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Weighing In with Martha Claussen
November 13, 2013 – Latest Racing Events & Newsmakers

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

$400,000 Houston Ladies Classic Update

Eric Johnston, Sam Houston Race Park's vice-president of racing, made a trip to Santa Anita on Breeders' Cup weekend to talk to horsemen about the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. The second running of the richest stakes in Texas will take place at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, January 25, 2014 as part of a prestigious evening which will include the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup.

Close Hatches winning the $300,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park
Photo credit: Coglianese Photos

Johnston had an opportunity to visit with many nationally recognized trainers including D. Wayne Lukas, Mark Casse, Richard Mandella, Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher. Mott saddled Close Hatches, the runner-up in the Grade 1, $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Distaff on November 1. Pletcher's filly, Authenticity, ran third.

"I was able to visit with many of the prominent horsemen in the country," said Johnston. "The top barns are aware of our stakes and many indicated it is on their radar for 2014."

Trainer Larry Jones won the inaugural Houston Ladies Classic with Joyful Victory. This year, he is pointing another classy filly, Believe You Can, to the Houston Ladies Classic.  The daughter of Proud Citizen won the Grade 1, Kentucky Oaks in 2012 for her owner Brereton Jones and is currently training at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, November 9, she worked five furlongs in  1:00.20 under rider Rosie Napravnik.  Jones is targeting the Grade 2, $150,000 Falls City Handicap on Thursday, November 28 at Churchill Downs.

Exciting Promotions Schedule Announced for the 2014 Sam Houston Race Park Season

In addition to the thrill of live racing, Sam Houston Race Park is offering a variety of special events and promotional days throughout the 2014 season.  Opening Night/Texas Champions Weekend will offer 50 Cent Draft Beer, $1.50 Wine Specials, and Free Admission for Military in uniform on January 17. A Chinese New Year Celebration featuring a Dragon Dance and Asian inspired food selections is set for January 31 and Food Trucks Day featuring a variety of Houston’s best food trucks will be featured on February 1. Last year’s event included local favorites such as Bernie’s Burger Bus, Kurbside Eatz, Good Dog Hot Dogs, Happy Endings, and Porch Swing Desserts.  The always popular Wiener Dog Races return on February 8, and Camel & Ostrich Races has been expanded to two nights in 2014 after a sell out in 2013.  This year’s event, set for March 7 and 8 will star reigning Camel Racing Champion Chita Johnson from Houston’s KHOU Channel 11. 

A complete promotions schedule is available at

Fair Grounds To Open on November 22

Fair Grounds in New Orleans, will depart from its standard Thanksgiving opening day tradition when it kicks off its 142nd Thoroughbred Season on Friday, November 22. Officials announced that the meet will begin with an Opening Evening Starlight Racing Card at 3:00 pm.

Key dates for the meet include Thanksgiving Day Racing on November 28; Louisiana Champions Day on December 12; Road to the Derby Kickoff Day with five stakes worth $625,000, topped by the Grade 3 Lecomte on January 18; Louisiana Derby Preview Day with five stakes worth $975,000, including the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on February 22 and Louisiana Derby Day, with seven stakes worth $2.5 million, including the 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29.
For more information on post times and upcoming stakes races at Fair Grounds, Betfair Hollywood Park, Aqueduct and other tracks across the country, visit  Admission is FREE at Sam Houston Race Park for the duration of 2013.

Texas Racing Hall of Fame Stakes to be Contested Saturday, November 16 at Retama Park

Retama Park will roll out the red carpet on Saturday, November 16 for the 2013 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame. The event will once again honor horses and people that have enriched the tradition of horse racing in Texas. The gala includes valet parking, cocktails, a gourmet buffet dinner, induction of the honorees, silent auction and live Thoroughbred races.

The 2013 inductees include Arthur A. Seeligson, Jr. (deceased), Dr. Glenn Blodgett, Tami Purcell Burklund and horses Hadif, Kontiki and Dashingly. The Joann Weber Distinguished Service Award will be presented to the family of the late Jeff Coady of Coady Photography.

