||Trainer Michael Maker Looking For His Third Victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Wednesday, January 21, 2015) - A top quality group of turf specialists will compete in the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, January 24. Trainer Michael Maker won the mile-and-one-eighth turf contest with Admiral Kitten last year and with Papaw Bodie in 2012. This year the noted conditioner sends in two turf specialists, Coalport and Dreams Cut Short.
Coalport, a six-year-old son of Kitten's Joy is owned and bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who were honored both as champion breeder and owner in last weekend's Eclipse Awards. Coalport ships into Sam Houston Race Park off a two-race win streak; his most recent was the Bucks Boy at Hawthorne on November 15. He has earned $425,183 in 22 career starts. Maker has given the mount to two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Javier Castellano, who will break from post position seven.
Maker's second runner, Dreams Cut Short, owned by Rollin S. Fishback and Charles Logsdon, will try to regain his form following the $125,000 Emerald Stakes on December 6 at Gulfstream Park. Fair Grounds rider James Graham will pilot the six-year-old son of Belong to Me. Maker indicated that both will van over on Friday with Houston Ladies Classic contender Shanon Nicole.
"I am very fond of the Houston turf course," said Maker. "We have enjoyed shipping to Sam Houston in the past and look for good efforts from our horses."
Trainer Ron Moquett will send in Bim Bam for the Connally. The eight-year-old has earned $789,070 for owners Ella Lou Smith and Chuck Hagaman.
Moquett is also starting his year with a bang; he has an excellent Kentucky Derby contender in Far Right, winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He has high regard for the staying power of Bim Bam, who remains one of the favorite horses in the Moquett barn.
"He's a cool and classy horse," states Moquett. "We think of him as a 'working man'. He just puts on his boots and hard hat and goes to work every day. Maybe he doesn't have the breeding that some horses do, but he has heart and desire and loves his job."
Sam Houston Race Park's leading rider, Deshawn Parker, has the call and will break from the far outside post aboard the Grade 1-placed Florida-bred. This has been a standout week for Parker, who just notched his 4,700 career victory. He is ranked 36th on the All-Time North American Leading Jockeys (by Wins) list, right behind Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro (4,774).
The Connally Turf Cup was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006, the first Thoroughbred graded stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, which opened in 1994. Previous champions include Chorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff and Candid Glen, who won the stakes a record three times.
The complete field for the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup, from the rail with riders: Devons Iron Giant, Issac Chapa; Fleet Mitchy, Iram Diego; Dreams Cut Short, James Graham; Michael's Gabriel, David Cabrera; Trace Creek, Chris Landeros; Daddy's Kid, Forest Boyce; Coalport, Javier Castellano; Benwill, Lindey Wade and Bim Bam, Deshawn Parker.
Post time for the Saturday, January 24 card is 6:00 p.m. (CT). The Connally Turf Cup will run as the seventh race on the card.
Heitai Leads Quality Field of Turf Sprinters in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint
Tom Amoss won last year's edition of this stakes with Sum Of The Parts for Klaravich Stables LLC and William H. Lawrence. The intrepid turf sprinter has been retired to stud, but Amoss has another capable contender in Heitai.
The five-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus is owned and bred by Rowell Enterprises Inc, and will be making the 27th start of his career. He has bankrolled $778,543, with seven wins in 2014. One of his most impressive scores was his victory in the inaugural $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint on June 21. He covered five furlongs in :56.03, finishing 3 3/4 lengths in front of his rivals.
Amoss recently assumed training duties of Heitai and has only had the Louisiana-bred sprinter in his barn for 2 1/2 weeks.
"This is a very straight forward horse," commented Amoss, who has given the mount to James Graham. "I like his draw (post position 3); James and I have had a lot of success over the years."
Graham won three races, including two stakes, last Saturday at Fair Grounds and was named the Jockeys' Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week's outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts, plus a public vote.
Heitai's ten rivals on Saturday night include Petey Cramer, trained by Joe Sharp, Maker's former assistant, who is off to an excellent start with his barn. Javier Castellano will ride the seven-year-old. Global Power will break from the far outside post under Jacob Radosevich. The Kentucky-bred has earned $404,377 and ran third in the Grade 3, Jaipur at Belmont Park last June for Looch Racing Stables.
The Frontier Utilities Turf Spring will run as the fifth race and will be the first leg of the $100,000 All Stake Pick 4.
Rising Stars Will Duel in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes
A full field of three-year-olds is entered in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes, presented by Cadence Bank. Trainer Eric Reed will saddle the 3-1 morning line choice Bagpipes for the ownership group of Korus Derby Club, Kay Reed and Jerry S. Brumley. The Langfuhr colt will be making his fifth career start, fresh off a one-mile optional allowance win at Turfway Park on December 28.
"I think he will be a better two-turn horse," commented Reed. "We hope he can stay close in the early stages and make a nice run for home."
Reed will give a leg up to Parker, who has been his first call rider at Mountaineer, Turfway Park and Sam Houston. Reed was in Houston on Tuesday, January 20 when Parker won his 4,700th race.
"It's amazing what he has accomplished," said Reed. "He is such a hard worker, and winning this many races just shows how good he is."
Larry Jones will saddle Fox Hill Farm's Exodus, a son of Medaglio d'Oro, who broke his maiden on January 4 at Fair Grounds by an impressive eight lengths.
"We always liked this colt," said Jones. "He's a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Cross Traffic. This seven furlong distance is ideal for him right now. We want to stretch him out a little at a time."
Fusaichi Flame, from the barn of Scott Gelner, is another solid contender in the seven furlong Allen's Landing. Gerardo Mora will ride, breaking from post position eight.
Houston Ladies Classic Update
Eight fillies and mares will compete in the third annual $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race in the state of Texas. Defending champion Rose to Gold and Angelica Zapata have both arrived from Florida. The two Larry Jones entrants, Cassatt and Blue Violet, will ship from Fair Grounds on Friday, as will Kiss to Remember, according to her conditioner, Tom Amoss. Kiss to Remember, a four-year-old daughter of Big Brown, is owned by Maggi Moss and will be stretching out to a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time in her career.
"She's never competed at this distance, but I like her inside draw to help her get the extra sixteenth of a mile," said Amoss.
The Houston Ladies Classic will run as the eighth race on the January 24 card and is the first stakes of the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge. The national program will incorporate over 20 stakes races in 2015 worth over $5.5 million. The stakes will take place at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Sam Houston Race Park, and Zia Park. The Challenge includes tie-ins between groups of races in the series, as well as bonuses and prizes that include free nominations, refund of entry and starter fees, and trips to the PNGI owned M Resort in Las Vegas.
In honor of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, Sam Houston Race Park has joined forces with the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen® and will donate $1 for each patron to benefit the esteemed charity.
Advance Wagering Set for Friday, January 23
Advance wagering for the January 24 card will be offered on Friday, January 23 and Sam Houston will offer a special wager, "The $100,000 -Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick-4" with an industry low 12% takeout. The wager will kick off with the $50,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint as fifth race of the card and conclude with the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.
Jack Van Berg Autograph Signing on Saturday Night
Sam Houston Race Park is proud to welcome legendary trainer and iconic Hall of Famer Jack Van Berg on Saturday, January 24. Van Berg will appear and sign copies of his riveting biography, "Jack, From Grit to Glory" from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. Meet Van Berg and popular racing analyst Chris Kotulak, author of the biography as part of the Houston Ladies Classic festivities.