Skip a Smile, Texas Thoroughbred Horse of the Year, Runs Saturday Evening at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, January 18, 2012) - The draw for the Saturday Texas Champions Weekend stakes took place on Wednesday, January 18. The Saturday night card is the second stakes-filled evening set for opening weekend of the 2012 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet. While Friday night salutes the ladies, Saturday's action features colts and geldings in the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes, $50,000 Groovy Stakes, $50,000 Richard King Stakes and $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes.

Competitive fields have been drawn for each of the seven stakes in Texas Champions Weekend, much to the delight of Eric Johnston, vice-president of racing for Sam Houston Race Park.

"Each of the stakes came up with solid competitors and promise to offer great excitement for our racing fans," said Johnston. "We are proud to host this exceptional weekend saluting Texas-breds and could not ask for a better way to kick off our 2012 Thoroughbred meet."

$100,000 Star of Texas

Last January, Skip a Smile, owned and bred by Rose Mary Chandler of Luling, Texas, began his year with a victory in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes on Texas Champions Day. The son of Skip Away out of the Strawberry Road (AUS) mare Strawberry Smile was just getting started. His stellar 2011 campaign included wins in the in the $75,000 Assault Stakes last July at Lone Star Park,  $100,000 Governor's Cup Stakes and Edward J. Debartolo Memorial Handicap at Remington Park. Trained by Danny Pish in January and then by Eclipse Award winning conditioner, Steve Asmussen, Skip a Smile was named the 2011 Texas Horse of the Year by the Texas Thoroughbred Association. Versatile on both dirt and turf, Skip A Smile was also honored as Texas Champion Older Horse.

Skip a Smile drew post position five and will be ridden by Luis Quinonez. 

"He's a throwback horse," summed up Asmussen, who was in California on Monday evening to attend the Eclipse Awards and share in the festivities as My Miss Aurelia won the 2-year-old filly title. "While he has his nuances, there is no doubt that he can handle both surfaces. He is a delight to train."

Coyote Legend, who captured the 2009 Groovy Stakes for Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. and trainer Bret Calhoun, is another contender in the mile and one-sixteenth main track stakes. Mr. Woodrow, who was third in the 2011 Groovy Stakes, finished fifth in the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. Jockey John Jacinto, who won the riding title at Sam Houston in 2002, jets in from the Fair Grounds to ride the 4-year-old son of Wando.

The field, with riders, from the rail out: Crook's Bodgit, Justin Shepherd; Oak Motte, Chris Landeros; Coyote Legend, Cliff Berry; Mr. Woodrow, John Jacinto; Skip a Smile, Luis Quinonez and Charlie's Phantasy, Roman Chapa.

$50,000 Spirit of Texas

Aces N Kings, who won the 2011 Groovy Stakes, cuts back to six-furlongs in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes. Owned and trained by Caroline Dodwell, the son of Jet Phone has won six of his 14 career starts and will be ridden by veteran Sam Houston rider, Larry Taylor. He will be making his first start since August, but Dodwell feels he is primed and ready for his 2012 debut.

"He needed a rest after a tough start to last year," said Dodwell. "We've been eager to run him six furlongs, but have never gotten a chance at a shorter race. It's a little bit of an experiment, but he's got a good turn of foot and has been working lights out."

He will have some credible competition, most notably Chief of Affairs, who won the 2009 edition of the Spirit of Texas Stakes for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch. The Bret Calhoun-trainee has been training at Oaklawn Park and is one of three Calhoun runners in the stakes: Gold Element and Gold Coyote are also entered in the six-furlong sprint.

The field, with riders, from the rail out: Moon Boogie, John Jacinto; Gold Element, Roman Chapa; Solar Charge, Glen Murphy; Halifax Flyer, Chris Landeros; Special Tree, Junior Chacalatana; Aces N Kings, Larry Taylor; Waspy Cee, Yruing Lores; Chief of Affairs, Luis Quinonez; Gold Coyote, Cliff Berry and Southern Vintage, Jose Figueroa.

$50,000 Groovy Stakes

The $50,000 Groovy Stakes has been a great springboard for young colts and geldings and nine will square off in Saturday's seven-furlong feature.

Top Sam Houston Race Park conditioner Danny Pish won the Groovy in 2005 with Guacamole and in 2006 with Daddy Warbucks. On Saturday night, he will saddle Quiet Acceleration, a dark bay gelding he co-owns with Almost a Legend Racing, LLC. He will be making his seventh career start, but won his last two efforts, most recently an allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds on December 18 with Roman Chapa aboard.

"He's the kind of horse that keeps crazy people in the business," quips Pish. "He does not have exceptional breeding, but he tries hard and Roman knows him well."

The field, with riders, from the rail out: Indisputable, Luis Quinonez; Lil Cherokee, Chris Landeros; Private Cat, Benito Morales; Canigtoo, John Jacinto; Ishararuler, Glen Murphy; Primistalla, Tony McNeil; Doctor Romane, Justin Shepherd; Sword Trick, Cliff Berry and Quiet Acceleration, Roman Chapa.

$50,000 Richard King Stakes

A field of seven is entered in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes, for 4-year-olds and upward at a mile and one-eighth.

Scrappy Roo, the gritty Texas-bred winner of the 2008 Grade 3 Connally Turf Cup, returns to one of his favorite racing surfaces. Bred by David Taylor, and owned and trained by Asmussen, Scrappy Roo is a true "horse for the course" at Sam Houston with six wins from 10 starts including a runner-up effort in the 2009 Richard King..

"He has performed well on the turf at Sam Houston," said Asmussen, of the 9-year-old gelding. "You can't deny that he is very good at winning races."

The field, with riders, from the rail out: Sassy Maverick, Jeffery Burningham; I Am Tarzan, Larry Taylor; Scrappy Roo, Luis Quinonez; Red Coyote, Cliff Berry; Safe Range, Tony McNeil; Dandy's Legacy, Roman Chapa and Spiderman Ridge, Wilfredo Arroyo.

Post time for Texas Champions Weekend is 7:00 p.m. with ten races on both the Friday and Saturday night card.

The 2012 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 12, with post times set for Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.), Sunday (5 p.m.) and Monday (1:20 p.m.). The meet will feature a variety of special events including Dollar Day on February 4, Wiener Dog Races on February 11, Ladies Night on February 25 and Camel & Ostrich Races on March 10. The park will also host a 27-day Quarter Horse Meet from March 22 – May 19.
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