Grade 3 Winner Sabercat Returns to Action on Saturday, March 2 in the $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park

Houston, Texas (Wednesday, February 27, 2013) - Sabercat, winner of the Grade 3, Delta Jackpot in 2011, and a participant in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, leads a completive field in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup. Sam Houston Race Park held the draw this morning for the mile and one-eighth handicap for older horses, and a field of eight will go postward on Saturday, March 2. The Maxxam Gold Cup is one of four stakes carded as part of the Maxxam Gold Cup Racing Festival.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Sabercat, a four-year-old son of Bluegrass Cat is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and will be making his 11th career start on Saturday evening. After breaking his maiden at Monmouth Park on September 5, 2011, he won the $75,000 Garden State Stakes in New Jersey before shipping to Louisiana for the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot. Sent off as the sixth betting choice, he rallied to a four-length win in the one and one-sixteenth mile stakes. He earned $600,000 for the victory, which gave him sufficient graded stakes earnings for a starting berth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. He ran 15th to winner I'll Have Another and took the rest of the year off. Asmussen entered him in a $62,500 allowance optional claimer at Fair Grounds on February 2, where he ran fourth.

Following his first race off the extended layoff, Sabercat was shipped to Sam Houston where he has been working well, including a six furlong drill on February 18 where he was clocked at 1:12.40.

"I am very encouraged by his works," said Asmussen of the dark bay colt. "The Maxxam fits well, and I look for a nice effort from a very good horse."

Sabercat, who will be ridden by Glen Murphy, the current leading jockey at Sam Houston Race Park, is closing in on the $800,000 mark in career earnings. A win in the 2013 Maxxam Gold Cup would be Asmussen's third victory in the stakes. He won two previous editions of the race, scoring with Reporting for Duty in 2008 and Z Humor in 2011.

Unstoppable U drew the rail for trainer Kenneth McPeek and owners Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables, Inc. The four-year-old Exchange Rate colt ran sixth in the Grade 1, Belmont Stakes, finishing sixth to Union Rags. He took some time off and just won an allowance at Oaklawn Park on February 9 in front-running fashion.

"He ran well last Spring in New York, so we thought he deserved a chance in the Belmont," said Philip Bauer, who has been running the Oaklawn Park string for McPeek. "He's a big horse and likes to grind it out. If he breaks well, he will be a factor; a mile and an eighth should be no problem for him."

Chris Landeros has the mount on Unstoppable U, who makes his Sam Houston Race Park debut. McPeek was here in 2002 with the exemplary race mare Take Charge Lady, who won the $275,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff.

"We hope everyday for another Take Charge Lady," said Bauer. "But she's producing some excellent foals, which makes us very happy."

Twinspired, a five-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday, will make his 2013 debut for trainer Michael Maker. He completed his four-year-old campaign at Turfway Park, with a win in a $40,000 optional allowance claimer on November 30 and a second-place finish in the $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes on December 15. Owned by the partnership of Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing LLC and Sand Dollar Stable LLC, the gray will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, the top female rider in the country, who is currently the third-leading jockey in North America.

"He's training very well," said Maker. "I believe this is his best distance."

Maker has high praise for Napravnik, who won the 2012 Grade 3, Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park with Papaw Bodie. She had a historical evening in Houston on January 26, setting two track records for trainer Larry Jones.

"Fabulous effort," said Maker of Napravnik's performance on Joyful Victory and Icon Ike.

Last year, trainer Al Stall, Jr. won the Maxxam with Cease, who earned his first black-type win for owner Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider. This year, he will ship in Unlatch, another Claiborne Farm homebred who won the Woodchopper Stakes over the Fair Grounds turf course on November 23. The four-year-old son of Horse Chestnut (SAF) will be ridden by jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., the young rider who won the Breeders' Cup Classic last November on Fort Larned.

Trainer Michael Stidham will saddle two entrants in the Maxxam Gold Cup. Hurricane Ike has bankrolled $578,070 in his 28 career starts for his owners Ike and Dawn Thrash. Jockey James Graham will break from post position seven and Paul Nolan will ride Dreaming Blue, who comes off an allowance win at Fair Grounds for Terry Hamilton.

The remainder of the field includes local winner, Cajun Don, is trained by former top Sam Houston jockey, Allen Dupuy and Ocean Seven (IRE), who goes turf to dirt for trainer Steve Borunda.

The Maxxam Gold Cup has produced exceptional champions since its first running in 1994, including Sir Cherokee, Valhol, Student Council and Alumni Hall. The Saturday March 2 card will also include three additional stakes: the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf; the six furlong $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup and the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for three-year-olds at the distance of one mile.

Sam Houston Race Park will offer an All Stakes Pick 4 encompassing the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes, $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup, $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes and $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup.

The Maxxam Gold cup will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, with an estimated post time of 10:07 p.m. (CT).

"Each of our four stakes on Saturday evening drew exceptional fields," said Eric Johnston, Sam Houston Race Park's vice-president of racing. "We appreciate the support of so many prominent horsemen in making the Maxxam Gold Cup Festival a tremendous night of racing."

Maxxam Gold Cup Weather

Saturday is expected to be a clear, sunny day in Houston with an afternoon high of 60 degrees and a low of 37 forecasted for the evening. No rain is expected this week so track conditions should be fast and firm on the Connally Turf course.

Sam Houston Race Park Makes Adjustment in Race Dates for Final Two Weeks of Thoroughbred Meet

Sam Houston Race Park requested and received a change of live Thoroughbred racing dates in March. In a letter to the Texas Racing Commission (TRC), officials requested that the Sunday, March 10 and March 17 live dates be moved to Monday, March 11 and March 18. Since the beginning of the 2013 Thoroughbred racing season on January 18, Monday's handle has outperformed Sunday. The Thoroughbred meet will continue through March 18 followed by the 2013 live American Quarter Horse season, which gets underway on Thursday, March 28.

Jockey and Trainer Standings

Glen Murphy continues to maintain the lead in the rider standings at Sam Houston Race Park. The 44-year-old jockey has made 30 trips to the winner's circle. He added another stakes victory on Saturday with Skip a Smile in the $50,000 Jersey Village Stakes. Gerardo Mora, who was top rider in the Retama Park fall Thoroughbred racing season, has also had an excellent showing and is in second with 27 wins. Roman Chapa follows with 16 victories and Alfredo Sanchez Sigala is next with 14 wins.

Danny Pish has saddled 17 winners to remain in the lead in the trainer standings following five weeks of live racing. Steve Asmussen won five races last week, including the Jersey Village Stakes, to retain second place with 14 victories. Jack Bruner has 10 wins, Brent Davidson follows closely with nine and Karl Broberg rounds out the top five with eight first-place finishes.

Promotions Continue Through the Live Thoroughbred Meet

The 2013 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 18, with post times set for Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (6:30 p.m.), Sunday and Monday (1 p.m.). Special events include:

  • 50 Cent Beer Fridays with ESPN's Fred Faour and A.J. Hoffman featuring 50 Cent Draft Beer and $1.50 Wine Specials every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sunday Brunch Special featuring $2 Mimosas & Bloody Marys and a $19.95 special brunch buffet in the Winner's Circle Restaurant this Sunday. (March 3, First post 1:00 p.m.)
    Monday Live Racing featuring FREE Admission. (First post 1:00 p.m.)
  • MAXXAM Racing Festival featuring four stakes races including the $100,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup and more than $300,000 in purses. (March 2)
  • Camel & Ostrich Races featuring the wildest entertainment of the meet (March 9)
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