Tin Top Cat
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Chief of Affairs
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Coyote Legend
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Slick Kitty
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Valid Code
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Crooks Bodgit
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography

Claudia's Forum
-photo by Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Trainer Bret Calhoun Garners Four Stakes Wins on Texas Champions Day at SHRP

Houston, Texas (December 5, 2009) - Sam Houston Race Park hosted the Gallery Furniture presents Texas Champions Day, brought to you by Emirates Airlines and Spring Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge, racing event on Saturday, December 5.  Texas Champions Day is made possible with the support and cooperation of the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA).

The 10-race card featured some of the best horse racing in the history of the annual event, with eight stakes race and more than $500,000 in purse money, making Texas Champions Day one of the most prestigious race days of The Park’s 60-day Thoroughbred meet. 

Trainer Bret Calhoun was the night’s big winner, collecting four out of the eight stake race wins.  He began the night with a surprise victory in the third race, the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes, with Tin Top Cat ($15.20) coming across the wire at 1:25.70 and beating out Ruby’s Big Band  by three-quarters of a length.  The two-year-old filly, owned by Jerry Durant and Bill Jordan, went three wide in the final turn and managed to hold off the rest of the field down the stretch. 

Jockey Bobby Walker, Jr. commented, “Bret [Calhoun] and I talked this morning, and I was going to try to get her off the pace, but I wasn’t going to fight her, and she led in front.  At the half-mile pole, I was just following the leader and found a good spot.  Bret does a good job of getting them ready, and I just have to point and steer.”

Calhoun said he was most concerned about this race going into the night and how it would turn out, but remarked, “I wasn’t expecting the win, so now I have the good fortune to rethink what is next for this filly, and that’s a nice problem to have.”

Calhoun’s second win of the night came with the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes, presented by Spring Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge.  Three-year-old colt Chief of Affairs ($8.40), owned by Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, broke well, moved into the lead quickly, and dictated the pace of the race for the rest of the field.  Jockey Jamie Theriot was able to field off pressure down the stretch from Gold Coyote, also trained by Calhoun, and crossed the line at 1:09.40.

Calhoun commented that “It’s a tough call when you have two horses entered into the same race, and Gold Coyote is a good horse and performed well, but today, Chief of Affairs got the best of him.  Looks like we may have a young, up-and-coming horse on our hands.” 

The co-featured race of the night, the inaugural $100,000 Gallery Furniture Distaff, a 1 1/8 mile race open to fillies and mares ages three and up, proved that Calhoun’s streak was still hot as three-year-old filly Bubbler ($5.00) pressed the early pace and moved up the pack, challenging for the lead along the backstretch and claiming the win by a neck, nudging out the Steve Asmussen-owned and trained Pleasantly Blessed.  Bubbler’s final time was 1:52.46.  The surprise upset in the strong field of six racers made for one of the best finishes of the night.  Final placement for the $100,000 Galley Furniture Distaff was Bubbler in first, Pleasantly Blessed second, the Eric Reed-trainee Sweet And Flawless third, followed by Going To The Sun, Sheza Botha Ours and Morsel. 

Jockey Eddie Martin, Jr. was thrilled with the win, stating, “She just shot out of the gate and wanted this win.  This was her race, and I was happy that I was asked to be a part of it.”

“Bubbler is a pretty nice filly with a lot of pedigree behind her, but she can be a little flighty, and with some more experience, we’re hoping she’ll grow out of that,” said Calhoun.  “We’re taking her back to the Fair Grounds, and we’ll come up with another plan for her. We think she can be a great filly.”

Calhoun claimed the last win of the night with the closing stakes race on the card, the $50,000 Groovy Stakes, where jockey Bobby Walker, Jr. and Coyote Legend ($14.40) upset favored Set Expectation with a commanding lead of three lengths at the wire after closing over Lydia’s Last Step in 1:24.75.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who had several horses race in tonight’s stakes events, followed up with two wins.  The first victory came in the forth race, the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 mile on the John B. Connally turf track.  Favored Slick Kitty ($12.40) was reserved off the pace but rallied to gain the lead near the sixteenth pole and beat out Issheademon by a neck for the win with a final time of 1:46.27. 

“She ran well and is a nice filly who has put three wins together in a row, and we’re excited about it,” said Asmussen.  “She’s a Texas-bred, and this is her first stakes win, so we’ll have to see what comes up for her moving forward.”

Asmussen returned to the winner’s circle with Valid Code ($3.80) and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan after the $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes where, the three-year-old filly faced a tough field, including previous Texas Champions Day winner Wrenice.  The race was delayed slightly as horses were loading into the gate when the nine horse, Moneyinmywranglers, becoming agitated and was eventually scratched from the race.  This did not seem to phase Valid Code, as she eagerly broke from the gate at the start and settled between rivals down the backstretch.  She managed to move up on the outside to take command in the stretch, beating out Stealth Cat by 2 3/4 lengths for the win with a time of 1:10.58. 

The $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes, presented by Emirates Airlines - the first of the co-featured stakes events - proved to be one of the best races of the night, with a surprise victory from Crook’s Bodgit ($21.00).  Jockey Eduardo Perez was able to guide the four-year-old gelding into a nice pocket inside the pack early in the race and pushed him into the lead late in the stretch, beating out Steve Asmussen-trainee Ablaze With Spirit by a half-length for the win with a final time of 1:43.93.  Trainer Ingrid Mason shipped the horse in from Chicago for the race and was elated with the win. 

“This horse has been so good to me, and to have the support of the owner [Coby Tresner] is unbelievable.  I knew what this horse needed. He did exactly what I asked him to do, and Eddie [Perez] had a perfect ride.”

Mason is currently training approximately four horses, but with this major stakes victory, she is eager to increase her efforts and continue to make a mark on the racing circuit.  Final placement was Crook’s Bodgit, Ablaze With Spirit, Becky’s Express, Valid Stripes, Windy Lou, Mean Demand, Fly So Open, Goosy Moose, Taptam, Burbon Road and Taksent.

The $50,000 Richard King Stakes, a 1 1/8 mile race on the John B. Connally turf course, showcased the Michelle Lovell-trainee Claudia’s Forum ($19.00) pulling off an upset win over Scrappy Roo.  The battle down the stretch to the wire was tight, but Claudia’s Forum slipped through an opening in the upper stretch and fought his way to the head of the pack, beating out Scrappy Roo, who kicked in a forceful closing pace but lost by a neck.  Claudia’s Forum and jockey James Graham had a final time of 1:28.82. 

“He’s a decent horse, but we had to work a little bit there to find the right opening and get ahead,” said Graham. 

Trainer Lovell went on to say, “We got a terrific ride from this horse and from James [Graham]. We’re pretty excited to be able to see this kind of performance and look forward to seeing where this takes us.”

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