Skip A Smile
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography
|Trainer Bret Calhoun Won Three of the Four Stakes for Colts and Geldings on Texas Champions Weekend at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Saturday, January 19,2013) - The stars of trainer Bret Calhoun's barn won three of the four Texas Champions features this evening. Last night was devoted to fillies and mares, and accredited Texas-bred colts and geldings were featured on the Saturday evening Texas Champions Weekend card.
The marquee race was the $100,000 Star of Texas, and Coyote Legend defended his title in masterful style. Owned and bred by Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., the six-year-old son of Gold Legend commanded from the opening bell in the mile and one-sixteenth main track stakes.
"He ran a very good race," said Calhoun from New Orleans, where he oversees a string of horses at Fair Grounds. "We knew the five horse (Cat’s Classy Rider) had speed and thought he would go and Coyote Legend could stalk him. But, that did not happen, so Cliff just let him go and did what he was supposed to do."
This was the third consecutive victory in the Star of Texas for Calhoun, who won in 2011 with Taptam.
Just as he did last year, veteran rider Cliff Berry was in control from the break, guiding Coyote Legend through the first quarter mile in 24.72, saving ground on the rail through the early stages of the race.
"He can run fast and run a long way," commented Berry. "He broke well, and relaxed for me; that was the key."
"He's a special horse," said Jay Severs, the longtime assistant for trainer Calhoun, who handled the saddling duties this evening.
Coyote Legend ($3.00) completed the mile and one-sixteenth Star of Texas in 1:45.74. He earned $60,000, increasing his career bankroll to $670,979. Cat's Classy Rider under rider Chris Landeros ran second and Halifax Flyer held on for third.
Worldventurer Captures the $50,000 Groovy Stakes
It was another triumph for prominent Texas breeder Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. as Worldventurer was an impressive winner in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes. The gray son of Wimbledon was ridden by Cliff Berry and covered seven furlongs in 1:24.74.
The striking gray son of Wimbledon returned to the winner's circle for the first time since capturing the $100,000 TTA Sales Futurity last June at Lone Star Park. Berry kept him close to the lead in the early going, and he finished strongly over Breathethefire and Mula Run.
"He was closer to the pace than we expected," said Calhoun. "But when he got clear, he was tons the best."
Berry, who has ridden the gelding in three of his nine starts, concurred.
"He's got a big stride," said Berry. "His race tonight just shows you how much class he has."
Ken Carson, general manager of Valor Farm, noted the pride that Scharbauer has in developing stakes winners in Texas.
"We've had some wonderful mares for years," said Carson. "Worldventurer's dam's pedigree goes back to Alysheba. Clarence has been a great benefactor to Texas racing."
Worldventurer is owned by Wesley Melcher; this was the second year in a row that Berry and trainer Bret Calhoun won the Groovy; last year it was with Sword Trick, who was honored as TTA two-year-old champion.
Gold Element Closes to Win the $50,000 Spirit of Texas
Gold Element made easy work of his five rivals in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes, and winning the third stakes for Calhoun.
Owned by Wimp Free Racing Stable, Gold Element settled off the pace in the six-furlong sprint, but rallied past Canigotoo and defending champion, Solar Charge. He covered six furlongs in 1:09.93, and improved his record at Sam Houston to four wins from five starts.
Calhoun gave credit to Berry for superior rides on each of the three stakes winners.
"Cliff has been with us for many years," said Calhoun. "He is riding at Oaklawn Park, but agreed to come to Houston when we asked. My owners really appreciate his loyalty, and our association with Cliff means a great deal."
Skip a Smile Takes Top Honors in $50,000 Richard King Stakes
A field of 11 took to the Connally Turf Course in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes, for four-year-olds and upward at a mile and one-eighth.
Skip a Smile, honored as 2011 Texas Thoroughbred Association Horse of the Year and winner of the Richard King two years ago, was an impressive winner. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Glen Murphy, the six-year-old son of Skip Away, showed a tremendous closing kick, surging home to win by 6 1/2 lengths.
Tonight he picked up his tenth win from 26 starts and increased his career bankroll to $434,630.
Rose Mary Chandler, his owner and breeder, was a proud recipient of the trophy and acknowledged her multiple-stakes winner's performance over the Connally Turf course.
"He does enjoy the turf," said Chandler. "It's a true honor to be here; we work very hard, as do all the people in the race. We are proud to run our horses in Texas."
Murphy was the leading rider in Houston last year, and praised the effort of Skip a Smile.
"He's an incredible horse and made it look easy," said Murphy. "He relaxed behind the horses and made up three lengths when I smooched at him. Winning a stakes on Texas Champions weekend means the world to me."
Skip A Smile ($3.80) covered the mile and one-eighth on a firm turf course in a final time of 1:51.24. Longshot Spiderman Ridge closed for second and Fly The Red Eye completed the trifecta.
Four Stakes Set for Saturday, January 26
Sam Houston Race Park will present another exceptional evening of racing on Saturday, January 26. The $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas headlines the card, which will also include three additional stakes: the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup, the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes, and the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes. The marquee racing event will be broadcast on HRTV, "The Network for Horse Sports" and FOX Sports Southwest.
The draw for the marquee racing event will take place on Wednesday, January 23, but the connections of Summer Applause, She's All In, Cheerleader, Lookinforchange, Brushed by a Star and Joyful Victory have paid pre-entry fees and will ship to Houston for the inaugural running of the Ladies Classic.
The Park will donate $1 for each patron to benefit the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure®. Patrons can also show their support for the fight against breast cancer by entering the "Think Pink Hat Contest", presented by Cadence Bank. The winner will receive $500. Advance wagering for the January 26 card will be offered on Friday, January 25 and Sam Houston will offer a new wager, "The All-Stakes Pick-4".