-photo by Jenifer Juelsgaard/Coady Photography

-photo by Jack Coady

-photo by Jenifer Juelsgaard/Coady Photography

Middleweight Pushes Aside his Competition in the $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park

Houston, Texas (January 21, 2006) - Trainer Al Stall, Jr. couldn’t make the trip to Houston from Louisiana, but he liked what he saw via simulcast as Middleweight captured the $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park.

The 6-year-old son of Grand Slam benefited from the early scratch of Dixie Meister as well as a well-timed ride by rider Gerard Melancon as he came from off the pace to win the mile and one-eighth stakes in 1:52.02. Melancon, who won the 1998 MAXXAM Gold Cup aboard Scott’s Scoundrel, was happy to guide Middleweight to victory tonight for owners Stewart M. Madison and Peter Gaffney.

“He has trained well over the track, and last time he ran over the dirt he won,” commented Melancon. “He’s good enough to compete with these horses, and we thought we had a great chance. He was comfortable the whole way, and I didn’t see a reason to drag him back. He was happy. I think we suit the (Connally Breeders’ Cup) just fine. It is a mile and an eighth and I’ve won it before, as well as Mr. Stall and Mr. Madison. I’m pretty sure that’s where we’ll make our next start.”

The trainer was reached via phone following the race and concurred with Melancon’s assessment of both tonight’s performance and returning for the Grade III Connally Breeders' Cup Turf on April 8.

"We weren't worried about going from turf to dirt,” said Stall. “He runs well on the main track and loves the distance of a mile and one-eighth. We liked this race and were happier when we heard the news about Dixie Meister; we felt we had a great shot when he scratched. Middleweight is a textbook outside stalker and the race tonight set up perfectly for him. As far as the Connally, you can pencil us in; actually you can use ink. We are going to keep him in the South and will run him in the Connally in April."

Robby Albarado, who rode last year’s MAXXAM winner, Alumni Hall, was aboard the 7-year-old Pass Rush. He was in the lead in the early going, but weakened in the final furlong and finished fifth.

“It was so easy, I felt like I was in a cannon and just galloping along,” said Albarado, who won five races at Louisiana Downs this afternoon. Galloping a mile in (1:39.27) is really kind of slow for these kind of horses. He had a great trip, but I don’t know what happened. It wasn’t my plan to take the early lead, but no one else wanted it, so I just kind of inherited it. I was fine with it. Going that slow, I don’t mind being in the lead every time.”

Matched, trained by Leroy Hellman, rallied nicely under rider Glen Murphy, for a respectable second place finish.

“My horse left the gates great,” stated Murphy. “I just relaxed behind the leaders right in the middle, right where I wanted him. He rated really nicely and waited on me to call on him. When I called on him, he gave me his heart. He ran a winning race. He just got beat. He loved the distance, and he never gave up. I love this horse.”

Middleweight, sent off as the second betting choice, paid $5.60 for the win. He earned $60,000 tonight, increasing his lifetime bankroll to $290,130. Seainsky ran third followed by Lonesome Launch, Pass Rush, Dusty Spike, Breakaway, Sandburr, Toratora, Doctor Doctor Mrmd and Twilight Vision. A crowd of 6,163 enjoyed the MAXXAM Gold Cup card and $1 beer. Total live handle for the ten-race card was $2,406,032.

Culinary Closes for Victory in the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff

The first stakes of the evening was the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff, a 1 1/16 mile contest on the main track. A field of 9 fillies and mares ran, and Culinary, owned by Jack H. Smith III Thoroughbreds, prevailed in an exciting stretch duel with Lucky Sabre. The 4-year-old filly is conditioned by Michael Stidham and was ridden to victory by Carlos Marquez, Jr. The final time, on a fast track was 1:46.35.

This was a role reversal from last year when the Steve Asmussen-trainee Academic Angel, nosed out Stidham’s Native Annie at the wire.
Stidham had a great deal of confidence in Culinary who won the $75,000 Fur Sail at Louisiana Downs on December 17, but ran seventh when she attempted stakes company the very next week.

"We ran her back closer than we normally like to, but Jack and I talked about it and decided to take a shot (in the $75,000 Truly Bound),”commented Stidham. “She was a little bit aggressive and cranky and just didn't run her race. Today she was back to what she could really do."

"In the previous last couple of races, she's been a little rank early,” added rider Marquez. “She settled well today and when I pushed the trigger, she was there. She had almost a month off after her last race and Mike did a great job getting her back to her old performance."
Owner Jack Smith, who runs the majority of his Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and the Midwest, was very pleased with the performance of the gray filly this evening.

"I loved her race and loved what she did at the end because she wouldn't let the other horse by her,” said Smith. “I thought she got tired in her last race, but she's growing. We might set her up for a big number before long."

The Steve Asmussen-trainee Lucky Sabre had to settle for second under Gerard Melancon.

“I knew the one (Ballroom Deputy) and the five (Culinary) were the two horses to beat,” said Melancon. “I got a little jump on (Ballroom Deputy) going into the last turn, and I was only three wide around a couple of horses. My filly was nice and relaxed, and she gave me everything. She just got outrun today.”

Robby Albarado, had the mount aboard third-place finisher, Ballroom Deputy

“I got kind of stuck around the turn a little bit, and lost some momentum there,” recalled Albarado. “But she got out there and ran her best. She’s more comfortable on the outside, and gets a little intimidated on the inside of the horses. Circumstances would have been wonderful, but I was stuck there the whole way around.”

Culinary paid $5.40 as the even-money favorite. Bonnie J ran fourth followed by Miss Confusion, Cookin’s Cast, Capotiada, Timber Jones and Oswego.Jockey

Larry Taylor Gets his 1,000th Win Tonight

Larry Taylor won the 1,000th Thoroughbred race of his career tonight at Sam Houston Race Park. Taylor won the milestone in the second race, piloting Rare and Sixy ($4.20) to victory for trainer M. Brent Davidson.

The 38-year-old rider is the leading rider at the northwest Houston racetrack with 41 wins so far in the 2005/2006 Thoroughbred meeting.

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