Silver Tree Leads the Field for the Grade III Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf at Sam Houston Race Park

(April 4, 2007) - The final weekend of the 2006/2007 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred Meeting will be highlighted with the running of the richest stakes of the season, the Grade III $200,000 Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf on Saturday, April 7.

The mile-and-an-eighth contest was awarded Grade III status in 2006, the first Thoroughbred graded stakes since the northwest Houston opened in 1994. The Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf highlights an exceptional card with two additional turf stakes races, the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes and the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint.

Silver Tree has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf. The 7-year-old son of Hennessy is owned by Peter Vegso and trained by Bill Mott. He was shipped from South Florida to Oaklawn Park and will van into Houston on Wednesday. Bred in Florida by Vegso Racing Stable, Silver Tree has bankrolled $1.2 million since making his debut at Gulfstream Park on February 23, 2003. He has won three graded stakes, most recently, the Grade III $125,000 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream on March 4, 2007. This will be his second trip to Texas as he ran fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Lone Star Park in 2004.

Silver Tree will have a new rider on Saturday at Sam Houston Race Park, Roimes Chirinos, who is currently the second leading rider at the northwest Houston racetrack. The 24-year-old rider, who was born in Caraccas, Venezuela, recently departed for Gulfstream Park and is represented by Steve Adika, who has a longtime association with Mott. Chirinos rode his first winner at Gulfstream Park on March 29 with Nunnery ($7.60), a Mott-trainee owned by Claiborne Farm. Adika, who has served as an agent for many of the top riders in the country including Robbie Davis, Mike Smith and Javier Castellano, feels that Chirinos is a very talented up and comer.

“I had watched him ride at Sam Houston Race Park for four months,” said Akika from his base at Gulfstream Park. “He has good hands and is a nice young man. Jockeys don’t have coaches, but I encouraged him to watch some of the top riders and learn from them.”

This is a huge opportunity for Chirinos, who rode 55 races in Houston before he departed to ride at Gulfstream. has never ridden in a graded stake race in his career. He is no stranger to the Connally Turf Course, with 11 turf victories here including two turf stakes wins with the talented filly, Wild Encounter.

“I am really excited,” said Chirinos. “The biggest race I rode was in the ($125,000) Texas Stallion Stakes in Houston. Every rider dreams of winning a gradcd stakes and I am looking forward to riding this horse on Saturday.”

Mott has an extensive list of champions including the incomparable Cigar, who won 16 consecutive races before his retirement in 1996. The 53-year-old trainer Mott earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1995 and 1996 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1998.

Fort Prado, who won the 2006 edition of the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf, will break from post position four under rider Corey Lanerie. The 6-year-old son of El Prado is trained by Jeff Trosclair for owners Patricia, David and Ryan Block and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Trosclair freshened Fort Prado following his 5th place finish in the Grade III Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup Handicap on February 10 and feels that the gray turf specialist will run a good race this weekend.

“He didn’t care for the Fair Grounds turf,” commented Trosclair. “We just decided to give him some time off and get him ready for Houston. He’s been training well and had a nice blow out on Sunday.”

Storm Treasure, trained by Steve Asmussen is the only 4-year-old in the Connally. The Kentucky-bred colt is owned by Mike McCarty and made his last two starts at Fair Grounds. He ran third in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup on February 10 and will be ridden by Jose Figueroa. Asmussen won the 2004 Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf with Warleigh.

Two other notable shippers include Embossed, an Irish-bred 5-year-old from the barn of Niall O’Callaghan and Mending Fences, who ran second to English Channel on February 22 at Gulfstream Park. Quincy Hamilton will ride Mending Fences for trainer Marty Wolfson and Larry Melancon has been named on Embossed. General Charley, owned and bred by Bob McNair’s Stonerside Stable and Doctor Doctor Mrmd are two of the local entrants in the turf feature.

“We are pleased with the competitive field for this year’s Connally Breeders' Cup Turf,” said Sam Houston Race Park racing secretary, Eric Johnston. “It was our goal to attract some of the top turf horses in the country and we look forward to presenting three outstanding stakes on Saturday night.”

The complete field for the Grade III $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf is from the rail: Mending Fences, Quincy Hamilton, 8-1; Embossed (IRE), Larry Melancon, 4-1; General Charley, Paul Nolan, 8-1; Fort Prado, Corey Lanerie, 3-1; Silver Tree, Roimes Chirinos, 8-5; Doctor Doctor Mrmd, Anthony Cruz, 15-1 and Storm Treasure, Jose Figueroa, 5-1. The Connally Breeders' Cup Turf will run as the seventh race on the card, with a scheduled post time of 9:36 p.m.(CT).

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