||Sam's Birthday Party and $50,000 Tomball Stakes Highlight Weekend Festivities at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Wednesday, January 28, 2015) - Sam Houston Race Park heads into the third weekend of the 2015 Thoroughbred racing season with plenty of special events with fillies and mares showcased in Saturday night's feature, the $50,000 Tomball Stakes.
Racing fans on Friday evening will enjoy the weekly 50 Cent Beer Fridays featuring 50 Cent Draft Beer and $1.50 Wine Specials from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On Saturday evening, patrons are invited to celebrate Sam Houston Race Park's mascot Sam's 21st Birthday! Birthday cake will be served, complimentary pictures with Sam will be offered and fans will cheer him on as the 21-year-old makes his first bet!
Also, on Saturday, January 31, Sam Houston Race Park will host the first ever Goose Island Craft Beer Event. Tickets are just $20 and include live racing admission, five craft beer tastings, and a couple food pairing samples.
The 2015 Thoroughbred meet runs through Tuesday, March 10, with post times set for Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (6 p.m.) as well as matinee cards on Monday and Tuesday (1 p.m.). For a complete list of race dates and promotions, visit www.shrp.com.
Expect Royalty In Pursuit of her Third Consecutive Stakes in Saturday's $50,000 Tomball Stakes
Saturday's feature at Sam Houston Race Park is the $50,000 Tomball Stakes, for accredited Texas-bred fillies and mares at a mile and one-sixteenth over the Connally Turf Course. The field of nine includes five stakes winners, led by Expect Royalty, winner of the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes here on opening night.
The five-year-old mare is the pride and joy of her breeder, owner and trainer Leroy J. Pollok. The daughter of Valid Expectations out of the Skywalker mare Autumn Sky comes into the Tomball Stakes on a four-race win streak. It began on September 24 at Retama Park where she defeated "the boys" including multiple stakes winner Texas Air on a sloppy track. She returned to the turf to take the Fiesta Mile on October 18, and delivered a huge closing kick to win the San Jacinto Stakes on Texas Champions Weekend.
"She impresses me every time she runs," stated Pollok. "She seems to know where the wire is and is very explosive at the end."
Pollok recalls how he discovered his five-year-old mare's affinity for the turf.
"We started her on the main track, not thinking she was a turf runner," explained the Texas horseman. "With Skywalker in her pedigree, we gave her a shot and found she loves it."
She has run first or second in each of her races on the lawn. Regular rider Iram Diego will be back in the saddle on Saturday, carrying the high weight of 123 pounds.
"She'll spot some of the field up to seven pounds," said Pollok. "I was concerned, but Iram doesn't think it is an issue."
Expect Royalty, who has been installed as the 3-1 morning line choice for the Tomball Stakes, will break from post position nine.
San Jacinto Stakes runner-up, Rose Mary Chandler's I am Jane Dough will be ridden by Sam Houston Race Park's leading jockey Deshawn Parker. The field also includes 2014 Tomball Stakes champion, Wampas Kitty and runner-up, Smiles Golden Song. Wampas Kitty took the rest of the year off and returned to run third in the San Jacinto Stakes for trainer Clifford Dodson. Smiles Golden Song is a very capable turf runner with six turf victories, including two stakes wins to her credit. Vilao is another turf stakes winner who makes her second start off a layoff for trainer, Rebecca Baker.
Every Saturday, Sam Houston Race Park offers the $20,000-Guaranteed Pick 4, on races 7-10; the Tomball Stakes will run as the ninth race of the card.
Fox Hill Farms, Maker & Mena Top Standings After January 26 Penn Gaming Racing Challenge Event
Last weekend, Sam Houston Race Park kicked off the first stakes in the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge. This is the second year of the Challenge, inaugurated by Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PNGI) in 2014, ties together 20 stakes races worth more than $5 million purse money 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.
Trainer Mike Maker and rider Miguel Mena, who teamed up to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup with Coalport on Saturday night, sit on top of the standings in the trainer and jockey categories.
Maker, who also lead the 2014 Penn Gaming Racing Challenge after the first event, earned 46 points for the night based on Coalport's victory in the Connally, a fourth place effort by Dreams Cut Short in the same race and a third place finish by Shanon Nicole in the Houston Ladies Classic. Currently sitting in second, seven points behind Maker, is Larry Jones, who not only sent out Cassatt to win the featured $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic but also had his night enhanced by Exodus' victory in the $50,000 Allen’s Landing.
While Jones occupies the runner-up spot among trainers following his two wins on Saturday, another member of Cassatt’s and Exodus' connections, Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, tops the owner standings. With Cassatt's victory, Fox Hill Farms now owns wins in two of the three runnings of the Houston Ladies Classic, having taken it in 2013 with Grade 1 winner Joyful Victory. Close on the heels of Fox Hill Farms is 2014 Penn Gaming Racing Challenge leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey who won their second consecutive Connally after winning it with Admiral Kitten in 2014. The Ramsey’s 22 points are good for second place, seven behind Fox Hill Farms' 29 points.
Miguel Mena is the leading rider in the Challenge after the Ladies Classic card having ridden Coalport and Shanon Nicole for Maker and picking up 38 points in the process. Mena, who won the Charles Town Oaks in 2013 aboard So Many Ways, also finished seventh as the second choice in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint on Petey Cramer. In second place with 31 points is Kerwin Clark, who piloted both Cassatt and Exodus during their wins at Sam Houston.
The next event in the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge takes place on April 18 as Charles Town hosts the seventh running of the Grade 2, $1,500,000, Charles Town Classic.
Sam Houston Race Park Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings
Deshawn Parker, named Jockey of the Week by the Jockeys’ Guild, and made his Sam Houston debut last year, is off to a blazing start in the 2015 Thoroughbred meet. Parker has won 21 of his 50 starts; winning with a 42% of his mounts and hitting the board at a clip of 56%. David Cabrera, who won the riding title this year at both Lone Star Park and Retama Park, is second with 11 wins.
Perennial top horsemen, Steve Asmussen and Danny Pish are tied with seven wins each following the first two weeks of the racing season. Asmussen has claimed the training title here six times; Pish has been the leader in three previous seasons. Tommy Short, who shipped horses here for the first time, is tied with Clinton Stuart; both have saddled three winners.
2014 leading owner Danny Keene is atop the leader board with four wins, Steve Asmussen, who has three leading owner titles here, is second with three victories.