Grade III $200,000 John B. Connally Stakes Tops Closing Weekend at Sam Houston Race Park

(April 3, 2008) - The Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf Festival, Sam Houston Race Park’s signature racing marking the close of the Thoroughbred season, will take place on Saturday, April 5, 2008. The premier day of racing features 10 thrilling races, including The Park’s most prestigious and nationally recognized race, the $200,000 Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf (Gr. IIIT). Additional stakes races on the card include the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes and the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup.

The Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, a mile-and-an-eighth contest, was awarded Grade III status in 2006, SHRP's first Thoroughbred graded stakes since The Park opened in 1994. The 2008 Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf highlights an exceptional card with some of the nation’s top horses competing for the $200,000 purse, the largest purse of the The Park’s Thoroughbred meet.

“We are very excited about this year’s event as we have some of the top horses in the country coming to Houston this weekend to race,” said Eric Johnston, Vice President of Racing, Sam Houston Race Park. “Anytime you can get a Grade I, Grade II and multiple Grade III-winning horses to participate, it makes for a fantastic card. I think it is also a true testament as to the quality and caliber of our Connally Turf course.”

The complete field for the Grade III $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, the seventh race of the evening, includes: Eighteenthofmarch (5-1); Wise River with jockey Willie Martinez (6-1); Scrappy Roo with Paul Nolan (8-1); Student Council with Quincy Hamilton (3-1); Embossed (9-2); Going Ballistic with Cliff Berry (7-2); Mr. Unstoppable and Bobby Walker, Jr. (15-1); and Firerock Base with Curt Bourque (6-1).

Eighteenthofmarch has been off since winning back-to-back starts at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He ran third in the American Derby (Gr. IIT) at Arlington Park last summer. It is interesting to note that both of those wins in New Orleans were on the dirt after the races were taken off the turf.

Wise River scored an allowance victory last time out at 7 ½ furlongs on the turf at Fair Grounds on February 24, 2008. Willie Martinez will be aboard on Saturday night. Ten of 11 lifetime top-three results for this horse have come on the turf.

Scrappy Roo is maybe the best local for this race. He is currently working on a four-race win streak over the Connally Turf Course. His last win was in the $50,000 Tomball Stakes on February 23, 2008. Paul Nolan has the ride tonight for leading trainer John Locke.

Student Council appears to be the class of this field. This horse won the 2007 MAXXAM Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park before going on to win the Pacific Classic (Gr. I) at Del Mar and the Hawthorne Gold Cup (Gr. II) later in 2007. Quincy Hamilton, who won the 2007 Connally Turf Handicap aboard Mending Fences, has the ride.

Embossed ran second in the 2007 Connally Turf Cup behind Mending Fences and closed very well to get that finish. He was the winner of the Dallas Turf Cup (Gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park in May 2007. His only start so far in 2008 was the Dust Commander Stakes at Turfway Park over the Polytrack surface there, and he finished seventh.

Going Ballistic won the Super Derby (Gr. II) at Louisiana Downs in September 2007. This horse has never finished out of the top three in seven career starts on the grass. He ran third in the Razorback Handicap (Gr. III) on March 8 at Oaklawn Park, and his last few workouts at Oaklawn have been very strong. Cliff Berry will ride.

Mr. Unstoppable won last time out over the main track here at Sam Houston Race Park on March 8. He did post a very fast five-furlong workout on March 29 at Retama Park, going the distance in one minute flat. Bobby Walker Jr. has the ride.

Firerock Base is currently rolling a three-race win streak entering the Connally. All three of those wins were at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and two of them were on the grass. Curt Bourque rode the last two of those wins and gets the call again here. Both of those wins came with Beyer figures in the 90s.

The celebration will also highlight fantastic dining packages in the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Jockey Club; an online handicapping contest; a handicapping seminar with SHRP announcer Michael Chamberlain, Martha Claussen of the Houston Chronicle, Denis Blake of The Texas Thoroughbred magazine, and Nick Tammaro from; and between race promotions. Ticket packages start at $19 per person and include reserved seating for racing, racing program, racing tip sheet, entrée and a beverage. For more information, call (281) 807-8760 or visit


Sunny Forecast Predicted for Connally Night

Houston-area weather predicts a high of 78 degrees and a low of 51 degrees for Saturday, April 5, with sunny skies all day and a clear, cool evening.

Jersey Lilly Stakes

The $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares going one mile-and-a-sixteenth drew a field of 11. The race will include: Queen La Bella (8-1); Rice’n Spice (8-1); Block (6-1); Jenz Benz (12-1) who won the San Jacinto Stakes at The Park on Texas Champions Day; Fairwell Madrid (12-1) who won this race in 2007; Barbette (10-1); Mystic Soul (5-1); Lemony Cricket (10-1); Festive Rain (15-1); Pleasantly Blessed (5-1); Extra Bases (15-1); New Edition (3-1) is favored to win the race. The Jersey Lilly will run as the fifth race of the evening.

Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup

The $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint will be the final stakes of the evening and run as the ninth race of the 10 race card. The field of 10 horses includes: Super Struggler (15-1); Son of the West (8-1); Clock (20-1); Shark (6-1); Golden Hare (5-2) the horse favored to win the race; Smitty’s Sunshine (3-1); Axel Pegasus (20-1); Orphan Brigade (5-1); Electric Chant (10-1); and Joe Move (10-1).

Grade III Connally Breeders’ Cup $500 On-Track Handicapping Contest

Sam Houston Race Park patrons are welcome to participate in the $500 Connally Breeders’ Cup On-Track Handicapping Contest on Saturday, April 5, 2008. The contest is open to all racing fans, 21-years of age or older, with a total of $500 in prizes to the top finisher. There is no entry fee for the Connally Breeders’ Cup Handicapping Contest. Entries will be accepted starting at 10:30 a.m. when gates open on Saturday. Participants will be asked to make $2.00 Win, Place and Show wagers on stakes races from Santa Anita Park and Sam Houston Race Park including the Santa Anita Derby, the Jersey Lilly Stakes, the Sam Houston Turf Sprint and the John B. Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf. Winner will be determined by highest bankroll. For more information, visit the Player’s Lounge or call (281) 807-8828.

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