|Record-Setting Crowd of Over 12,000 Fans Welcomed Back Thoroughbred Racing to Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Friday, January 20, 2012) - A record setting crowd of 12,856 enthusiastically welcomed the return of live racing to Sam Houston Race Park, the first night of Texas Champions Weekend. Three stakes for accredited Texas-bred took place with full fields and dominating performances in the $50,000 Bara Lass for three-year-old fillies; the $50,000 Yellow Rose and the 50,000 San Jacinto Stakes with fillies and mares competing on the Connally Turf Course.
$50,000 Bara Lass Stakes
The first stakes of the evening was the $50,000 Bara Lass for 3-year-old fillies at a distance of seven furlongs. Cowgirl N Up prevailed in an exciting stretch duel with Nothinbettertodo from the barn of Bret Calhoun.
Cowgirl N Up, owned and trained by Caroline Dodwell is the half-sister to Aces N Kings, who won the 2011 Groovy Stakes on Texas Champions Day last January
“I’m really proud of her,” said Dodwell. “Most of all, I am proud of my husband because it is his mare that both she and Aces N Kings are out of. My stepson, “Scooter” really does the training. They work hard and send me out to saddle.”
“Miss Dodwell asked me to take her back a little and it worked out just the way we hoped it would,” said winning rider, Larry Taylor.
Nothingbettertodo was the more accomplished filly the Bret Calhoun-trained entry, owned by Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. She gave her all under rider Cliff Berry.
"She ran a good race, one of the best she has ever run,” said Berry. “I wish we had the outside post; but she ran great.”
Cowgirl N Up paid $8.80 as the second betting choice, completing seven furlongs in 1:24.29. Nothinbettertodo was second, followed by Color Code and Lotta Zalotta.
$50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes
The six-furlong $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes drew a field of ten fillies, and
Joy’s Paradise, under a rail skimming ride by Glen Murphy, was much the best.
The daughter of Taste of Paradise out of the Dixieland Heat mare, Coastalota was pointed to this stakes last year, but developed an abscess and could not run according to her trainer, Karl Broberg.
Jockey Glen Murphy, who was the leading rider at Sam Houston in 2000, was pleased with the effort of Joy’s Paradise.
“I really appreciate Karl naming me on the mare, “said Murphy. “She was really on her game. There was some speed in the race, but the further she went, the better she got. She ran a beautiful race. I really love Houston and all the people down here and am looking forward to a good meet.”
Owner and breeder Hubert Southard, was proud that his mare had come back in such fine form since her last start at Remington Park.
“As an owner and breeder, Texas Champions Day means everything,” said Southard.
Former Texas Champion, Tin Top Cat ran second for trainer Bret Calhoun and owners Bill Jordan and Jerry Durant. She won her last start, the Flashy Lady Stakes at Remington Park on October 15.
"She tried hard, but Joy’s Paradise is a really nice mare," said Calhoun.
Joy’s Paradise covered six furlongs in 1:11.62 and returned $11.40 for the win. Tin Top Cat was second, followed by Princess Turnandot and Queenland.
$50,000 San Jacinto Stakes
A full field of fillies and mares took to the Connally Turf Course for the mile and one-sixteenth San Jacinto Stakes. Last year, it was Kite Seeker showing her experience edge for trainer Karl Broberg. The 8-year-old mare was claimed for $10,000 in 2010, and has won 10 of her 42 career starts. This year, Broberg was on the other side of the claim as his loss of Badness was good fortune for Sierra Racing Stable, LLC and trainer Andy Konkoly. The 5-year-old daughter of Midway Road won in gate-to-wire fashion under apprentice rider, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez.
It was the first stakes for both Valdez-Jiminez and owner Albert Valenzuela, of Crockett, Texas.
“It really was exciting,” said Konkoly. “I’m glad for Albert and for Ernesto. He did a heck of a job getting him around in a slow time and had enough to hold them all off. He’s an up and coming rider. He tries hard and we like him.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” said the proud owner. “I really looked forward to this day and if it wasn’t for Karl dropping the horse into claiming, it never would have happened. Thank you, Karl.”
Patty's Pride with Jeremy Collier aboard, ran second, followed by Sera's Tunnel and Grand Opry. Badness paid $17.00, increasing her lead to 2 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:45.64 over a firm turf course.
Texas Champions Weekend continues on Saturday evening with four stakes. The card will include the $50,000 Groovy Stakes, $50,000 Richard King Stakes, $50,000 Spirit of Texas and the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes. Texas Thoroughbred Association Horse of the Year, Skip a Smile is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the mile and one-sixteenth Star of Texas.
The 2012 Thoroughbred meet runs 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.