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Z HUMOR SHOWS HIS CLASS IN THE $150,000 MAXXAM GOLD CUP AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
The $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, the final stakes of the 2011 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting, had a myriad of compelling storylines. The ten horse field boasted earnings in excess of $3.5 million and included two horses that competed in the 2008 and 2009 Kentucky Derby as well as several multiple graded stakes winners. In addition, Schramsberg, the 2011 Grade 3 Connally Turf Cup winner made his return to Houston in an attempt to make history by winning the Connally and Maxxam in the same meet.
Right from the bell, it was Z Humor who showed that he still has the heart of a champion as he captured the mile and one-eighth feature. Trained by two-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Steve Asmussen, the 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, who ran in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, won his sixth career start for owner Zayat Stables LLC.
Jockey Gerard Melancon notched his third Maxxam Gold Cup victory. He won aboard Scout's Scoundrel in 1998 and Middleweight in 2006. Melancon rode Z Humor in the $125,000 Delta Mile as the favorite; tonight, his mount was dismissed by the betting public at odds of 12-1, returning $25.80 for the win. The veteran controlled the pace of the race from the beginning, completing the first quarter mile in 23.46 and prevailing in a final time of 1:50.84.
Asmussen, who watched the race from his base in New Orleans, knew from the first strides that Z Humor had the ideal trip.
“He runs well for Gerard,” said Asmussen via a telephone interview following the race. “When they go 13 and change in the first quarter, I knew that was ideal. He’s an older horse who takes good care of himself. I was really proud of him.”
“Steve knows I know how to ride the horse and never gave me specific instructions,” said Melancon. “I knew the nine (Max Me Out) and the seven (Join in the Dance) had speed and we all got away well. It took me a little while to get him to relax, but once I got him settled, he ran his race. Last time when I rode him at the Fair Grounds, he got real aggressive with me. Today he was nice and relaxed and finished up well.”
Stachys, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Al and Bill Ulwelling closed for second. The very consistent son of Candy Ride won the $150,000 Zia Park Derby on December 4 and has hit the board in his last two stakes at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Michael Biehler, Stachys was ridden by Eddie Martin, Jr.
“I had a great trip,” said Martin, who made up ground to close for second.
Running third was the second Kentucky Derby starter, Join in the Dance, a 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa who ran in the 2009 Run for the Roses. The Kentucky-bred is owned by Houstonians Jake and Reed Ballis, Reagan and William Swinbank and their good friend Rashard Lewis, star forward for the Washington Wizards. Rider Shaun Bridgmohan had Join in the Dance in the mix throughout, but could not find the extra gear in the final strides.
“He ran hard all the way,” acknowledged Bridgmohan.
Max Me Out ran fourth followed by Harmonizer, Connally Turf Cup winner Schramsberg, Black Hills, Red Lead, defending champion Fifteen Love and Barrier Reef.
Z Humor added $90,000 to his career bankroll, surpassing $970,000 in lifetime earnings.
Melancon and Asmussen combined to win the eighth race on the card with Scrappy Roo, the intrepid Texas-bred turf specialist, who came from off the pace to pick up his seventh victory on the Connally Turf Course. Asmussen was unsure of the next start for Z Humor citing that he had just come back in two weeks and might be in for some time off before returning to action.
The final weekend of Sam Houston Race Park's 2011 Thoroughbred meet continues on Sunday, March 6 (5:00 p.m.) and concludes on Monday, March 7th with a 1:20 p.m. post time. 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.