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TAPTAM DOMINATES IN THE $100,000 STAR OF TEXAS
Tremendous finishes and a convincing score from the Texas Horse of the Year made for a thrilling Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park. The evening featuring purses of $400,000 was supported by the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) and featured a slew of talented Texas-bred Thoroughbreds.
The marquee race of the Texas Champions Day card was the $100,000 Star of Texas, presented by Emirates Airlines. The morning line favorite, Taptam, has been a source of pride for Dallas businessman, Wayne Sanders, who bred the 6-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap and owns her in partnership with Larry Hirsch. The chestnut mare, recently named 2010 Texas Horse of the Year by the Texas Thoroughbred Association, was sent to the lead in the mile and one-sixteenth stakes by rider Cliff Berry, zipping through the first quarter in :24.50 and the half-mile in :48.54.
“She is a remarkable horse,” credited Berry. “It wasn’t necessarily the plan to get her to the lead, but I wanted to get her in the race. She’s a racehorse; fun to ride.”
Breeder Wayne Sanders and co-owner Larry Hirsch were in the winner’s circle this evening as Taptam made her 32nd lifetime start. She had back to back wins last year at Oaklawn Park before running second to 2010 Horse of the Year, Zenyatta, in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom. Her earnings of $60,000 in the Star of Texas vaulted her over the $500,000 mark in earnings for her Texas connections.
“It is very meaningful because her mother was Salty Tam, the first horse we owned in Texas. She has been a joy. We have had a lot of fun with her.”
Both Sanders and Hirsch are prominent Dallas business men and involved in many philanthropic endeavors.
“This is a heck of a lot more fun than being the chairman of the board,” said Hirsch.
Bret Calhoun’s assistant Jay Severs oversees the Sam Houston barn and was very pleased with the winning effort of Taptam.
“She’s a super nice mare,” said Severs. “She fires every time you lead her over; she’s like an ATM machine.”
Calhoun, who had the best year of his training career in 2010, was ranked sixth in North America in 2010 with 233 wins and earnings of $7.9 million. He won two Breeders' Cup stakes last November at Churchill Downs with Chamberlain Bridge and Dubai Majesty, winner of the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, who was honored as the Eclipse Award winning Champion Female sprinter on Monday, January 17.
Taptam won the Star of Texas over a fast main track in 1:44.77, returning $4.40 for the win. Quiet Again, making his first start at Sam Houston, ran second under rider Glen Murphy and Mile Marker ran third. Back Street Heat, Dandy's Legacy, Windy Lou and Perfect Lou completed the order of finish.
There were six additional stakes on the Texas Champions Day card with recaps as follows:
$50,000 Bara Lass Stakes
Playgirl Prospect, owned by Geneva Holmes of Argyle, Texas and trained by Danny Pish closed powerfully at the wire, besting her seven rivals in the seven-furlong stakes. Jockey Lindey Wade guided the daughter of Running Stag to victory in a final time of 1:25.32.
“I looked at the race and felt it set up good for my filly,” said Wade. “I knew if I could get her to relax and make one run. She gave me a huge kick down the lane.”
“This filly’s racing style fit the seven furlong distance,” said Pish. “Lindey did a marvelous job. She ran her heart out and it’s great to be part of it.”
$50,000 Groovy Stakes
A full field of 12 went postward in the seven-furlong contest for 3-year old colts and geldings, but it was all Aces N Kings who captured the stakes win for owner Caroline Dodwell. He is the first offspring of the former “teaser” colt, Jet Phone at Valor Farms, and has now won six of his nine career starts.
Regular rider Eguard Tejera who was aboard for his five-race win streak last year had the mount and was able to hold off a late run from Tamtastic. Final time for the seven furlong stakes was 1:25.11.
“He got a little tired at the end, but was able to get the job done,” said Dodwell, who gave credit to Jimmy Dodwell for breaking and training the stakes winner.
$50,000 San Jacinto Stakes
The first of two stakes races on the Connally Turf Course featured nine fillies and mares. Kite Seeker had the experience edge in the field with seven turf wins. Trained by Karl Broberg, Kite Seeker got a perfectly timed ride from jockey Quincy Hamilton.
“She’s the greatest to ride, “said Hamilton. “She’s push-button as can be and when I asked her, she gave me everything she had. This is a great turf course to ride.”
“She’s been really good to us,” said Broberg. “Claimed her for $10,000 last year and she keeps getting it done, every time. When they got the half-mile in :49, I thought we weren’t going to be there, but she just kept on coming.”
Jack Shelton, managing partner of On The Mark Racing was thrilled to see Kite Seeker navigate three-wide and draw clear for the victory.
“This is our first stakes winner for On the Mark,” said Shelton. “We are happy to be here and have this great little mare.”
$50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes
Defending champion Chief of Affairs was making his first start since running fourth in the Grade 3 Aristides Stakes on May 29 at Churchill Downs. Owned by Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch of Dallas, Texas, Chief of Affairs underwent surgery to repair a chip in his ankle in June and has shown a series of promising works, beginning last month at Fair Grounds. He ran a game race, but had to settle for second as Valid Stripes came flying down the lane under rider Kirk LeBlanc.
Valid Stripes, dismissed by the betting public at odds of 26-1, was a 3-year-old champion for owner Donald Erickson and trainer Amos Laborde and showed his winning form as he surged past Chief of Affairs in 1:10.14.
“He may not have run his best in his last few races,” said LeBlanc. “But he sure knew where the wire was tonight.”
His win payout of $55.60 was the longest price of the card.
$50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes
The $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes was captured by Truly Lucky, a 5-year-old daughter of Truluck, bred by Stonerside Stable. Claimed for $40,000 by Karl Broberg for End Zone Athletics, Truly Lucky had won races at Keeneland and Fair Grounds for trainer Michelle Lovell.
Rider Quincy Hamilton sent the bay mare to the lead and she crossed the wire of the six-furlong stakes in a winning time of 1:10.78.
“She was in hand and much the best tonight,” said Hamilton.
$50,000 Richard King Stakes
Trainer Danny Pish and rider Lindey Wade returned to the winner’s circle in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes was won by Skip a Smile. The 4-year-old son of Skip Away is bred and owned by Rose Mary Chandler of Luling, Texas.
“The key with him because he is so big was getting him to relax,” said Wade. “Two horses hooked up on the lead and I got to sit off them and wait. When I dropped him, he exploded through there. Mr. Pish did a great job getting him ready.”
“I had him as a yearling and he broke his maiden at Lone Star,” said Pish. “The Chandlers sent him to New Mexico and Todd Fincher did a wonderful job with him out there. Mr. Chandler and I always thought he would enjoy a trip across the turf course and our suspicions were correct.”
A festive crowd of 5,272 attended the Texas Champions Day races. Handle for the ten-race card was $1,580,669.
The 2011 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 7th, with post times set for Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.), Sunday (5 p.m.) and Monday (1:20 p.m.). Live American Quarter Horse racing will start on Friday, March 11th and run through Sunday, May 15th with races every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For the full calendar of Sam Houston Race Park’s 2011 live race dates, visit www.shrp.com. Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 minutes from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 19 luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Champion Energy Services Jockey Club. Sam Houston Race Park Platinum Partners include Bud Light, Verizon Wireless and Champion Energy Services. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.