Albano Leads the Field in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park This Saturday

Houston, Texas (Wednesday, February 25, 2015) - The Maxxam Gold Racing Festival is set for Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park and will feature three stakes. Nationally prominent horsemen are shipping in runners for each of the events. The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup will be run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, which gets underway at 6:00 pm (CT). The $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for three-year-olds at the distance of one mile is set as race 8, and the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf will run as the seventh race.

Albano and C J's Awesome Headline the Maxxam Gold Cup

Trainer Larry Jones sends in Albano, a four-year-old son of Istan bred and owned by Brereton Jones. This will be the 11th start for Albano, who was installed as the 9-5 choice for the mile and one-eighth Maxxam Gold Cup. He won the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes last summer at Monmouth Park and was the runner-up in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. Jones had options for his 2015 debut, but felt the Maxxam was his best choice.

"We were considering (last weekend's) Mineshaft at Fair Grounds but didn't think his work was as sharp as it needed to be," said Jones. "I liked what I saw yesterday, so we are sending him over to Houston."

Jones will give a leg up to Kerwin Clark, who rode Cassatt to victory in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic here last month.

Trainer Ken McPeek has entered C J's Awesome, a four-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Carl Gessler, Jr. and Dan Wigginton. The son of Awesome Again will make his first start since running fourth in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby on October 4.

"He's a really nice horse," commented McPeek. "We think he will continue to improve as a four-year-old."

Sam Houston's leading rider Deshawn Parker has the mount and will be seeking his third stakes win of the 2015 Thoroughbred meet.

"Deshawn can decide where to place him," added McPeek of his colt, who drew post position five. "This colt can be tricky in the starting gate, but has tactical speed and can definitely get the distance."

McPeek won the 2013 Maxxam Gold Cup with Unstoppable U, a four-year-old Exchange Rate colt owned by Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables, Inc. Last year, the Kentucky-based horsemen ran second with Frac Daddy.

The remaining entrants are F J Uncle Vic, winner of the 2014 Allen's Landing and 2015 Star of Texas Stakes at Sam Houston for trainer Terry Eoff; the eight-year-old Hattaash, who has earned $371,098 in his 55 starts; recent turf allowance winner Woodman's Luck; and Florida-bred Endurance.

The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park has had a rich tradition since its first running in 1994. Past champions of the mile and one-eighth main track feature include Sir Cherokee, Valhol, Student Council and Alumni Hall. The 2014 Maxxam champion, Red Rifle, went on to win the Yankee Affair Stakes at Belmont Park, as well as the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in 2014.

Full Field Assembled for the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes

Trainer Mike Maker has already won three stakes in the 2015 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet and has a very good chance to add his fourth title in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes.

Kitten's Queen, a five-year-old daughter of Kitten's Joy, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice in the mile and one-sixteenth turf feature for fillies and mares. Bred and owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Kitten's Queen ships to Houston off a second-place finish in the Blushing KD Stakes at Fair Grounds. Maker has given the mount to rider David Cabrera.

"She's a really nice mare and should do well on Saturday," said Maker.

Maker and the Ramseys have a strong track record in the Jersey Lilly, winning last year's stakes with Always Kitten and the 2013 edition of the turf stakes with Artemus Kitten, another quality Kitten's Joy filly.

Trainer Michael Stidham will saddle two fillies on Saturday evening. One Time Only, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, exits a fourth-place finish in the Pan Zareta at Fair Grounds for owner Hilary Pridham. Stidham has tapped Forest Boyce to ride the five-year-old mare. The seven-year-old I Dazzle is closing in on the $400,000 career earnings mark for the ownership group of The Farm on 4 LLC, Brent Gasaway and Stidham. The versatile Louisiana-bred will be ridden by James Graham.

"We might have shortened her up too much in the Pan Zareta," said Stidham of One Time Only. "On paper, she looks like the lone speed, so we're hoping she gets the lead and holds on."

Stidham notes that weather issues have affected the options for I Dazzle.

"We haven't been able to get her back on the turf, which is her better surface," reports the conditioner. "She's been knocking on the door and training fabulously. We're sending two well-prepared fillies into Houston for the Saturday turf stakes."

The ten-horse field also includes Team Block's Compelling Case, who will be ridden by Florent Geroux and local stakes winners Smiles Golden Song and Vilao.

The Jersey Lilly will run as the seventh race on the card and kicks off the $20,000 Guaranteed Pick 4.

Undefeated Academy Bay Leads the Field in the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes

Trainer Steve Asmussen ships in Academy Bay in pursuit of his third consecutive win in the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes. The stakes for three-year-olds will be run at the distance of one mile on the main track.

Elizabeth H. Alexander owns the Indiana-bred son of Magna Graduate, who broke his maiden by seven lengths on October 2 at Indiana Grand. One month later, he came off the pace to score his first stakes win in the $85,000 Indiana Futurity. Asmussen has given the mount to Gerardo Mora, who will break from post position three as the 2-1 morning line choice.

Last Saturday, Deshawn Parker won the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup on Turfway Park invader Ghost is Clear for Mike Maker. He will ride another Turfway shipper, Houston Fire, in the Texas Heritage. Owned by Tommie M. Lewis, the Kentucky-bred son of Divine Park will be making his stakes debut on Saturday for trainer Eric Reed. He will also saddle Bagpipes, a son of Langfuhr who ran third in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes here on January 24.

A Day in Paradise ships in from Fair Grounds for trainer Larry Jones and will be ridden by Kerwin Clark. This will be the fifth start, and first stakes appearance for the New York-bred son of Yes It's True.

The Texas Heritage Stakes has been a springboard race for several notable champions including 2005 winner Leaving on My Mind, 2004 Texas Thoroughbred Horse of the Year; as well as Departing, who won in 2013, then added three graded stakes and amassed earnings of $1.5 million. Perhaps the most notable graduate is Kip Deville, who captured the 2006 edition of the Texas Heritage Stakes and became a multiple Grade 1 winner. The Oklahoma-bred won the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park and earned $3.3 million in his illustrious career.

Maxxam Gold Cup Weather

The cold, rainy weather in Houston this week is expected to clear by the weekend. Saturday's forecast is for a clear, cool day with an afternoon high of 58 degrees and a low of 46 for the evening.

Update on Houston Ladies Classic Champion Cassatt

Cassatt owned by Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms, Inc. captured the 2015 $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park on January 24. Under a confident ride by her regular rider Kerwin Clark, the daughter of Tapit defeated seven rivals en route to her third consecutive stakes victory.

Trainer Larry Jones will take the same route with Cassatt as he did in 2013 with Joyful Victory, pointing to the Grade 1 Santa Margarita on March 14 at Santa Anita.

"She came out of the Ladies Classic in great shape," reported Jones. "We are still on track to send her to California for the Santa Margarita and have already made the arrangements. She will fly out there on March 10."

Camel, Zebra and Ostrich Racing to Return Next Weekend

Sam Houston Race Park presents the return of exotic racing featuring Camel, Ostrich, and the addition of Zebra races this year! Due to the popular demand, the unpredictable and fun-filled races will be held on two nights this year, Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7.

The exotic animal races will take place on the main racetrack in between live Thoroughbred horse races. Some of Houston's favorite radio and TV personalities will participate in the camel races with members of the Sam Houston jockey colony competing in the exhilarating Ostrich and Zebra races.

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