Defending Champion Fifteen Love Faces Ten Rivals in Saturday's $150,000 MAXXAM Gold Cup at SHRP

(Houston, Texas - March 2, 2011) - A competitive field of 11 has been drawn for the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup to be contested Saturday, March 5 at Sam Houston Race Park. The purse for the final stakes of the 2011 Thoroughbred meet was increased from $100,000 and the $150,000 lured several key contenders for the mile and one-eighth handicap.

Since its first running in 1994, the Maxxam Gold Cup has attracted some of the top older horses in the country. Past champions include Grade 3 victor, Alumni Hall, Mr Ross, who eclipsed the million dollar earnings mark in his 2002 victory, Valhol and Student Council, who won the Maxxam in 2007 and went on to win the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic at Del Mar six months later.

This year's Maxxam Gold Cup is certain to provide tremendous excitement to racing fans with a stellar field of veteran stakes winners and recent champions.

Defending champion Fifteen Love will return for trainer Jerenesto Torrez and owner Jose Luis Espinoza. The six-year-old son of Point Given was bred by the venerable Juddmonte Farm and was trained by the late Bobby Frankel before joining the Torrez barn at the end of 2009. He ran ninth in the 2010 Connally Turf Cup before winning the Maxxam, and hopes that his sixth-place finish in the Connally on January 22 yields the same bonanza.

"I like his chances," said Torrez. "He has won a bunch of races on the grass, but I think he's better on the dirt. He's doing well; his training has been excellent."

Torrez will also saddle entry mate, Barrier Reef is a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old who won three in a row at Aqueduct last year for conditioner Tom Albertrani before his transfer to Torrez.

Both will have to face Schramsberg, the 121 pound highweight trained by Chris Hartman and owned by Bobby Joe Hammer of Elmore City, Oklahoma. The five-year-old Kentucky-bred won the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston six weeks ago and has been pointed to the Maxxam since that impressive victory.

Bred by the esteemed Robert and Beverly Lewis trust, Schramsberg boasts an impeccable pedigree, by Storm Cat out of the Rahy mare, Serena’s Song. Following the Connally, Hartman shipped Schramsberg back to his Sunland Park awaiting his return to Houston.

"He's been training up a storm," reports Hartman. "I believe the horse is as good on the main track. There are some nice horses in the field; it will be a good test for him."

Hartman is pleased to retain the riding services of Chris Landeros for Schramsberg on Saturday.

"He gave a beautiful ride on the horse in the Connally," said Hartman. "I'm hoping he gets the job done again."

Should Schramsberg win the Maxxam Gold Cup, he would be just the second horse in the history of Sam Houston Race Park to win both the Connally Turf and Maxxam Gold Cup. Scott's Scoundrel won the Connally in 1997 and captured the Maxxam the following year.

Red Lead will also make the trip to Houston for Hartman. The five-year-old Florida-bred has run second in back-to-back stakes at Sunland Park. He ran last year in the Maxxam, where he finished sixth to Fifteen Love. Justin Shepherd will ride.

Several noted Thoroughbreds will ship in for the Maxxam including Join in the Dance, a five-year-old son of Sky Mesa who ran in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky-bred is owned by Houstonians Jake and Reed Ballis, Reagan and William Swinbank and their good friend Rashard Lewis, star forward for the Orlando Magic. The owners are friends who met playing basketball at Elsik High School in Houston. Jake Ballis looks forward to seeing their horse run for the first time in Houston and predicts that they will have at least 50 friends and family members out on Saturday night.

"We are glad that Shaun Bridgmohan will come in to ride," said Ballis. "The horse has a very sensitive mouth and has responded well to Shaun."

Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen has just had Z Humor for a year, but has much respect for the six-year-old Zayat Stables LLC color bearer.

"He's a quality horse and a tough competitor," said Asmussen. "We think the Maxxam is a good spot for him."

Z Humor will be ridden by Gerard Melancon, who has ridden two previous Maxxam winners: Scout's Scoundrel in 1998 and Middleweight in 2006. Melancon was the winning rider aboard Asmussen's Expansion who won the Grade 3, Fair Grounds Handicap who won and returned $66.40 for a $2 wager on February 19.

"Gerard has done well for us," noted Asmussen. "He rode Z Humor in the Delta Mile and won a nice race for us two weeks ago."

Another top horse is Stachys, a four-year-old Candy Ride gelding bred in Kentucky by prominent Dallas resident Nelson Bunker Hunt. Stachys won the $150,000 Zia Park Derby on December 4 and has hit the board in his last two stakes at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Michael Biehler will saddle and give a leg up to rider Eddie Martin, Jr.

"Eddie has ridden him three times and won each of those races," said Biehler "The horse has been training well and has shown that he can stay closer to the pace as well as make a good closing run. The race came up with an even balance of speed types and closers. We are looking forward to running him in Houston."

Harmonizer from the barn of Michael Maker will also ship in for the Maxxam. The five-year-old son of Volponi will arrive in Houston on Friday. Regular rider Alan Garcia, who rode Stately Victor in the Connally, has the mount and gets in light at 114 pounds.

The Maxxam Gold Cup will run as the ninth race on the 11-race card, with a scheduled post time of 10:28 p.m. (CT).

The final weekend of Sam Houston Race Park's 2011 Thoroughbred meet concludes on Monday, March 7th, with post times set for Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.), Sunday (5 p.m.) and Monday (1:20 p.m.).

Live American Quarter Horse racing will start on Friday, March 11th and run through Sunday, May 15th with races every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Maxxam Gold Cup Weather

There is a 40% chance of rain on Saturday in the Houston area with an afternoon high of 72 degrees and a low of 47 forecast for the evening. As there has been no rain for the past two weeks, track superintendent Greg Johnson sees no concern for the track surface.

"We have been watering on a daily basis, and with the sandy loam base, the main track can take several inches of rain before it becomes sloppy," said Johnson. "Our philosophy for both track surfaces is 'the wetter, the better."

Trainer, Jockey and Owner Standings

With just four days remaining, Quincy Hamilton has regained his lead in the battle for leading rider honors at Sam Houston Race Park Hamilton has 26 wins to edge Chris Landeros, who has won 24 races, into second place. Hamilton won the Houston title in 2005 and 2006. Lindey Wade added seven wins last week to move into third with 22 victories and Eguard Tejera follows closely with 21 wins.

Karl Broberg, added three wins last week to remain in sole possession of first place as 20 of his 92 starters have won since the meet began on January 21. Sarah Davidson continues her impressive meet, winning four races last week to move into second in the standings with 12 victories Danny Pish is third with 11 wins and Cash Asmussen is next with 10 wins and Joe Offolter and Bret Calhoun are tied with eight wins.

In the owner standings, Janie McCright tops the standings with seven victories. Tom Durant remains in 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.

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