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Weighing In with Martha Claussen
June 5, 2013 – Latest Racing Events & Newsmakers


Live racing will return to Sam Houston Race Park on January 17, 2014, but stay in touch with timely industry news and updates on the upcoming racing events as well as news on the top Texas horses, trainers, jockeys and breeders in this bi-monthly posting by Martha Claussen.

If you have any questions or suggested topics for Martha, feel free to email her at mclaussen@shrp.com.

Enjoy the Belmont Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park invites Houstonians to watch and wager on the 145th Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8, 2013. The third and final leg of racing's Triple Crown will be simulcast from Belmont Park, in Elmont, New York.

Admission is FREE on Belmont Day and while there will be no Triple Crown hero crowned this year, an exceptional field is shaping up for the 2013 Belmont Stakes. The entrants will include Kentucky Derby winner, Orb,

ORB - Photo by Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs

Preakness Stakes champion, Oxbow and other significant contenders including Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Will Take Charge, Palace Malice and Kentucky Derby runner-up, Golden Soul

Run at a distance of 1 1/2 miles, the Belmont Stakes is known as the "Test of Champions" and has produced a history of long shot winners including Sarava ($142.50); Birdstone ( $74.00 ) and Da'Tara ($79.00).  Da'Tara's gate-to-wire performance in 2008 at odds of 38-1, when he defeated Big Brown, produced a huge $48,000 superfecta.  This year's money-making opportunities include a $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 6 and a $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4.

As far as human interest stories, none are more compelling that the comeback of jockey Gary Stevens in 2013. Returning to the saddle this year at 50-years-old, the Hall of Fame rider has won several graded stakes this year, including the Grade 1, Preakness Stakes last month. Stevens will attempt to win his fourth Belmont Stakes aboard Oxbow for another Hall of Famer, trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Sam Houston Race Park will simulcast the entire Belmont Park card, and will offer advance wagering on Friday, June 7. Early Bird Wagering is available in the Valet Parking Circle 7:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Friday as well as Saturday morning.  Fans are welcome to come out on Friday, June 7 for a great card, which includes the Brooklyn Handicap/ Belmont Stakes Daily Double. The wager must be placed prior to the running of the Brooklyn Handicap on Friday afternoon.

Sam Houston Race Park will offer advance wagering on Friday, June 7.  Fans can place a bet by driving to the valet parking circle from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.  "Belmont Stakes Early Bird Wagering" will also be available on Saturday, June 8  beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Visit shrp.com for more information on the Belmont festivities and dining at Sam Houston Race Park. Enjoy the running of the 145th Belmont Stakes and have a profitable day!

Swift Warrior Nominated for the Grade 1, Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap

Swift Warrior - Photo By Jack Coady, Coady Photography

Swift Warrior, winner of the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park, has been nominated to run in Saturday's $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan. The mile and one-quarter Grade 1 turf stakes, is expected to draw a competitive field of turf specialists and will be one of the races in the $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4.

The 5-year-old son of First Samurai won the Connally Turf Cup in front-running fashion and followed that up with a victory in the Grade 3, Tampa Bay Stakes,  also on the turf,  on February 16.
The Kentucky-bred's only defeat in 2013 came last month at Pimlico in the Grade 2, Dixie Stakes. Trained by John Terranova for New Jersey-based owners, James Covello and James Dolan, Swift Warrior is just one of several Thoroughbreds that ran this year at Sam Houston Race Park that continue to be prominent players on the national racing scene.   Look for updates on Departing, Willcox Inn, Ikon Ike and Houston Ladies Classic champion, Joyful Victory in future blogs.

Breeders Cup Challenge and Simulcast Specials Highlight Summer Schedule at Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park offers a comprehensive simulcasting menu daily and welcomes its racing and sports fans with a variety of food and beverage promotions each week.  These include:

MONDAY - Noon to 4:00
$5 PER POUND SHRIMP BOIL AND $1 DRAFT BEER

WEDNESDAY -
5:00 to 9:00
$3 SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALL DINNER

THURSDAY -
5:00 to 9:00
$2 PINT NIGHT AND 50 CENT WINGS

FRIDAY -
5:00 to 9:00
$1 HOTS DOGS AND $1 DRAFT BEER
5:00 to 9:00

SUNDAY -
Noon to 4:00
$5 8 0Z RIBEYE AND BAKED POTATO 

In addition, the $5,000  Breeders' Cup Challenge Handicapping Contest begins on Saturday, June 15. This new contest consists of 4 qualifying rounds between June 15 and October 6 which will cover 48 races in the Breeders Cup Challenge Series. (The first qualifying Round is from June 15 to August 17). The top 5 finishers in each round advance to the Championship Round on Breeders Cup Friday and Saturday November 1 and 2. First Place in the Championship Round wins
$2,500; Second Place wins $1000; Third place wins $500. The winner of each Qualifying Round receives $250. For more information on the contest and simulcast racing at Sam Houston Race Park, visit shrp.com.

