Field Set for the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, January 25, 2012) - Sam Houston Race Park will host the Grade III, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup on Saturday, January 28. The mile-and-one-eighth turf contest was awarded Grade III status in 2006, the first Thoroughbred graded stakes since Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994. The Connally Turf Cup is the richest race of the 2012 Thoroughbred meet.

The field of seven is led by Papaw Bodie from the barn of Michael Maker who also shipped Stately Victor for the Connally. This year, Maker's nominee is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Connie M. Apostelos. 

Maker, 42, is one of the top conditioners in the country. He began his career as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, and since going on his own in 2003, has won 815 races and triumphed with graded stakes winners, Freefourinternet, Derby Kitten, Stately Victor, Matthewsburg and Lonesome Street. His 3-year-old colt, Hansen, is one of the top early 2012 Kentucky Derby prospects.

Papaw Bodie will be seeking his first stakes win this Saturday. He has won five of his 14 career efforts, including turf wins at Keeneland and Gulfstream Park. The son of Strong Hope out of the In the Wings (GB) mare Trillion Wings will be seeking his fourth consecutive win in Saturday's turf feature. Top female rider, Rosie Napravnik will fly in from Fair Grounds to pilot Papaw Bodie.

Fellow Fair Grounds rider Robby Albarado will also make the trip to Houston. He will pilot Ioya Bigtime for Team Block and trainer Neil Pessin. The Illinois-bred son of Dynaformer, Ioya Bigtime will be making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 2, Fayette Stake at Keeneland on October 29. Albarado has won the Connally three times, including a win for Team Block in 2006 with Fort Prado. Owner Chris Block looks for a good effort from the bay gelding.

"We had him with us at Gulfstream, but didn't really see an opportunity for him in Florida," said Block. "The Connally had more potential for him, so we sent him over to Neil. Although we would have liked to get a race in January, he is training well and we think he will like the Houston turf course."

Block has one other ace in his pocket and that is the turf expertise of Albarado.

"To me, he is one of the best riders in the country," states Block.

Fort Prado was retired to stud in Illinois and had an excellent start as a stud, with 50 foals the first year and another 40 in his second crop.  He is now standing stud at Buck Pond Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. Block fondly recalls the stellar effort of the gray son of El Prado in his 2006 Connally victory.

"It is one of my best memories of all time," admits Block.

Since its first running in 1995, the Connally Turf Cup has had its share of ship-in winners, but in 2008, it was the local "Horse for the Course" Scrappy Roo who emerged victorious. This year local trainer Kari Craddock is hoping success with Dakota Gypsy, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred. Craddock owns the son of Horse Chestnut (SAF), who prepped for the Connally in back-to-back turf stakes at Remington Park.  Jockey Chris Landeros, who won the 2011 Connally Turf Cup aboard Schramsberg, has the mount.

"I worked him on Friday," said Landeros.  "He actually beat Schramsberg at Remington Park (on September 2 in the Edward DeBartolo Handicap). He's a nice horse."

Landeros, who is represented by agent Kevin Johnson, won five races over the four-day opening weekend at Sam Houston, and is just one behind current leader Glen Murphy heading into the second week of the meet. He was second in the standings last year to co-leaders Quincy Hamilton and Lindey Wade. He won the leading rider title at Lone Star Park in 2010 and finished second to Cliff Berry in the 2011 Thoroughbred meet.  He would be thrilled to win his second graded stake on Saturday on the Connally turf course.

"I love riding on the turf," added the 23-year-old Landeros. "The main thing is trying to save ground on one of the turns. I prefer the first turn, and tuck in as much as possible. For me, I see things happen at an early stage. The horses may not have split, but I know they are going to. Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am wrong, but nine out of ten times, I am usually right. You have to be patient as most horses have 3/16 of a mile kick; you have to conserve as much as possible for the end."

The complete field for the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf  Cup is from the rail with odds: And Music Came, Carlos Lozada, 8-1; Papaw Bodie, Rosie Napravnik, 9-2; Dakota Gypsy, Chris Landeros, 6-1; Colonel Wright, Larry Taylor, 6-1; Little Wagon, Bobby Walker, Jr., 8-1; Proceed Bee, Chris Emigh, 2-1; and Ioya Bigtime, Robby Albarado, Jr., 7-2.

The Connally Turf Cup will run as the eighth race on the card, with a scheduled post time of 10:02 p.m. (CST). 

Top Female Rider, Rosie Napravnik to Make Her Sam Houston Debut

Rosie Napravnik who is rapidly making a name for herself in Thoroughbred racing, will ride Papaw Bodie in the Connally Turf Cup. The 24 year-old rising star had a banner year in 2011, winning 110 races at Fair Grounds and making history as the first female to take the $1 million Louisiana Derby with Pants On Fire.

She won her 1,000th career race at Delaware Park on October 27, 2010 and has now won 1,242 races from 6,524 starts.

Napravnik has been off her mounts for the past week due to deep bone bruises in her ankles when she was thrown from her mount behind the gate about 10 days ago. She returned for the stakes on Saturday, then was off Sunday and again on Wednesday. She is expected to return to the saddle on Friday at Fair Grounds before flying over to Houston for the Connally.

 2011 Connally Turf Cup Champion Schramsberg Retired

Schramsberg, the 2011 winner of the Grade 3, Connally Turf Cup, has been retired and will stand at stud at Bar None Ranches, Dewinton, Alberta, Canada.

Bred by The Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Trust, the son of Storm Cat won races on dirt, synthetics, and turf. He was versatile in both sprints and route races; his win in the Connally Turf Cup came at a mile and one-eighth.

Trained by Chris Hartman and owned by Bobby Joe Hammer of Elmore City, Oklahoma, Schramsberg won the Grade 3 stakes as a 5-year-old. He earned $120,000 for the victory, and retired with a record of 6 wins from 24 starts and earnings of $394,626.

Attendance and Handle Strong for Texas Champions Day Weekend

Houston racing fans warmly welcomed the return of live racing to Sam Houston Race Park. Opening night attendance was one of the best in the track's history with 12,856 attending Friday night's races; handle for the ten-race card was $1,599,125. On Saturday evening, another lively crowd of 6,020 enjoyed the races, including four Texas Champions stakes. Racing fans in attendance and fans at racetracks and simulcast facilities across the country wagered $1,768,798.

Houston Hi Five Kicks Off with a $20,942 Carryover

Sam Houston Race Park offered a new wager, the Houston Hi-Five for the first time in the 2012 Thoroughbred meet, which began on January 20.  Known as a Super Hi-Five in the racing world, the wager requires fans to select the first five horses in order of finish.

Offered on the fifth and last race of the Sam Houston meet, the Houston Hi-Five is available twice a race card and will carryover if there are no winning tickets. Following the first four days of racing, no tickets hit the Houston Hi-Five, creating a carryover of $20,942 heading into Friday's fifth race.

Simulcast News - Luck Pick Six Wager Debuts at Santa Anita

Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park will pay tribute to the HBO series LUCK with a special Pick Six wager on Sunshine Millions Day, Saturday, Jan. 28. The one dollar minimum wager will have a guaranteed pool of $250,000 and will feature three races from Santa Anita and three from Gulfstream Park. HBO’s LUCK, the highly anticipated racetrack-themed series based at Santa Anita and starring Dustin Hoffman will premier the following night, January, 29.

The LUCK Pick Six will comprise six stakes races, beginning with Gulfstream’s eighth race and concluding with Santa Anita’s sixth race.

Racing fans at Sam Houston Race Park will be able to place wagers on the Luck Pick Six on Saturday afternoon. For a complete list of simulcast tracks and stakes, visit

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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