|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
"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
"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
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
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?
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
“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.