track’s history.

Fort Prado, lived up to his .80-1 favorite status, winning his third consecutive stakes and second graded stakes of the year for owners Patricia, David and Ryan Block of Team Block. The striking gray son of El Prado won the Grade III Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Louisiana Downs on January 21 and followed that up with a victory in the $125,000 Tampa Breeders’ Cup on February 25. Trainer Jeff Trosclair shipped him into Houston on Wednesday afternoon he was fit and ready to go this evening. Robby Albarado, who rode Rod and Staff to victory in the 2000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, jetted in from Oaklawn Park and made it look very easy. Despite breaking through the gate and being quickly reloaded, Albarado settled Fort Prado mid-pack as Prince T, Twilight Vision and Toratora set the pace, completing the first quarter in :24.59 and the half-mile in :48.76. He slipped through an opening on the rail and drew off by three lengths, completing the mile and one-eighth stakes over a firm turf course was 1:49.41.

"I was just a passenger tonight,” commented Albarado. “The couple times I have ridden him, he does all the work; I just guide him. I'm so appreciative of Chris and Jeff flying me into Houston to ride him. I had a fortunate trip and was able to save ground. I got through on the inside and kicked on and dug a hole at the eighth-pole. I think he had a slight class edge over the field; I figured I could move him. I could have moved him earlier if I needed to; I could have done anything with him today."

“I thought it was a great performance tonight,” added Trosclair. “Robby did an excellent job with him. When the gap opened at the head of the stretch, he just exploded. A horse like this just makes our job very easy. I talked to Robby in the paddock and told him to ride his race and whatever came up. He's going to return to team Block and probably go on to Kentucky and Chicago."

"He's with us in Chicago and Florida and we are very fortunate to have Jeff taking over in Louisiana for the Fair Grounds meet,” added Chris Block, representing Team Block. “After the Tampa race, we decided this would be a great spot. I've been to Sam Houston before and liked it here a lot and thought the horse would fit this race. I gave Jeff a call and said 'we're coming your way'. Like Jeff said, he makes our job easy; he's a wonderful horse to have. He's very versatile; he comes out and does his job and loves it."

Fort Prado earned $103,800 for tonight’s victory. Dynareign, who ran third in the 2005 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, closed gamely under rider John Byrne for second.

“This was my first time to ride this horse,” said Byrne. “He likes to get a fair trip. He gets big when he gets to trail behind a few. You just put him where he wants to be and keep going. Robby (Albarado) got up there and ran great. My horse ran a big race to get second. We got beat by a better horse. The track was perfect. He loved the track. The horse handled the track well. You just leave him alone and he adapts.”

Fort Prado paid $3.60 for the win. The 6-10 exacta returned $46.40 and the trifecta with multiple-stakes winner, Dontbotherknocking paid $246.80. Waupaca, A R Crackers, Prince T, defending champion, Rapid Proof, Seainsky, Twilight Vision, Toratora and Doctor Doctor Mrmd completed the order of finish.

A crowd of 8,462 was on hand to enjoy the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf as well as a free concert by Country Western legend, Johnny Lee. The 2004/2005 Thoroughbred meeting will conclude on Sunday, April 9 with ten races beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Other Stakes Winners

Jersey Lilly Stakes

The $40,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares going one mile-and-a-sixteenth drew a field of 11. Stretching, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly owned by Wertheimer and Frere, was the winner. Ted Gondron had ridden the daughter of Red Ranson to two previous wins on the Connally Turf course and she notched her third consecutive win this evening, closing for the victory in a final time of 1:43.69.

"She's done everything we have asked,” said Gondron. “All three of her turf races have been like this. I'm not sure if its the course or she's just a good horse, but she's really impressive. At the head of the lane I had so much horse left, I just tried to give her a good trip and she exploded. It's a great feeling."

"This filly is impeccably bred by the Wertheimers,” said Stidham. “Their goal in sending her to us in the United States was to get some experience and hopefully, some black type. We really thought a lot of her and were pleased with the way she matured and blossomed this winter. She has shown that ability, that good turf horses have, to accelerate through the stretch. Ted gave her a great ride and Rigo (Rosas) did a great job overseeing her training and getting her ready."

Dash of Humor ran second for rider Justin Shepherd and trainer Hal Wiggins.

The Wertheimers own Chanel and have owned Thoroughbred champions including Unbridled. Stidham indicated that Stretching might make her next start at Arlington Park.

Stretching, sent off as the third betting choice, paid $9.80 to win. The 10-9 exacta paid $47.40 and the 10-9-1 trifecta returned $135.80.

Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup

The final stakes of the evening was the running of the $40,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup. A field of seven turf sprinters went postward including defending champion, the 12-year-old Proven Cure. Trained by John Locke for owner Dr. William A. Reed, Proven Cure made a late bid, but was denied by Charming Socialite, who not only won, but set a new track record for the distance of five-furlongs. The Texas-bred 5-year-old gelding crossed the wire in :56.57, besting the track record of :56.93 set by Go Scotty in 1999.

"He really is the horse you dream about,” said trainer, Bill Pettit, who co-owns Charming Socialite with Paul Sutton. “I can't even mess him up. We've had a great time with him; he's really a once-in-a-lifetime horse. I thought we were running for second. John's horse, Proven Cure, what more can you say about a horse? He's wonderful."

Terry Stanton piloted Charming Socialite and was asked about the added bonus of setting a track record.

"Time to me just counts when you’re in jail or something,” quipped Stanton, former leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park. "He ran hard for me. The 'old man' passed me down the stretch and I thought “I was in trouble, but Bill said that whatever I did to him worked. He dug back in and gave it all he had."

Locke was gracious in defeat, admitting that the winner ran an outstanding race.

“I thought we had a perfect trip. We just got outrun. Charming Socialite is an awful nice horse. We were right where we wanted to be, and we made our run at him. We got by him momentarily, but we couldn’t out finish him.”

Greggo, with Justin Shepherd aboard, ran third, followed by Cherokee Sauce, Lonesome Launch, Prince Warner and Easter Rushin Hoss.

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