All proceeds from the gala, which is open to the public, will benefit the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the horse racing industry and those individuals who have influenced and contributed to its growth and development. Proceeds from the 2012 gala benefitted the Texas A&M Foundation Equine Initiative and the Retama Park Racetrack Chaplaincy.  For more information or to purchase tickets for the gala at $125 per person, please contact Sharolyn Grammer at (210) 651-7000 or

Two turf stakes will be contested on Saturday night: the $50,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for colts and geldings as well as the $50,000 Fiesta Mile for fillies and mares.  Several of those runners will make their next start at Sam Houston Race Park in the turf features contested on Texas Champions Weekend, January 17-18.

Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) Assists Injured Riders

Jockey Alfonso Lujan
Photo credit: Coady Photography

Many racing enthusiasts saw leading Thoroughbred jockey John Velazquez involved in a serious spill at the Breeders' Cup. The Eclipse Award winning rider underwent surgery to remove his spleen and has returned to his home in New York to convalesce. Last week, Quarter Horse rider Alfonso Lujansuffered a broken collarbone in an accident at Evangeline Downs.

Racing fans that want to give back to these underrated athletes can show their support via a contribution to The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). The 501(c)(3) public charity provides financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries. Since its founding in 2006, the fund has disbursed over $3 million to permanently disabled jockeys, most of whom have sustained paralysis or brain injuries.

Donations can be made online at PDJF , which serves both the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse industry.  It's a nice way to get into the holiday spirit!

Judd Kearl and Rodrigo Vallejo
Photo credit: Reed Palmer Photography

Judd Kearl Wins His Third Training Title at Lone Star Park

Judd Kearl, Sam Houston Race Park's leading Quarter Horse conditioner, rallied in the final weekend of the Lone Star Park Quarter Horse meet to clinch the training title over Trey Wood.  This is the third time Kearl has topped the standings at the Grand Prairie racetrack; he has six titles at Sam Houston Race Park.

"I want to thank everyone involved," said Kearl. " My clients, who we call our friends, assistants Bradley Mason and Arturo Carrillo, all of our grooms, gallop boys and everyone else behind the scenes. Rodrigo Vallejo who was named Leading Rider after being out of action from injury in May. He returned to the top of his game. And once again the Glory to God."

The 38-year-old conditioner will not have time for a vacation. He loaded up the vans from Lone Star Park and many of his horses will get a well-deserved rest on his farm in Madisonville, Texas. He also has confirmed that he will ship a string of horses to Hialeah Park near Miami for their upcoming Quarter Horse meet.

Jerry Windham and Toby Keeton Notch Big Wins in the Texas Classic at Lone Star Park

Kates Dynasty winning the Texas Classic Futurity
Photo credit: Reed Palmer Photography

Resplendent in his "Aggie" maroon sports jacket, Quarter Horse owner and breeder Jerry Windham accepted the trophy on Saturday, November 9 as Kates Dynasty captured the $1,000,000 Texas Classic Futurity (G1) at Lone Star Park.  The daughter of Fdd Dynasty was bred by Windham, and had run well in futurity trials at Ruidoso Downs this summer, saved her career best effort for the million dollar Texas Classic.

"She's a great filly," stated Windham. "She had been a little unlucky in her previous races and barely missed in the All American trials. This is one of the toughest futurities in the country. We are very pleased."

Jockey Salvador Martinez rode the winner, who was trained by Mike Joiner. Windham reported that Kates Dynasty would be turned out for the winter and return to action in 2014 at Ruidoso Downs.

Fastest qualifier, Jody Pops Zoomer owned by Gary and Randal Kurz, was a dominant winner of the $394,306 Texas Classic Derby.  Luis Vivanco rode the 3-year-old for trainer Toby Keeton.

"He came out of his trial in great shape; he's never looked better," said Keeton. "Training for these great owners never gets old."
Quarter Horse racing continues at Los Alamitos, Zia Park and Evangeline Downs. The Hialeah Park meet gets underway on November 29.

Jockey Rodrigo Vallejo earned his first riding title at Lone Star Park with 20 wins from 98 starts. Judd Kearl won his third training title at the Grand Prairie track with 20 wins from 85 starts. His previous titles were from 2006 and 2007. The leading owner title went to Bobby D. Cox with a total of 5 wins at the meet. This was his first title.

The track record of 19.080 for 440 yards, set in 1997 during the inaugural Fall Meeting of Champions by Dashing Perfection, was broken on October 18 in the Texas Classic Derby trials by Jody Pops Zoomer with a time of 19.075. Jody Pops Zoomer went on to win the 21st running of the derby here on November 9.

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