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SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK OFF TO BIG START

Park Boasts 24% Increase in Handle at Meet's Midpoint

 

Sam Houston Race Park officials are pleased with both the numbers and enthusiasm from racing fans as the 2012 Thoroughbred meet enters its fifth week. Since opening night on Friday, January 20 when 12,856 fans were on hand for the first night of Texas Champions Weekend, the Park has seen significant gains in both attendance and handle.

Live racing takes place each Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday; all have had solid handle numbers with an average of $1,405,902 bet per card by patrons on track and simulcast players across the country. Through the first four weeks of the meet, the total handle is up $4.1 million, which represents an increase of 24% overall. The increases are not just on the host handle (or money bet from tracks and simulcast facilities). On-track average handle is up 33% from the same time period last year. Monday afternoon racing which began in 2010 also continues to surpass expectations. Total handle has averaged more than $1.5 million each Monday with a high of $1,790,127 on February 6, 2012.

Friday and Saturday attendance has currently welcomed more than 20,000 additional visitors compared to Friday and Saturday attendance in 2011. The increase in attendance has also had a positive impact on food and beverage sales. The Park has sold over 30,000 beers on Friday nights, up 74% from 2011; total concession sales are up 70% from last year and the Winner’s Circle restaurant is presently tracking 24% better than in 2011.

Purses are up averaging $164,000 each day, versus $160,000 last year, the largest in the track’s 18 year history. Every Saturday night, at least one stakes race of $50,000 or higher, is on the card, and many nationally prominent horses have shipped in for the featured events. This weekend’s card features two of the meet’s largest races as a part of the Texas Stallions Series. 
Field size is another positive indicator of the eight week meet. The Park is currently averaging 8.8 starters per race. This represents a 5% increase from 2011, and has resulted in some excellent exotic payouts, in particular for the Houston Hi-Five, which made its debut this meet. Offered on the fifth and last race of the card, the Houston Hi-Five boasts a carryover if there are no winning tickets.
"We are absolutely thrilled about our start," said Andrea Young, Sam Houston Race Park's President. "The support of the horsemen and our fans has been incredible. We are optimistic that the energy will continue over the last few weeks of the meet.”

The 2012 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 12, with post times set for Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.), Sunday (5 p.m.) and Monday
(1 p.m.). The meet will feature special events including Ladies Night on February 25, the MAXXAM Gold Cup on March 3 and Camel & Ostrich Races on March 10. The park will also host a 27-day Quarter Horse Meet from March 22 – May 19.

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 and Champion Energy Services. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.

Texas Stallion Stakes Set for Saturday Night
The third leg of the Texas Stallion Stakes Series will be run at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, February 18, 2012. The $100,000 Jim’s Orbit and the $100,000 Two Altozanos are races supported by the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) for progeny of nominated Texas stallions. The Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS) is a series run at each of the racetracks in Texas:  Sam Houston Race Park, Retama Park and Lone Star Park.  

In 2005, the TTA renamed each of the Texas Stallion Stakes races to honor a famous Texas Thoroughbred.  The colts and gelding division at Sam Houston Race Park has been named for Jim’s Orbit, who won the Grade 2 Ohio Derby and started in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. The fillies division is a tribute to Two Altozanos, winner of the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 1994. The accomplished mare, owned by the late Harold V. Goodman, was inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.

The draw took place on Wednesday, February 15 for both stakes, which will each be contested at one mile on the main track.
The $100,000 Two Altozanos Stakes will feature the top three fillies in the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes, which took place on January 20 at Sam Houston Race Park.

Cowgirl N Up prevailed by a neck over Nothinbettertodo and Color Code in the seven furlong Bara Lass. Cowgirl N Up is owned and trained by Caroline Dodwell and drew post position four; Larry Taylor will ride the gray daughter of My Golden Song.

Color Code, owned by Will S. Farish, is trained by Steve Asmussen, as is Miss Lederhosen.  Owned by Littlebrother Farm LLC, Miss Lederhosen, a daughter of top Texas sire, Valid Expectations, won the Texas Stallion Stakes on July 9 at Lone Star Park.

Trainer Bret Calhoun looks for a good effort on Saturday evening from Nothinbettertodo, who is one of the few contenders to have competed at a mile.

"She ran one of her best races in the Bara Lass," said Calhoun. "That inside post was tough and forced her hand. She drew a little better in this stakes and should have more options."

Jockey Cliff Berry reunites with Nothinbettertodo and Jesse Campbell will pilot the other Calhoun filly, Shewantsaprenup.

Seven colts and geldings will square off in the $100,000 Jim's Orbit and Calhoun has one of the top contenders in Sword Trick. Owned by Clarence Scharbaurer, Jr., Sword Trick won the $50,000 Groovy Stakes on Texas Champions Day weekend and was honored as the Texas Thoroughbred Association's 2-year-old champion.

"He's been thriving all summer and in the Groovy, he showed that he is learning to relax and rate," said Calhoun.

This will be the first attempt at a mile for the gelded son of Early Flyer, but Calhoun feels the added ground will not be an issue.

"In my mind, if a horse can run well at seven-eighths of a mile, the flat mile is not out of the question," stated Calhoun.

Asmussen won the Jersey Lilly and Champion Energy Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park and is also well-represented in the Jim's Orbit with the entry of Boca Bay and Patchwork. Boca Bay, owned by Farish, is the more experienced of the two colts with eight previous lifetime starts. Patchwork, also sired by Too Much Bling, broke his maiden at first asking at Sam Houston on February 10. Jermaine Bridgmohan will ride Boca Bay, who drew the rail and Roman Chapa has the return call on Patchwork.

