Mr. Pursuit is the Morning-Line Favorite in the $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park

(January 24, 2007) - Mr. Pursuit, owned by Ilona Wetstone and trained by Joe Petalino, has been installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park.

The $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious races of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting, will be contested at the distance of one and one-eighth miles on the main track.

In its 14th running, the MAXXAM Gold Cup has a rich history of top older horses with past champions including Alumni Hall, Valhol, Mr. Ross and Sir Cherokee.

This will be the first start at Sam Houston Race Park for Mr. Pursuit, who ships into Houston off a three-race win streak at Remington Park last fall. He won back-to-back stakes in Oklahoma including the $250,000 Oklahoma Derby and the $75,000 Governor’s Cup, on November 28, his last race of the year. Jockey Cliff Berry who rode Mr. Pursuit in his last three races, will fly into Houston for Saturday’s stakes. Unraced since the end of November, Mr. Pursuit has been drilling steadily at Lone Star Park and worked a bullet of :47.20 over a fast track on Tuesday.

Steve Asmussen, who has won the Sam Houston Race Park training title a record five times, will be looking for his first MAXXAM Gold Cup victory with More Than Regal. The 4-year-old colt, owned by Vinery Stables, has won five of his 12 lifetime starts, bankrolling $543,091. He will enter Saturday’s stakes off a win in the $150,000 Zia Park Derby on December 9.

“This will be his first foray with older horses,” said Asmussen. “He ran against Mr. Pursuit in the Oklahoma Derby (finishing third). It was a fairly roughly run race and he did not have as smooth of a trip as we would have liked. I think the MAXXAM will be a good race for him and hope he will run well. ”

Roman Chapa rode More Than Regal at Zia Park and will ride the bay colt, who is the second betting choice at 7-2, this Saturday.

Another interesting prospect for the MAXXAM Gold Cup is Student Council, a 5-year-old son of Kingmambo, bred and owned by prominent horseman, Will S. Farish. Student Council, at 5-1, has allowance wins at Turfway Park and Keeneland and scored his most recent victory on January 4 at Fair Grounds. Robby Albarado will make the trip from Fair Grounds to ride for trainer Neil Howard. Two years ago, Alumni Hall, another Howard trainee captured the MAXXAM Gold Cup. Alumni Hall, who now stands stud at Farish’s Lanes End in Kentucky, was co-owned by Farish and Houstonians, W. Temple Webber and James Elkins.

Trainer Bobby Barnett will ship in Golden Glen for the MAXXAM Gold Cup. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred will be making his 34th lifetime start and made his last trip to the winner’s circle on November 3 at Churchill Downs. Shane Romero, a member of the Sam Houston Race Park jockey colony, has the mount. Barnett has won the MAXXAM Gold Cup a record four times; twice with Meena (1994 and 1996), with Lost Soldier in 1997 and in 1999 with Western Trader.

Defending champion, Middleweight drew post position two for the MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park. Trained by Al Stall, Jr., the 7-year-old son of Grand Slam, came off the pace in last year’s MAXXAM Gold Cup and will ship into Houston from Fair Grounds on Friday. He will be making his second start off a layoff and Stall is optimistic about his chances.

“He tailed off on us a little bit last year,” said Stall. “Our vets found nothing wrong, so we turned him out (last June) and he made his first start back in the Louisiana Breeders’ Cup Handicap (finishing sixth on January 6). It was actually a better race than it appeared on paper. He got pinned on the rail and he is a big, free wheeling horse that prefers to be alone on the outside.”

The field, from the rail, with riders is: Andanight, Benito Morales; Middleweight, Jesse Campbell; Golden Glen, ShaneRomero; Charming Socialite, Larry Taylor; Mr. Pursuit, Cliff Berry; StudentCouncil, Robby Albarado; Real Echo, Diego Saenz; Goosey Moose, Don Simington;More Than Regal, Roman ChapaandLaura’s Choice, Salvador Perez. Post time for the Saturday night card is 7:00 p.m. with the MAXXAM Gold Cup set as the eighth race (10:02 p.m.). The $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff will be run as the sixth race of the evening.

Sweet Idea Headlines the Field in the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff

Sweet Idea winner of two stakes at Sam Houston Race Park this meeting, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff. Owned by Barnett Stables LLC, the 4-year-old filly has maintained a perfect record of five wins from five starts at Sam Houston Race Park. Last year she won three races including the $40,000 Sam Houston Oaks last March. She returned to action on December 2, capturing the $75,000 Martanza Stakes on Texas Champions Day and followed that up with a victory in the $25,000 Space City Stakes on December 16.

Defending champion, Culinary, owned by Jack H. Smith III Thoroughbreds, returns to Sam Houston Race Park for trainer Michael Stidham. She has not won since last year’s Sam Houston Distaff, when she recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, but has been working well at Fair Grounds and most recently, Sam Houston Race Park.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle Plaid, a 6-year-old mare who has performed admirably in her last six efforts, all stakes races. Roman Chapa, who rode the Deputy Commander mare to victory in the $83,000 Chaves City Stakes at Zia Park on November 26, retains the mount.

Robby Albarado to Ride in Houston on Saturday, January 27

Noted Thoroughbred jockey Robby Albarado will make the trip to Houston for Saturday’s MAXXAM Gold Cup. Albarado will pilot Student Council in the MAXXAM Albarado has won two previous editions of the MAXXAM: Valhol in 2003 and Alumni Hall in 2005.

Other riders expected to fly in for the Saturday card include Roman Chapa, Jesse Campbell and Cliff Berry.

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