Daddy Warbucks
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Tunnel Time & Wild Encounter
-photo by Sandra Beck/Coady Photography

Open Meadows
-photo by Jeff Coady/Coady Photography

Sweet Idea
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Mystery Classic
-photo by Jeff Coady/Coady Photography

Northern Scene
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Talented Texas-Breds Star on Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park

(December 2, 2006) - While favorites prevailed throughout the Texas Champions Day card at Sam Houston Race Park, there was no limit to the excitement and talent demonstrated in each of the eight stakes races. The evening featuring purses of $500,000 was underwritten by the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) and featured a slew of talented Texas-bred Thoroughbreds.

The evening began with a gritty win by Daddy Warbucks ($6.80) in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes, a seven-furlong contest for 2-year olds. The son of leading Texas sire, Valid Expectations, scored for trainer Danny Pish and owner William Bright, of Midland, Texas. Roman Chapa had the winning mount and completed the race in 1:25.37. This was the second consecutive Groovy Stakes victory for Pish as he won the 2005 edition of the race with Guacamole.

“I have to give the credit to Mr. Bright who picked him out in the Texas sale last year,” said Pish. “I had my eye on another colt, but he really like this horse.”

Two-year old fillies were up next and the dazzling superstar, Wrenice ($2.80) continued to solidify her bid for top Texas-bred 2-Year-Old Filly of the Year honors. Trained by Randy Mayfield and bred and owned by Stewart Hamblen of Canyon, Texas, Wrenice won her fifth consecutive race of the year under regular rider, Bobby Walker, Jr. Named for Hamblen’s daughters, Wrenice returned to Sam Houston Race Park two weeks after winning the $45,000 Houston Chronicle Stakes, but the lack of rest was no problem for the talented filly as she drew off by 5 ¾ lengths, crossing the wire of the seven-furlong event in 1:24.41.

“It didn’t take a lot out of her last time,” commented Walker. “She’s extremely fast. The biggest question was could she get the added furlong. I was worried that someone could come get her, another filly with more stamina. That wasn’t the case.”

The $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes produced an exciting finish and for just the second time in Texas Champions Day history, a dead-heat was declared for the 1 1/16 mile turf stakes. Wild Encounter ($2.40), a 3-year-old filly trained by Michelle Lovell was caught at the wire by Tunnel Time ($8.60), a 5-year-old mare bred and owned by Charles Hukill. This was the second historical dead-heat for Hukill as his Record Assembly and Desert Darby were nose-to-nose in the 2003 Star of Texas. Belen Quinonez was the winning rider aboard Tunnel Time and Wild Encounter was ridden by Roimes Chirinos.

“She’s a big-hearted filly and I thought she ran an awesome race,” said Lovell, who won the second stakes race of her career this evening. “We ran her back pretty close, but I loved her effort and heart in winning tonight.”

The $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes was captured by betting favorite, Open Meadows ($5.60). The 3-year-old filly is owned by Tom Durant of Grand Prairie, Texas and trained by Jack Bruner. Justin Shepherd, who guided the Open Forum filly to victory in the Selma Stakes at Retama Park, had the return call. Open Meadows defeated a tough field of eleven, prevailing by a length at the wire, in a final time of 1:10.75.

"The main thing was we were trying to get her to relax,” said Shepherd. “Tonight she relaxed very quickly and beat some nice horses. I know she's fast; if need be, we could be on the lead. Tonight, I got her to come off the pace; it worked out great for us."

Sweet Idea ($6.00) captured the $75,000 Martanza Stakes with jockey M. Cliff Berry in the irons. The 3-year-old filly is owned by Barnett Stables LLC in Dallas, Texas and trained by W. Bret Calhoun. The one-mile contest for fillies and mares attracted a field of nine. The 3-year-old filly had captured the $40,000 Sam Houston Oaks here last March and relished her return to her favorite track. Berry guided her to a seven-length victory in a final time of 1:37.90.

“We took her to Hot Springs and she didn’t care for the surface,” commented Calhoun. “She took a couple of tough beats at Lone Star; got beat a head by some nice fillies. It’s nice to her back in the winner’s circle. She loves this racetrack and the cooler weather.”

The $100,000 Star Of Texas Stakes attracted a competive field of nine and the wily veteran, Sandburr ($9.20), emerged the champion in the mile and one-sixteenth contest. Trained by Michael Stidham, Sandburr was claimed for $20,000 last year in Houston and has provided a tremendous thrill for owner Marty Nixon of Chicago, Illinois. Cliff Berry rode the 7 year-old gelding to victory in 1:44.36.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” said Nixon, who was the spokesperson for his Feel The Thunder racing operation. “We are very fortunate to have outstanding racing connections. To take a guy like me, just a novice and get to the winner’s circle with a fine trophy like this is a big thrill for me.”

“This is what racing is all about,” added Stidham. “An old horse like this who came up from the claiming ranks. He’s a great horse and tries hard every time; we love him. He’s always trained well. We were looking for a good horse for Marty and found this one. The horse is good for racing and Marty Nixon is great for racing too.”

The fastest time of the evening was recorded by Mystery Classic ($2.80) who sprinted to victory in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes in 1:09.80. The 3-year-old gelding is owned by John Pierce, II and was ridden to victory by Bobby Walker, Jr. Robert Schultz has done a commendable job conditioning the 3-year-old gelding, who won his sixth consecutive race tonight.

“A good horse is dangerous in anybody’s hands,” quipped the veteran trainer. “He’s a natural runner; all you have to do is condition a natural runner and hope you get the breaks and that everything goes right. Sometimes the best horse doesn’t always win; we’re lucky enough to have a good horse that stays out of trouble. It’s an awful lot of fun.”

The final stakes of the Texas Champions Day card, the $50,000 Richard King Stakes was won by Northern Scene ($4.20). The 5-year-old gelding is owned by Don Eberts and trained by Morris Nicks. John Jacinto had the winning mount in the 1 1/8 mile contest and crossed the finish line in a time of 1:53.75, holding off a determined closing effort from Goosey Moose.

"It's a great feeling to win tonight,” said Jacinto, the current Sam Houston Race Park leading rider. “I am happy to be here and very thankful to Morris and the owners. "It was a close finish; I'll tell you what! I was watching (Goosey Moose) and had to stay close. I have always said that Sam Houston has the best turf course in the USA."

A crowd of 6,154 was on hand for the Texas Champions Day card and a concert by Country and Tejano performer, Rick Trevino. The handle at the northwest Houston racetrack was a meet-high of $2,380,422 and followed strong numbers on Friday, December 1 when racing fans here and across the country wagered $2,028,147 on the ten-race card.

The 2006/2007 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting continues through Saturday, April 7, 2007.

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