Trainer Danny Pish won the Two Altozanos last year with Going Away Baby, owned by George A. Wolff. While he does not have a filly for the Two Altozanos, he will saddle At Full Pelt, who he owns in partnership with Delwin and Seleta Lovell.  The son of a son of Captain Countdown is making just his fourth career start, but broke his maiden impressively here on January 30. Jockey Chris Landeros has the call.

"This is a really nice crop of 3-year-olds," said David Hooper, executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association.  "We appreciate the support of each of the Texas racetracks in keeping this series alive and maintaining the purse level of $100,000 for these stakes."

The $100.000 Two Altozanos Stakes will run as the eighth race followed by the $100,000 Jim's Orbit as race 9 on the Saturday evening card.

Monday's Muddy Mania at Sam Houston Race Park
Racing on Monday, February 13 took place on a day in which heavy rains hit the Houston area and the track was rendered muddy. Other than the turf races being switched to the main track, the ten races took place on time and with no mishaps.

However, racing on an off-track presents its share of challenges, maybe not so much for the racehorses, but certainly, the human connections involved. Bathing the mud-streaked horses takes twice as much time for the grooms and of course, the jockeys have to make adjustments by wearing rain pants and donning extra goggles when they ride on the slop.

Jockey Jeffery Burningham won the 5th race on Monday aboard Cowgirl Cool for owner/ trainer Ronald Kotara. The 7-year-old mare rallied from the back of the ten-horse field, passing horses as she turned for home, and drawing off by three-lengths in the one-mile event.  Both Cowgirl Cool and her rider were caked in mud as they galloped back to the winner's circle.

"It was splashing up pretty good, but didn't bother me at all," said Burningham. "You just know you are going to get dirty. I would rather ride in the cold and mud than in the heat."

He made three goggle changes during the race and credits practice during morning works as quite a bit of dexterity is involved in flipping the muddy goggles.

Some of the most affected workers are the valets, who have the arduous chore of washing the jockey boots, pants, silks and head gear as well as their saddles. Rick Pomposelli, a longtime valet at Sam Houston Race Park, explains that many steps are required to clean the equipment and prevent staining of the clothing.

"You have to clean the leather carefully and pre-treat clothing for stains before washing, which always takes twice the time," said Pomposelli. "Rainy days are part of racing, but they are a valet's nightmare."

Trainer, Jockey and Owner Standings
The first four weeks of the 2012 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting have been completed and Karl Broberg remains in sole possession of first place with wins from 15 of his 50 starters. Steve Asmussen added another stakes win, sending out Great Mills in last Saturday's $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes.  He has ten wins and is tied for second with Joe Offolter, who won three races last week.  Brent Davidson follows closely with six top finishes and Mindy Willis and Danny Pish are tied with five winners each.

Glen Murphy, who was the leading rider in the 2000 Sam Houston meet, added six wins last week and leads all riders with 22 trips to the winner's circle. Apprentice Gerardo Mora is second with 18 wins.  Larry Taylor is third with 14 victories and Chris Landeros, who gave Great Mills a very professional ride last Saturday, follows with 13 wins. Roman Chapa rounds out the top five with 12 victories to date.

In the owner standings, Steve Asmussen, who was honored as leading owner in 2005 and 2010, has four wins. Horses owned by Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., Monarch Thoroughbreds, LLC, Hall's Family Trust, Pozo e Luna, Inc.  and Ronald Kotara have each won three races this meet.

Gleam of Hope Nominated to the Maxxam Gold Cup
Gleam of Hope, a Grade 3 winner from the barn of Michael Stidham, has been nominated to the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park. The mile and one-eighth handicap, set for Saturday, March 3, has a noted history of attracted top older horses.

Gleam of Hope, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred, won the Grade 3, Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs and was third in the Grade 3, River City Handicap last November, also at Churchill.  He has won 5 of his 19 career starts and bankrolled $353,029 for owners Terry Hamilton and Robert W. Morgan.

"He is nominated to the Maxxam, but we are also considering the Mineshaft Handicap (on February 25) at Fair Grounds," said Stidham from his New Orleans base. "We gelded him after his race at Arlington Park (August 28). Since then, he has become a more consistent racehorse."

Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form wrote last week that Alternation, owned by Pin Oak Stable and trained by Donnie Von Hemel, is pointing to the Maxxam.  The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor just eclipsed the $400,000 mark with his definitive score in the $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park on February 4.

Coyote Legend, winner of the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes on Texas Champions Weekend at Sam Houston Race Park, also a possible Maxxam starter, according to his trainer, Bret Calhoun.

Last year's champion was Z Humor, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, trained by Steve Asmussen for Zayat Stables LLC. He is now standing stud at the Haras Urama in Venezuela.

Nominations for the Maxxam Gold Cup close on Wednesday, February 22.

Fans Encouraged to Name Rachel Alexandra's Colt
The long-awaited first offspring of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was born on January 22.  Her owners, Barbara Banke and Harold McCormick, are asking racing fans to submit names for the colt, whose sire is Curlin, 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year.

Fans should submit their name suggestion to either www.stonestreetfarms.com or VisitRachelA@Stonestreetfarms.com by midnight (EST) on February 19. If a suggested name is chosen, Stonestreet will host the winning fan and a guest for an overnight stay in the guesthouse at Stonestreet with a private tour of the farm and visit with Rachel Alexandra and her colt.

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