||Trainer Michael Maker Looking for His Fourth Victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Wednesday, January 27, 2016) - A stellar group of turf specialists will compete in the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, January 30. This will be the first year that the stakes will be run at a distance of a mile and one-half, a change that enticed first-time trainers Neil Drysdale and Phil D'Amato to Houston.
Trainer Michael Maker won the graded turf contest last year with Coalport; Admiral Kitten in 2014 and with Papaw Bodie in 2012. The nationally prominent horseman hopes to make it four victories with this year's entrant, Skychal Racing LLC's Da Big Hoss. Bred in Kentucky by Gary & Mary West, Da Big Hoss is a five-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Touch Gold mare Lady Struck Gold. Distance is certainly no problem for this runner, who won the John's Call at Saratoga going a mile and 5/8ths.
"We like the added distance for this horse," said Maker. "He had a bit of a wide trip in his last, but ran well. On paper, there looks to be some speed in the race, which should set him up nicely. Hopefully we can win it again this year."
He will have some very well-tested company in this year's edition of the Connally with graded stakes turf specialists from several regions en route to Sam Houston Race Park.
Trainer Mark Casse ships in Kaigun, an Ontario-bred son of Northern Afleet for owners Quinntessential Racing Florida, LLC, Horse 'n Around Stable and Gary Barber. He has been installed as the 3-1 morning line choice and will be ridden by Joe Bravo. Kaigun, who has competed in Grade 1 turf stakes at Woodbine, Keeneland and Churchill Downs, has bankrolled $1.6 million and is still going strong at the age of six.
"What's amazing about Kaigun is how versatile he is," said Casse, six-time recipient of Canada's Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer. "He may have lost a step or two of speed, but he can do pretty much anything on a turf course."
Going Somewhere (BRZ) and Big John B arrived from California on Tuesday. Going Somewhere, a seven-year-old Sulamani stallion is owned by Haras Phillipson, Inc and trained by Neil Drysdale. The international runner has been with Drysdale for the last year and ran well in two turf routes in Santa Anita.
"The further the better for him," said assistant trainer John O'Donoghue. "If the Connally were two miles, this horse would love it."
California-based rider Tiago Pereira has the mount and will break from post ten. This is the first Sam Houston starter for Drysdale, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2000.
Big John B, owned by Michael House, is the other California shipper. The Florida-bred son of Hard Spun is trained by Philip D'Amato, the former assistant to Mike Mitchell. This will be D'Amato's first time to run at Sam Houston, and he has secured Joel Rosario to ride his seven-year-old.
"We liked the distance and the firm turf course," said D'Amato. "This horse has always shipped well, and he put in a good work at Santa Anita."
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 Connally Turf Cup will run as the eighth race of the Saturday program, which begins at an early post time of 5:00 p.m. (CT).
Galton Leads Quality Field of Turf Sprinters in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint
Tom Amoss has sent in winners in the last two years of this five-furlong turf stakes with Sum Of The Parts in 2014 and Heitai, who blazed to victory last year.
This year Amoss has high hopes for Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc's Galton, who has been made the 3-1 choice in the ten-horse field. The Kentucky-bred son of Offlee Wild won back-to-back turf races last summer at Canterbury Park, before finishing fourth in a turf stakes at Mountaineer on August 1.
"He will shorten up dramatically for this," noted Amoss. "But he's accomplished on the turf and versatile enough to handle five furlongs."
Amoss, has given the mount to James Graham, who was the winning pilot aboard Heitai last year.
One of the other outstanding runners is Marchman, owned by Martin Racing and trained by Bret Calhoun. The son of Sharp Humor has tested the waters in some of the toughest turf races in the country. He will make his first start since running in the Grade 1, Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last November at Keeneland. Florent Geroux will ride Marchman, who has bankrolled $423,804 in his 20 career starts.
Fair Grounds shippers D'Cajun Cat, trained by Joe Sharp, and Billy Two Hats are other capable turf sprinters. The Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint is the sixth race and will be the first leg of the $100,000 All Stakes Pick 4.
Rising Stars Will Duel in the $50,000 Space City Stakes
Eight three-year-olds will compete in the $50,000 Space City Stakes, which will run as the seventh race of the Saturday evening card. David L. Davis' homebred, Taylors Angiel and Twirling Cinnamon, the winner and runner-up from the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds, will renew their rivalry in the six-furlong sprint.
Karl Broberg trains Taylors Angiel, who ran last Saturday in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes. Twirling Cinnamon is trained by Brad Cox for Steve Landers Racing LLC. The son of Twirling Candy will make his Sam Houston Race Park debut under Florent Geroux.
Trainer Steve Asmussen will ship in Mud Light, a Jazil colt, co-owned by Asmussen and Clark O. Brewster. He broke his maiden last month at Remington Park and has been training at Oaklawn.
"He ran a very good race last time out," said Asmussen. "With his breeding, we expected more from him sooner, but think he'll run well Saturday."
Asmussen has named jockey Iram Diego on the majority of his Sam Houston runners and has given him the mount in the Space City.
"Iram is a hard-worker and very consistent," said Asmussen.
Houston Ladies Classic Update
As previously released, the field is set for the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, to be run at one mile and one-sixteenth on the main track.
The complete field, in post position order, with riders is: Unbridled Forever, Joel Rosario; Rose To Glory, Lindey Wade; Cassatt, Florent Geroux; Diva's Diamond, Patrick Valenzuela; The Ogony, Joe Bravo; Cali Star, Tyler Gaffalione and Welcome Aboard, DeShawn Parker.
Promotions Lend Excitement to Saturday Evening
For the fourth year in a row, 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 For the Cure® and will donate $1 for each patron to benefit the esteemed charity.
Patrons are also invited to attend the Wine Tasting at the Track in the Paddock Room on the Club Level. The $20 Wine Tasting includes general admission, a punch card for six tastings and a Sam Houston Race Park commemorative glass.
Advance Wagering Set for Friday, January 29
Advance wagering for the January 30 card will be offered on Friday, January 29 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 sixth race of the card and conclude with the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.