Improvements Made For Sam Houston Race Park's On-Track Mobile Wagering
For patrons looking for the ultimate convenience in wagering, the On-Track Mobile Wagering  service at Sam Houston Race Park has undergone some major improvements.

The new program allows on-track customers to place wagers on both simulcast and live racing using their Smartphone, I-Pad or tablet.  A mobile website has been designed specifically for Sam Houston Race Park customers with expanded free Wi-Fi service to accommodate the service.

On-Track Mobile Wagering made its debut in January, and there were some challenges in the early going,  but  officials have worked hard to make improvements.

"Our racing fans gave us excellent feedback on the program over the past several months", said Andréa Young, Sam Houston Race Park's president. "We know that mobile technology offers tremendous convenience and have made several improvements to ensure the highest quality of service.  This has been one of many important initiatives for 2013 and we are pleased to be the first track in Texas to offer this amenity."

Retama Park Kicks off Live Quarter Horse Racing on Friday, June 7
Live racing returns to Retama Park beginning Friday, June 7. The Texas racetrack, located near San Antonio, will run live Quarter Horse racing on Friday and Saturday evenings through August 10.  Sam Houston Race Park will simulcast all the action from Retama Park with key stakes lined up for the weekend of July 26-27.  Several of the Quarter Horse stars from Sam Houston Race Park will compete  in the $100,000-added TQHA Sale Futurity on Saturday, July 27.

The voice of Sam Houston Race Park, Tom Harris, also calls the races at Retama Park. Tom is a great announcer and a very fan-friendly racing enthusiast.

Big Biz Perry Wins the Heritage Place Futurity for Jose S. Espinosa

Big Biz Perry - Photo By Dustin Orona Photography

2013 is shaping up nicely for Texas horseman Jose S. Espinosa. On May 18, he was honored as Owner of the Meet at Sam Houston Race Park. He had exceptional success with his 2-year-olds, including The Kat in the Hat who captured the $75,690 John Deere Texas Juvenile Challenge (G3) and  Trace Seis,  the fastest qualifier for the $452,800 Sam Houston Futurity (G2).

On Saturday, June 1, the Mission, Texas resident made national headlines when Big Biz Perry was the upset winner of the $1,075,260 Heritage Place Futurity (G1).  The 2-year-old daughter of Mr Jess Perry broke her maiden in March at Sam Houston Race Park, but failed to qualify for the Sam Houston Futurity.  That result did not dampen the enthusiasm that Espinosa had for his filly.

"She had a bad break from the gate in Houston," said Espinosa. "I knew she was a really good filly. We had paid her into the Heritage Place Futurity, so I sent her to Trey (Wood) two weeks ago."

Ridden by Cipriano Vidana, Big Biz Perry was away at 29-1 odds and paid $60.80 for the win, defeating  fastest qualifier and even-money favorite Hes Relentless. The Judd Kearl-trained Wagon Tales ran third.

Big Biz Perry set a new stakes record in the Heritage Place Futurity by covering the 350 yards in :17.310 seconds over a fast track. A Texas-bred by Burnett Ranches, Big Biz Perry is by Mr Jess Perry from the Shazoom mare Big Bizooms.  Espinosa purchased her at the Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale for just $20,000; her pay check on Saturday night was $383,309; her lifetime earnings after four starts increased to $393,947.

Espinosa was elated with the win, which capped off a very tumultuous weekend.  He had driven to Oklahoma City on Friday, arriving at 5:00 p.m., just when the second round of tornados besieged the area.

"We arrived at the hotel, and they immediately sent everyone into the basement," said Espinosa. "I've been through hurricanes in Texas, but this was my first experience with a tornado. It was terrifying. We were in the bunkers, and all I could do was worry about my horses."

Fortunately Remington Park was not in the direct path, and despite heavy rain, no damage occurred. They ran the first two races of the Friday night card, before canceling the remainder of the evening.  The weather on Saturday was perfect for the running of their "Mega-Card", which included the Heritage Place Futurity  and the $250,000 Remington Park Invitational.

Espinosa returned to Texas, where he not only owns and trains horses, but runs a tile company. He admits that it took a few days to soak up the experience of winning a million dollar race.

"It finally sunk in on Monday," said Espinosa. "I will never forget the feeling, because in racing you never know if you can do it twice."
Until then, Big Biz Perry will take her place as the leader on the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Top 10 Poll for 2-year-olds. Racing fans can follow the national leaders on aqha.com/racing.

Remember that if you have any questions or suggested topics for Martha, she can be reached at mclaussen@shrp.com.

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