$50,000 Sam Houstn Distaff Headlines Saturday, February 25 Card at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, February 22, 2012) - Saturday is "Ladies Night" at Sam Houston Race Park with free admission for ladies and drink specials for all racing fans. So it is only fitting that the evening's feature race is the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff for fillies and mares competing at a mile and one-sixteenth on the main track.

Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel sent Always In My Heart to Sam Houston three weeks ago for the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes. Making her first start since last August for Pin Oak Stable, the 6-year-old mare rallied well for third.

"It was a good effort as she encountered a little traffic issue," said Von Hemel from his Oaklawn Park base. "She came out of the race in great shape and will return to Houston on Friday."

Von Hemel named Glen Murphy to ride the Hennessy mare; Murphy is having an outstanding meet and has been the leading rider here since the racing season began on January 20.

Puddy Tap has been moving up the ranks nicely for trainer Steve Margolis.  The 4-year-old Tapit filly made her debut last October at Keeneland and has run first or second in each of her four career starts. She won a $17,500 allowance at Fair Grounds on January 25, drawing off by three lengths under rider Corey Lanerie, who will fly in from New Orleans on Saturday evening.

"We really like this filly," stated Margolis. "She is a big, good looking racehorse and has been training well. Corey has ridden her in each of her four starts. He knows the filly well; we think she is definitely ready to step up to stakes company."

Patty's Pride ran second in the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes over the Connally Turf Course on Texas Champions Weekend. Trained by Bobby Jenkins, the 4-year-old daughter of Special Rate will be ridden by apprentice, Gerardo Mora. Making her stakes debut is Standbyyourmangirl, who exits a turf allowance win at Sam Houston on February 6. Larry Taylor will ride for trainer Joe Offolter. The field also includes Miss Hockaday, who closed well for fourth in the Jersey Lilly and will return to the main track in the Sam Houston Distaff. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare is owned by Ronnie Kester and trained by Jearl Ace Hare.  Jenna Joubert, has the return call, and drew post position five.

The $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, with a post time of 10:28 p.m. (CT).

Breeders Pleased with Texas Stallion Stakes Winners

Sam Houston Race Park hosted two Texas Stallion Stakes on February 18. Color Code won the $100,000 Two Altazano in gate-to-wire fashion and Defiant Flyer came flying from off the pace in the $100,000 Jim’s Orbit. Both wins were celebrated by the owners, trainers and jockeys, as well as the Texas breeders.

The $100,000 Two Altazano, Color Code, owned by Will S. Farish, set the pace from her inside post and never relinquished the lead. Jockey Roman Chapa and trainer Steve Asmussen have been a formidable duo, winning the last three stakes of the Sam Houston Thoroughbred meeting.  Color Code is the son of Too Much Bling, who stands at Lane's End Texas.

"Color Code was beautiful, smart and an easy baby to get along with," noted Danny Shifflett, farm manager for Lane's End Texas. "Too Much Bling was one of the top sprinters in the country. His offspring have a ton of speed, but are showing ability to route as well."

Shifflett commended the efforts of Asmussen and rider Roman Chapa in Color Code's victory in the Two Altazano.

"It was an amazing job they did getting her to relax," said Shifflett. "She's a great filly; we were impressed the way she came from off the pace at Remington Park. Last Saturday, she showed us she could relax and win on the lead. Fabulous effort!"

Defiant Flyer, who shipped in from Hawthorne Park, made a huge run in the final furlong and drew off to a 1 ¾ length victory. Jockey Jesse Campbell rode the son of Early Flyer for trainer Liane P. Davis and owner Double D. Stables. He relished the distance of one mile, winning in a final time of 1:39.94. Defiant Flyer, a stakes winning son of Early Flyer was bred at Valor Farm, and it was a proud victory noted by farm manager, Ken Carson.

"Early Flyer has been a dream stallion for us," said Carson. "He has produced some great runners, and the majority of them look just like him."

Carson remembers Defiant Flyer as a weanling.

"He was not one of the typical Early Flyer babies," recalled Carson. "He was plain as a boot, but he turned into a great racehorse. We were thrilled that he has handled two-turns and appreciate that Liane sent her mare to Texas to be bred to Early Flyer."

Valor Farm is also the breeder of Sword Trick, who set the early fractions and ran a game second in the Jim's Orbit. Owned by Clarence Scharbaurer, Jr., Sword Trick won the $50,000 Groovy Stakes on Texas Champions Day weekend and was honored as the Texas Thoroughbred Association's 2-year-old champion.

Quest for a Kiss Continues Winning Streak

Quest for a Kiss, a 4-year-old filly bred and owned by William D. Benzick and trained by Karl Broberg, is the only three-time winner this meet at Sam Houston Race Park. The daughter of Flaming Quest was winless in her six starts last year in Houston, Lone Star and Remington Park, but has found her stride at the 2012 Sam Houston Thoroughbred meet.

On January 27, she drew off to a two-length win in a $20,000 maiden special weight on the main track, and returned for a turf victory on February 4.  Her third trip to the winner's circle took place on Monday, February 21 in a mile and one-sixteenth turf contest.

"Her Beyers went up 20 points when she ran on the turf, so we were happy to run her back on the grass," said Benzick.

Benzick and his wife, Luann, also bred and owned Flame Finder, a full brother to Quest for a Kiss.

"Karl and Glen have this filly figured out," added Benzick. "She has a little bit of speed, but the key is to keep her moving so she can turn it on in the end."

Benzick indicated that Quest for a Kiss will have a rest before preparing for her campaign at Lone Star Park. Their 2012 Thoroughbred meet is set for April 12 - July 8.

Nominations Close Today for the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup

The nominations for the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup will close this evening. Since 1994, the mile and one-eighth handicap has attracted some of the top older horses in the country. The purse was increased from $100,000 to $150,00 in 2011. 

Past winners have included Student Council, Alumni Hall, and the Oklahoma-bred Mr Ross who made history with his victory in the 2002 Maxxam Gold Cup. Trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, the 7-year-old gelding, owned by Don C. McNeill won his 16th lifetime start and added $60,000 to his previously earned $950,016, making him a millionaire. The 2003 edition of the Maxxam Gold Cup attracted three horses that had competed in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, Valhol, Arctic Boy and Fifty Stars. 

Rider Ruiz Recovering from Starting Gate Injury

Apprentice rider Efigenio Garcia Ruiz is on the mend from an injury in the starting gate at Sam Houston prior to the fifth race on Monday, February 20. Ruiz was unseated from Fancy Memento when the filly became fractious in the starting gate. He was transported to an area hospital according to his agent, Richard Ketner.

"He will be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday (February 22)," said Ketner. "The good news is that there were no broken bones; they just needed to place his hip bone back into the socket. He will be out for about six weeks."

The five-pound apprentice has ridden 61 horses at Sam Houston this meet, winning three races, finishing second 8 times and running third in three races. Ketner projected that he will be ready to ride in the upcoming Lone Star Park meet.

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