Waco Hug Tops Stars of Texas Day Winners at Retama Park

(December 8, 2008) - Sam Houston Race Park, with the support and cooperation of the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) and Retama Park, held its annual Texas Champions Day, a live Thoroughbred racing event featuring the top Texas racers on Saturday, December 6, in San Antonio at Retama Park. The signature event celebrated Thoroughbred horses, trainers, breeders and owners in the Lone Star State, and included eight stakes races and $450,000 in racing purses. The evening was full of upsets and surprising winners, providing fans of all ages the opportunity to see some of the best live racing in the region.

The Texas Racing Commission previously approved the request to move a portion of The Park’s Thoroughbred racing dates to Retama Park as a result of damage suffered by the Houston race track from Hurricane Ike.

The chilly San Antonio weather didn’t stop major victories for jockeys Luis Quinonez or Eguard Tejera, both of whom took home three wins for the night. In addition, North American leading trainer Steve Asmussen took home two top honors - the $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes and the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes.

The night’s richest stakes race, the $75,000 Star of Texas Stakes, was a highly anticipated one featuring nine-year old two-time champion Sandburr battling it out against a solid field of eight other horses in an attempt to take home his third consecutive win in the race. The favorite horse proved to be a worthy opponent but could not edge out Waco Hug ($11.20), who took first place, or Taksent who crossed the wire by a neck ahead of Sandburr.

Waco Hug, trained by Danny Pish and ridden to victory by jockey Jose Figueroa, broke well from the gate and began to turn on the heat in a strong drive on the outside around final turn, where he shot past the competition and led down the stretch to cross the wire at 1:48.14. Taksent rallied at the final turn but did not have enough in him to overtake Waco Hug’s lead. Sam Houston Race Park Vice President Eric Johnston and Assistant Racing Secretary Don Thompson were on-hand to present the winning trophy to Pish, Figueroa, and owners Tigertail Ranch.

Waco Hug failed twice to win $7,500 non-winners of two lifetime claiming races as recently as September, but in his previous two starts Waco Hug won by a combined 15 lengths.

“Three year olds can get good over night,” said Pish’s wife Sabina in the winner’s circle. “Danny has always trained the horse the same way. Waco Hug just really got better the last month.”

Pish admitted he never gave up on his chestnut gelding and then commented,”Never giving up applies to the horse too. He kept trying till he got to this level.”

The 1 1/16 mile race's final order of finish was: Waco Hug, Taksent, Sandburr, C E P A’s Forum, Windy Lou, Dreamsandvisions, Wild Minstrel, Rare Flyer, and Uncle Rose.

The $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes proved to be an exciting opening stakes race at Retama featuring six top racers going six furlongs on the dirt track. The four-year old Asmussen-trained filly Stealth Cat ($2.80), ridden by Luis Quinonez in his first major victory of the night, barely broke a sweat from start to finish as she crossed the line more than 12 lengths ahead of the others. Stealth Cat, owned by J. Kirk Robinson, earned second place in the 2007 running of the race, and her much improved performance and speed this year made her untouchable by the competition. Her final time was 1:11.31.

The race for second place landed Moneyinmywranglers, who finished third in the 2007 race, slightly more than twolengths ahead of Susan’s Fancy. Final order of finish was Stealth Cat, Moneyinmywranglers, Susan’s Fancy, Dixie Dist, Dawali, and Amarula. Classie Baloo, You Know Who I Am, and Formal Flyer scratched from the race.

The Spirit of Texas featured a $50,000 purse and was captured with one of the fastest six furlong runs of the evening by favorite Seneca Summer ($7.20), a seven-year-old brown gelding owned by Barbara Rehbein. Seneca Summer was guided to victory by Eguard Tejera in his first victory of the night, with a final time of 1:11.04. Coming in behind Seneca Summer was Snuck By, who finished in third place in the same race in 2007, followed by Prince Krimmer, Cocoa Max, Filet Gumbo, Toga Too, Charles Edwin, Eye Wonder, and Tru Dancing.

The $50,000 Martanza Stakes earned Taptam ($5.40) and jockey M. Clifton Berry a win by half-a-length in the one mile race over Formal Flyer in a time of 1:40.76. Taptam settled down the backstretch and closed quickly on the outside in the final strides to take the win over six foes. Final order of finish was Taptam, Formal Flyer, La Estrellita, Light Lace, Bionic Shadow, Monarchos Star, and Classic Baloo.

The Bara Lass Stakes, offering a $50,000 purse for two year old fillies, earned jockey Quinonez his second victory of the night aboard Asmussen-trained Tiffany Royal ($4.60), owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Keith Asmussen. The seven furlong race featured a strong drive out of the gate, with Tiffany Royal taking the early lead. Close behind down the homestretch was Valid Code, but Tiffany Royal had a final push that landed her across the wire more than three lengths ahead in a time of 1:25.96 for seven furlongs. Final order of finish was Tiffany Royal, Valid Code, Deer Lassie, The Cat Who, Monica’s Skirmish, Sals Legend, Fourstarattraction, Streakin’ Nun, and Misty G.

The $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes, a 1 1/16 mile race on the turf for fillies and mares, earned Quinonez his third win of the night with four-year old filly Pretty Squall ($4.20), who is trained by Morris G. Nicks and owned by Don Eberts. She set a well-rated pace from the start and drew clear of the pack in the upper stretch, where she continued to run easy and take top honors in a final time of 1:44.77. Final order of finish for the field of nine horses was Pretty Squall, Little Axe Leoleta, Issheademon, Senora Tormenta, Hole in One, Highflyingprices, Counterfeit Halo, Color of Cash, and Speed Fast.

The $50,000 Groovy Stakes featured the largest field of the night, with 14 top Thoroughbreds taking to the seven furlong course. Breaking out of the gate and leading on the inside was Valid Stripes ($34.00), trained by Amos Laborde and owned by Donald W. Erickson. He easily maintained his lead and won by 11 lengths in a time of 1:23.94. Jockey Eguard Tejera pulled off a major upset against the Asmussen-trained horses, Justwill and Belton, along with second place fniisher He’s Boy Wonder, trained by Danny Pish, for his second win of the night. Final order of finish for the field was Valid Stripes, He’s Boy Wonder, Justwill, Poltergeist, Cuvee Star, Valid Performance, Pacific Tsunami, Lucky Raja, Expect Smoke, Cashinmywranglers, Border Cuvee, Gentle Flyer, Our Expectation, and Belton.

The $50,000 Richard King Stakes was the final turf race of the night, with Rapid Squall ($5.20) and jockey Tejera earning the win in the 1 1/8 mile race in a time of 1:51.44. The three-year old brown gelding, owned by Ronald J. Podraza Sr. and trained by Val Ray Foster, Sr., beat out seven other horses after settling in early and rallying three wide on the far turn to pass Ablaze With Spirit and win by one length. Final order of finish was Rapid Squall, Ablaze with Spirit, Favorite Jazz, Bullet Crane, Joe Peak, Downtown Jones, Haveuseenthelight, and Mad at Cha.

Saturday night’s Texas Champions Day produced the first million-dollar handle of Retama Park's current meet. A total of $1,026,551 was wagered on the ten race card.

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