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January 24, 2013



WILLCOX INN LEADS STELLAR FIELD FOR

THE GRADE III, $200,000 CONNALLY TURF CUP

AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK

$400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes and $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes Complete an Exceptional Night of Racing on Saturday, January 26

A top quality group of turf specialists will compete in the Grade III, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, January 26. Willcox Inn, King David and Seal Cove are among the ten Thoroughbreds entered in the mile-and-one-eighth turf contest.

Willcox Inn is the 3-1 morning line choice in the Connally Turf Cup. The 5-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday out of the Gone West mare De Aar, was bred in Kentucky by Dr. John Chandler. He has won five of his 14 starts for trainer Michael Stidham, beginning with his maiden breaking score at Arlington Park in 2010 when he defeated Animal Kingdom, the eventual winner of the 137th Kentucky Derby.

Owned by All In Stable and Lael Stable, Willcox Inn has competed in seven grade 1 stakes and is the second-highest earner in the field with $668,543.  In his two most recent starts, he ran second in the Grade 2, Shadwell Mile Turf at Keeneland and the Grade 1, $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita. Stidham felt that neither the California turf course or the pace set-up in the Breeders' Cup suited his trainee.

"He just did not take to their turf course," said Stidham, from his barn at Fair Grounds. "But, I attribute his loss to (2012 Horse of the Year) Wise Dan. We gave him some time off and he has been training well."

Rider James Graham will pilot the dark bay from post position nine in the Connally Turf Cup. The outside draw is according to Stidham.

"I actually prefer more of an outside position in a mile and one-eighth race," added Stidham. "James will have be able to get him where he wants and not be bottled up coming out of the chute into the first turn."

Trainer Michael Maker won the 2012 Connally with Papaw Bodie and also shipped Stately Victor for the 2011 Connally. This year, Maker's nominee is King David, a 4-year-old Hat Trick colt owned by Scarlet Stable. He had an impressive campaign last year, winning six races including the Grade 1, $400,000 Jamaica Handicap at Aqueduct. Rosie Napravnik was in the irons guiding King David, at odds of 28-1, for the upset. The talented rider has the mount  aboard Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and will jet into Houston in hopes of scoring her second win in the Connally Turf Cup.

Seal Cove has won five of his seven turf starts and vanned in on Tuesday morning for Hall of Fame conditioner, Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey, III.  Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Stuart S. Janney, III, the striking son of Strong Hope makes his Houston debut off a win in the $80,000 If Winter Comes Stakes on the turf at Aqueduct.

"He hurt himself as a 3-year-old and we had to give him some time off," said McGaughey. "His return has been very good; he beat a pretty good field in the overnight stakes (at Aqueduct on November 17). We figured he was a little better horse than we had given him credit for. The timing of the Connally was good for us and we and look forward to seeing him run in Houston on Saturday night."

McGaughey has high praise for jockey, Javier Castellano, who was the second- leading rider in North America last year.

"We're tickled to have him," said the Hall of Famer. "He is one of the best riders in the country and will let him settle and push the button at the right time."

Red Lead, who will make his Sam Houston turf debut, has run in the main track Maxxam Gold Cup twice for trainer Chris Hartman and Texas owner Joey Keith Davis. The 7-year-old is the top earner in the field with $693,296 in 40 career starts. Chris Landeros, who rode him in his second-place finish in last month's $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship, has the mount.

The Connally Turf Cup was awarded Grade III status in 2006, the first Thoroughbred graded stakes since Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994. Previous champions include Chorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff and Candid Glen, who won the stakes a record three times.

The complete field for the Grade III, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup is from the rail with riders: Swift Warrior, Jose Espinoza ; Capture the Flag, Ian Arellano; Lockout, Luis Saez; Seal Cove, Javier Castellano;  Red Lead, Chris Landeros; King David, Rosie Napravnik; Marinous (FR), Gabriel Saez; Holiday Promise, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez; Willcox Inn, James Graham and Ocean Seven, Curtis Kimes.

Post time for the Saturday, January 26 card is 6:00 p.m. (CT). The Connally Turf Cup will run as the eighth race on the card, with a scheduled post time of 9:15 p.m.

