Solid Field Assembled for Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, February 1, 2012) - Saturday's feature at Sam Houston Race Park is the $50,000 Jersey Lilly, a mile and one-sixteenth stakes over the Connally Turf Course. The draw took place on Wednesday, February 1 and attracted a competitive field of 11 fillies and mares.

Artemus Kitten, a 4-year-old daughter of Kitten's Joy, will make her Sam Houston debut for her owner and breeder, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.  She is trained by Michael Maker, who shipped in Papaw Bodie, the winner in last Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup. Artemus Kitten is stakes-placed and comes into the Jersey Lilly off a turf allowance prep at Fair Grounds on January 11. Jermaine Bridgmohan will ride from post position nine.

Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel is hopeful that Always In My Heart will return to her winning form for Pin Oak Stable. The 6-year-old mare made her last start last August at Saratoga. Von Hemel shipped her to Remington Park, but had some bad luck as she prepared for a return to the racetrack.

"She came out of the Saratoga race in great shape," said Von Hemel from his Oaklawn Park base. "She injured her leg in the stall, and when we finally got her going, we couldn't get a race. She's graded-stakes placed on the turf and thought she deserved a shot in this race."

Von Hemel named Lindey Wade to ride the Hennessy mare; Wade and Quincy Hamilton tied for leading riding honors last year at Sam Houston. He has been riding at Oaklawn Park in 2012, but will be given a warm welcome by many fans this Saturday evening.

Category Seven has earned $562,911 for James Perron Racing Stable and the 7-year-old mare will make the 53rd start of her career for trainer Kenneth L. Hargrave. The Florida-bred mare will be ridden by Marlon St. Julien who was in the saddle for her stakes victory last June at Indiana Downs.

Pleasantly Blessed was the runner-up in both the 2008 and 2010 editions of the Jersey Lilly Stakes and the 8-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap cannot be overlooked.  Owned and trained by Steve Asmussen, she has won seven turf starts, including the $50,000 Ricks Memorial last September at Remington Park.

Badness scored in front-running fashion in the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes on opening night of the Sam Houston meet for trainer Andy Konkoly.  The Texas-bred daughter of Midway Road is owned by Sierra Racing Stable LLC, and will reunite with apprentice Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez.

"She hasn't slowed down a bit since her win in the San Jacinto," said Konkoly. "This race has come up tougher, but my horse likes a wet track, so if we are off the turf, she will still run well."

The complete field from the rail, with jockeys: Lookinforchange, Larry Taylor;  Vickies In Town, Chris Landeros; Miss Hockaday, Jenna Joubert; Pleasantly Blessed, Roman Chapa; Wanna Cuddle, Jeffery Burningham; Badness, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez; Always In My Heart, Lindey Wade; Patty's Pride, Glen Murphy; Artemus Kitten, Jermaine Bridgmohan; Category Seven, Marlon S. Julien and Tickleyourfancy, Erik McNeil.

The $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes will run as the eighth race of the Saturday evening card, with a post time of 10:02 p.m. (CT).

News and Notes

Strong Attendance and Handle Continue Through the Second Week of the Meet

The 2012 Thoroughbred meet kicked off on Friday, January 20 and Sam Houston Race Park officials are pleased with attendance as well as handle numbers. Weekend attendance is up 53% over last year and for the first eight days of live racing, handle is up 13% from 2011. Strong increases are also noted for the first two Monday afternoon race cards with a 38% increase in handle.

Additionally, full fields have been very popular with racing fans;  field size is up 7% from last year and the new wagers, most notably, the Houston Hi-Five has been well-received by the betting public.

Jockey Roman Chapa Wins His 1,500th Career Race

Roman Chapa notched a significant milestone on Monday, January 30 when he won his 1,500th Thoroughbred race aboard Cool's Phire. He guided the 5-year-old gelding to a gate-to-wire victory for Pharme Racing Ltd. in the fifth race of the card, a mile and 70 yard claimer. The winner was trained by Danny Pish, which held a special significance for Chapa.

"That was awesome," admitted the 42-year-old rider. "Danny and (his wife) Sabina have always been in my corner.  Their belief in me and the support of my mom, dad and two daughters means the world to me."

To ride competitively again is a miracle for Chapa, who survived two near-death accidents. The first happened in his rodeo career when a bull stepped on him and landed him in intensive care. The second time was a riding accident at Retama Park in 1999 when he suffered lacerations to his liver and a ruptured kidney. He underwent surgery to remove his kidney and remained hospitalized for two months. His physicians advised him to stay away from riding for 8 months to one year, but he made a courageous return in January, 2000 at Sam Houston Race Park. 

"I guess I have seven lives," said Chapa.

Chapa also acknowledges the role of his agent, Toby Cathey.

"Some riders don't give enough credit to their agents," stated Chapa. "They spend a lot of time on the racetrack and work hard to hustle good horses for us. Toby, Danny and I are former cowboys; it was nice to have the three amigos together for this big win."

Chapa has been a top rider at Sam Houston Race Park for many years in addition to riding in some major Quarter Horse stakes across the country. One of his top career highlights came in 2003 when he piloted Mr. Jester to victory in the $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.

Apprentice Rider Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez Making His Mark

There is a new "bug" in the Sam Houston Race Park jockey colony and he is off to a rousing start in the 2012 Thoroughbred Meeting.  Apprentice rider Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez has already made five trips to the winner's circle, including a stakes win on Badness in the San Jacinto Stakes on Texas Champions Weekend.

Born in Mexico, the 22-year-old rider began as an exercise rider for trainer Cody Autrey at Fair Grounds last year and rode at Lone Star Park last summer. He was the third leading rider at Retama Park where he earned the respect of many horsemen, including trainer Andy Konkoly. On November 5, he was kicked in the face during morning works, but not even a broken jaw could keep him off his mounts on closing day. His agent, Travis Church reported that as soon as he received medical clearance, he wanted to keep his commitments for the final night of racing.

Valdez-Jiminez won his first career stakes race on Texas Champions Weekend, guiding Badness to victory in the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes for Sierra Racing Stable, LLC and trainer Konkoly.  He will be back aboard the 5-year-old mare this Saturday in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes, which will also be contested on the Connally Turf Course.

Papaw Bodie Exits $200,000 Connally Turf Cup In Good Order

Papaw Bodie who won the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup on Saturday, January 28 at Sam Houston Race Park, came out of the race very well, according to his trainer, Mike Maker.

"He came out of the race in excellent shape," reported Maker. "It was a great performance and very nice when they step up the way you hope."

Papaw Bodie has already returned to his base at Fair Grounds. Maker was uncertain about plans for the dark bay gelding at this point, but indicated that he is considering options at both Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park.

This was the first graded stake win for the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred, who was claimed for $50,000 last December by Connie M. Apostelos of Springboro, Ohio. She loved her experience at Sam Houston Race Park and was thrilled to pick up her first graded stakes win as an owner.

No live racing on Sunday

There will be no live racing on Sunday, February 5, but Sam Houston Race Park will be open for simulcasting. 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 this Saturday, 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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