|$50,000 Sam Houston Distaff Headlines Saturday, February 26 at SHRP
(Houston, Texas - February 23, 2011) - Saturday's feature at Sam Houston Race Park is the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff with a field of eight fillies and mares competing at a mile and one-sixteenth on the main track.
Sam Houston leading trainer Karl Broberg will saddle the entry of Truly Lucky and Jill Marie for On the Mark Racing. Truly Lucky is a Stonerside Stable Texas-bred making her third start of the meet. She won the $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes on Texas Champions Day at six furlongs and finished fourth to Chamberlain Bridge in the $75,000 Rail Splitter on the turf. Jill Marie, a four-year-old daughter of Proud Accolade was an allowance winner here last year and was stakes placed at Delta Downs on November 20.
"The distance might be a little too much for Truly Lucky," said Broberg. "We have been trying to get a race for Jill Marie. She was overmatched against Bella Medaglia at Fair Grounds, but it's good to have two chances."
Bella Medaglia, a four-year-old daughter of Medaglia d' Oro, will make her ninth career start for trainer Bret Calhoun and owner Couteau Grove Farms LLC. , She won an allowance at Fair Grounds on January 21 and ran sixth in the $60,000 Pelleteri Stakes two weeks ago. Rider Jamie Theriot, who won the Rail Splitter Stakes for Calhoun, will make the trip from Fair Grounds.
Jiggy Jo returns to Sam Houston for trainer Chad Hassenpflug. The four-year-old filly made her turf debut in the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes on Texas Champions Day. She ran fourth, but Hassenpflug looks for a good effort on Saturday.
"She has some grass in her pedigree, so we decided to run her in that turf stakes," said Hassenpflug. "Kirk (rider Kirk LeBlanc) felt she had a decent trip, but we are thinking the dirt may be a little more to her liking. We are looking forward to running her in the Distaff. "
Trainer Scott Becker will ship in five-year-old mare Afleet Deceit from Oaklawn Park. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Northern Afleet is owned by William Stiritz and will be ridden by Eguard Tejera.
"The timing of this stakes was good," said Becker. "She ran against some tough company in the Pippin. She has always shipped well, so we thought this might be a good spot for her."
Caloosahatchee will return to action for trainer Sarah Davidson and breeder/owner John E. Piehl. The four-year-old Kentucky-bred filly, named for a river on southwest Gulf Coast of Florida, had a bad gate experience and ran ninth in the Jersey Lilly Stakes on February 5. Lindey Wade has the return call. Davidson will also saddle The Cat Who, a five-year-old Texas-bred who has done the majority of her running on the turf.
Post time for the Sam Houston Distaff is 10:26 pm (CT) as race 9 on the Saturday evening card.
Purse Increase Announced
Sam Houston Race Park will initiate a purse increase for the remainder of the 2011 Thoroughbred meet. An additional $1,000 will be added to each of the races, an increase of 6.5% for the final eight days of the racing season, which concludes on Monday, March 7.
Live racing was canceled on Friday, February 4 due to freezing weather in the Houston area. The purse increase in fueled in part by the canceled date, but also by a 36% upswing in handle, compared to 2010.
"Our handle has surpassed even our most optimistic projections for the 27-day Thoroughbred meet," said Andrea Young, president and chief operating officer. "We were hopeful that our revised purse structure and shortened meet would be met with renewed interest. Our fans, especially in Houston, have demonstrated through attendance and wagering that they agree. We look forward to two more great weeks of racing.”
Trainer Danny Pish Elated with Going Away Baby's Two Altazano Victory
Going Away Baby was the upset winner in Saturday night's $100,000 Two Altazano Stakes, but it was a sweet victory for owner/breeder George Wolff and trainer Danny Pish. The filly is a daughter of Valid Expectations out of the Rare Performer mare, Sudden Attraction. She is a full sister to Action Tonight and Leaving on My Mind.
"Sudden Attraction has had three really nice foals," said Pish. "Her first foal was First Attraction, followed by Action Tonight and Leaving on My Mind. Mr. Wolff is very proud of his mare."
Leaving on My Mind made 25 career starts and was a highly regarded 2-year-old, winning the Jean Lafitte Stakes in 2004. Honored as Texas Thoroughbred Association Champion 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding, Leaving on My Mind won 8 races and amassed career earnings of $411,217.
Going Away Baby broke her maiden last September at Retama Park and had three sub-par performances before clicking on all cylinders in the one-mile Two Altazano. It was a pleasant surprise for Pish.
"It's hard to pinpoint one issue that led to those losses," said Pish. "When she began her career, she showed some brilliant speed, but had the look of a router."
Pish was at his home in Cibilo, Texas and assigned the saddling duties to his assistant, Ted Gondron.
"I talked to Ted before the race and asked him to tell Junior that if she broke on front to just let her go," explained Pish. "The goal was to just let her do what she does. It was really nice to see her get back on track."
Pish has had a good meet with his fillies. Playgirl's Prospect ran an outstanding race to capture the $50,000 Bara Lass on Texas Champions Day. Texas-bred Going Away Baby won the third richest race of the meet, the $100,000 Two Altazano Stakes.
Gondron, 41, who has served as assistant trainer to Pish since March, 2008, saddled Going Away Baby last Saturday night. Gondron is well known to Houston racing fans as a top rider with 514 wins from 3,336 starts during his Houston riding career.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Gondron began riding in 1987 in Louisiana and joined the Texas circuit when Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994. He was the leading rider at Sam Houston in 1997 and won three titles at Retama Park. Professionally, Gondron rode 13,624 Thoroughbreds and won 2,008 races. He retired in 2007, capping off a 20-year career with his mounts winning $14,483,815.
Gondron gets high marks from Pish on his knowledge and understanding of what it takes to win races.
"He's a huge part of the team," said Pish. "Ted has lived his whole life around horses and been around accomplished horsemen for many years. He does an outstanding job and his talents are definitely appreciated.
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 $150,000 this year, which has drawn defending champion, Fifteen Love and Join in the Dance, who ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
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.
Trainer, Jockey and Owner Standings
The race is on for leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park with Chris Landeros having an outstanding week to top the colony with 21 wins. Landeros had riding triples on Saturday and Monday to take a one-race lead over Quincy Hamilton who has been the leader for the past two weeks. This would be the first Houston riding title for Landeros; he was the leading rider at Lone Star Park in 2009 with 96 wins and 2010 with 101 victories. Hamilton won the Houston title in 2005 and 2006. Eguard Tejera moved into third place with 16 wins and Lindey Wade is fourth with 15 victories. Tony McNeil and Junior Chacalatana have each made 10 trips to the winner's circle to round the competitive jockey battle.
Karl Broberg added four wins last week to remain in sole possession of first place as 17 of his 78 starters have won since the meet began on January 21. Danny Pish won four races last week to tie Cash Asmussen in second place with 10 wins. Sarah Davidson is third with 8 victories and Joe Offolter follows closely with seven wins.
In the owner standings, Janie McCright tops the standings with seven victories. Tom Durant moved into second place with six wins and Jose Luis Espinoza and End Zone Athletics have each won three races. Eleuterio Martinez, Jr, Anjo Racing, Inc., Stephen Baker, Charles Havercamp, H. V. Farms, Ltd, Charles Hukill and Benjamin Gonzalez, Florida Prime LLC, Sam Guarino and David Ramold have two wins each.