Chamberlain Bridge Leads Full Field of Turf Sprinters in the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes
 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champion, Chamberlain Bridge will return to Sam Houston Race Park in the five-furlong $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes. The 9-year-old son of War Chant is trained Bret Calhoun for owner Carl Moore Management LLC. The ageless turf warrior will be in pursuit of his 20th career win on Saturday evening. He has won $1.8 million since making his debut at Woodbine in 2007 and will race as part of an entry with Canuletmedowneasy, a 4-year-old who has been competing in Southern California. Miguel Mena will pilot Chamberlain Bridge from the far outside post and Edwin Maldonado, who is one of the West Coast's hottest riders, breaks from post two aboard Canuletmedowneasy.

Larry Jones will saddle Ikon Ike, a homebred for Carolyn and Fletcher Gray. Rose Napravnik will be making a late run on the 4-year-old son of Yes It's True, who was a fast-closing second in the Bonapaw Stakes last month at Fair Grounds.

"He's doing well," reported Jones. "He had a blow-out on Wednesday morning and will ship over with Joyful Victory on Thursday."

The complete field for the Champion Energy Services from the rail with riders: Rich Jewel, Efigenio Ruiz ; Canuletmedowneasy, Edwin Maldonado; Conkigo Jose Medina; Storm's Promise, Glen Murphy;  Soultown, Chris Landeros; Antioch Diamond, Gerardo Mora; Que Posse, Corey Lanerie; Flat Back, Rohan Singh; Ikon Ike, Rosie Napravnik and Chamberlain Bridge, Miguel Mena.

Tour Guide Faces Seven in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes
Trainer Bret Calhoun won three stakes on January 19 as part of Texas Champions Day weekend and hopes to add another score with Tour Guide in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes. The Broken Vow colt has won three of his five starts for owners and breeders, Gary and Mary West.  He scored a three-length victory in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds and faces seven rivals in the seven-furlong Allen's Landing, which will run as the sixth race of the Saturday evening card (8:15 p.m.)

Starters for the Allen's Landing from the rail with riders: Hardrock Eleven, Luis Quinonez; Desert Ransom, Glen Murphy; Backstreet Hero, Roman Chapa; Holiday Mischief, Gerardo Mora; Tour Guide, Miguel Mena; Estrickator, Javier Castellano; Xanthos, Tuffy Collier and Detention, Garrett Steinberg.

Six Fillies to Compete in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic
The card will also feature the inaugural running of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. The six entrants each have impressive résumés and graded stakes starts in premier races including the Grade 1, Kentucky Oaks. Their combined earnings of the six fillies and mares exceed $2.3 million.

She's All In is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the mile and one-sixteenth main track stakes. She has earned $766,605 for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel and owner/breeder Robert H. Zoellner at his Rockin' Z Ranch in Oklahoma.  Regular rider, Luis Quinonez will make the trip to Houston to pilot the daughter of Include, who was honored as 2010 Oklahoma Horse of the Year.

Sisterly Love is trained by top Canadian horseman, Mark Casse, who was recently announced as a finalist for Outstanding Trainer for the 38th Annual Sovereign Awards, Canada's version of the Eclipse Awards.

"We're taking a humongous step up," admitted Casse. "We've only had her for a month, but she trains like a good horse. She will van over today from Ocala with Lockout (who will run in the Connally Turf Cup)."

Starters from the rail out: Joyful Victory, Rosie Napravnik; Brushed by a Star, Corey Lanerie; Summer Applause, Miguel Mena; Sisterly Love, Luis Saez; She's All In, Luis Quinonez and Lookingforchange,  Rohan Singh.

Advance Wagering Set for Friday, January 25
Advance wagering for the January 26 card will be offered on Friday, January 25 and Sam Houston will offer a new wager, "The All-Stakes Pick-4". 

Promotions Lend Excitement to Saturday Evening
In honor of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, Sam Houston Race Park has joined forces with the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure® andwill donate $1 for each patron to benefit the esteemed charity.

Patrons can also show their support for the fight against breast cancer by entering the "Think Pink Hat Contest", presented by Cadence Bank. Registration will begin at 5:00 p.m. on the Club Level of the Grandstand. The judging will take place at 7:30 p.m. and the winner will receive $500. 

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 16 recently renovated 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. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.

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