||Significant Handle Increase Noted for the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, Texas (Wednesday, February 1, 2017) - It was an exceptional Sunday afternoon of racing on January 29 at Sam Houston Race Park. For the second time in the racetrack's 24-year history, two graded stakes were contested and noted owners, trainers and jockeys shipped in for both the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup.
Officials reported that the handle for the Houston Racing Festival, which also included the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint, $50,000 Houston Distaff and $50,000 Space City Stakes was up 22% from 2016, making this the highest handle reported for the Houston Racing Festival since the inaugural running of the Houston Ladies Classic in 2013.
"We were pleased to host an outstanding afternoon of racing and showcase some the highest level of competition at Sam Houston Race Park," said Sam Houston Race Park President, Andréa Young. "In its fifth running, the Houston Racing Festival continues to stand out on the national racing scene and was well supported by local fans and simulcast players across the country."
Houston Ladies Classic Update
Unbridled Mo, the winner of the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, came out of the stake in good shape, according to her trainer, Todd Pletcher.
The four-year-old filly by Uncle Mo, out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, owned and bred by the Brunetti family's Red Oak Stable, delivered a solid performance under jockey Jose Ortiz. Unpressured early, she settled off the pace and rallied at the top of the stretch. She crossed the wire of the mile and one-sixteenth feature in 1:42.89, over Grade 1 winner I'm a Chatterbox, bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Gray and trained by Larry Jones.
"She arrived back to Palm Beach Downs (in Florida) in good order," said Pletcher. "We were very pleased with her race and for the Brunetti family. She is a quality filly, but the kind that needs time between races. We will give her a well-deserved break before deciding on her next start, but think she will run again sometime in March."
Pletcher is now two-for-two with his stakes shippers to Sam Houston Race Park. The seven-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner sent Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC's Red Rifle to Houston in 2014 for the Maxxam Gold Cup. Still racing as a seven-year-old, Red Rifle is a multiple-graded stakes winner with $957,148 in career earnings.
"I'm not sure if I should send more to Houston, or just quit while I'm ahead," quipped Pletcher when reminded of his undefeated status.
Jose Ortiz Honored as Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week
Jockey Jose Ortiz made the most of his first trip to Sam Houston Race Park, jetting away with three wins from his five stakes mounts in Sunday's Houston Racing Festival card. He piloted Partly Mocha to victory in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint Stakes; Bigger Picture in the Grade 3 $200,000 Connally Turf Cup and Unbridled Mo in the Grade 3 $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.
Combined with his runner-up finish aboard Shaman Ghost in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Ortiz was named the Jockeys' Guild Jockey of the Week for January 23-29, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys' Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
The native of Puerto Rico ended 2016 as the top-ranked North American jockey by wins and third leading jockey by earnings. His 2017 is off to an equally promising start as he has already won 21 races and purses over $3.2 million.
Sam Houston Race Park Jockey, Trainer and Owner Standings
Iram Diego, the leading rider in the 2016 Sam Houston Thoroughbred meet and David Cabrera are tied for the lead in the jockey standings following the first two weeks of the season. Each have won 11 races. Ivan Arellano follows with six wins and Sasha Risenhoover and Deshawn Parker, who was the leading rider at Sam Houston in the 2015 Thoroughbred meet, have each made five visits to the winner's circle.
In the trainer standings, Mindy Wills is off to a flying start and stands alone as the leader with eight wins from 20 starts. Steve Asmussen, who has seven leading trainer titles at Sam Houston Race Park, is second with six victories, and Larry Stroope and
J. R. Caldwell are tied with four wins each.
Asmussen is also off to a great start as an owner with three wins from six starters this meet. A slew of owners, including Stonewall Dominion LLC/ Jose Luis Espinoza and Douglas Scharbauer follow with two victories.
Live racing continues at Sam Houston Race Park on Friday, February 3, with programs set for Saturday evening and Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Saturday is Dollar Day featuring $1 admission, programs, sodas, hotdogs, and beer (from 4:30 -10:00 p.m.). Families are invited to attend the affordable and entertaining evening which will also include Swifty Swine Pig Races between the nine Thoroughbred races.