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FOUR STAKES SET FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 14 AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Spartocus: Sandra Beck/Coady PhotographyFans of American Quarter Horse racing will not want to miss the Saturday, April 14 race card at Sam Houston Race Park. The evening will include four stakes: the $487,770 Sam Houston Futurity (G2); $100,620 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1); $180,900 Sam Houston Derby (G3) and $25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stake.
Spartocus Fastest Qualifier for the $487,770 Sam Houston Futurity (G2)
On Saturday, March 31, 15 trials were run for the richest race of the 2012 Quarter Horse meet, the $487,770 Sam Houston Futurity (G2). The first trial, produced the fastest qualifier when Spartocus won his 330-yard trial in a time of :16.724 under rider David Alvarez.
Owned and bred by Jorge Meraz of Bastrop, Texas, Spartocus is a son of Shazoom out of the Dashin Bye mare First Dashin Bye.
Trainer Bobby Martinez reported that the sorrel colt is ready for the final.
“He’s doing great,” said Martinez, who also qualified One Eyed Eagle for the Sam Houston Futurity.
Diamond Version a filly owned and bred by prominent Texan Jerry Windham was the third fastest qualifier. The bay filly made the most of her career debut, winning her trial in :16.782 and earning a 97 speed index under rider Luis Vivanco.
"We ran three in the trials and I thought she would be one of our best," said Windham. "She had always put away the competition in her works, and she broke really well in her trial."
The daughter of Stoli out of the Runaway Winner mare The Jubliee Diamond is trained by Tommy Zarate and returned to the Windham farm in College Station after her win on March 31. She has made one trip to Sam Houston Race Park earlier this week where she galloped and stood in the gate.
Windham acknowledges the pedigree influence of Runaway Winner in Diamond Version, and many of his stakes winners.
"Runaway Winner was a heck of a racehorse, but his true lick has been as a broodmare sire," stated Windham.
Jockey J. R. Ramirez, who won five trials on March 31, did not hesitate when asked who he would ride in the final. He has opted to ride ninth-fastest qualifier, Hiclass Buck for owners Sherrie and J. B. Morace and trainer Angel Sanchez.
"I think he's got a lot of room for improvement," said Ramirez, who won the Sam Houston Futurity in 2002 with Shiney Sign.
Jockey Rodrigo Vallejo has won a record four editions of the Sam Houston Futurity, including last year's stakes with Jess Tee Off for trainer Judd Kearl. He will pilot Valiant Uno, the tenth-fastest qualifier. She was supplemented to the trials for $10,000 by her owner Jesus J. Andrade, Jr.
It was an exhausting day on March 31 for horsemen competing in 15 trials to determine the 10 fastest qualifiers for the top prize of $195,080. Cindi Keeton saddled 11 juveniles and qualified Thequeenhasgonenuts, a 2-year-old daughter of Hadtobenuts for owner/breeder Tony Doughtie. Jockey Francisco Raul Ramirez, Jr. retains the mount and will break from post position four.
"I was pretty worn out that night," admitted Keeton. "A lot of work goes into getting each horse ready. But it's a very satisfying feeling to get one qualified."
$100,620 Bank of America Texas Challenge (G1)
The $100,620 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G1) will be a highly competitive event with some of the top older horses in the region. A field of 12 has been assembled for the 440-yard sprint.
Last year, Jorge Haddad was victorious in the Bank of America Texas Challenge with The Louisiana Cartel, who came very close to setting a new track record. The son of Corona Cartel was dominant, recording a career high speed index of 105 as he crossed the wire in :21.357, just two-hundredths of a second off the track record.
Haddad reports that The Louisiana Cartel is now standing stud on his ranch in Seguin, Texas and has already been bred to 100 mares this season. His entrant in this year's Bank of America Texas Challenge is Giorgino, who has won eight of his 17 career starts, bankrolling $267,654. Haddad bred, owns and trains the 4-year-old son of Apollo, who won futurities at Sam Houston, Delta Downs and Sunland Park. His 3-year-old campaign was equally strong; he was the fastest qualifier to the $702,000 Ruidoso Derby last June, finishing fourth in the finals to one of the nation's top older horses, Llano Teller.
"I feel he will run well on Saturday," said Haddad. "He has a good draw and will be ridden by J.R. Ramirez, who knows him well."
Giorgino, who will break from post position eight, will face 11 rivals including the 3-year-old Rapid Transit, winner of the $200,000 LAQHBA Futurity at Evangeline Downs last November for owner Pablo Gonzalez, Sr. and The Printing Press, who ran sixth in the $1.3 million All American Derby on September 4 at Ruidoso Downs.
Leading Sam Houston Race Park trainer Judd Kearl will saddle Eyes Blew By You, a 4-year-old son of Mr Eye Opener. Rodrigo Vallejo has the mount on the gray, who won the $52,920 AdequanTexas Derby last May at Sam Houston and
finished third in the $153,000 Dash for Cash Derby on October 8 at Lone Star Park.
Saturday's champion will advance to the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) at Prairie Meadows on October, 27. Each year, the winner of the Challenge Championship is awarded a berth into Quarter Horse racing's most prestigious race, the $750,000 Champion of Champions (G1) at Los Alamitos.
Sarah Must Leads the Field in the $180,900 Sam Houston Derby (G3)
Two fast fillies will lead the field in the $180,900 Sam Houston Derby (G3), which is set for the seventh race of the Saturday night card. Sarah Must dazzled in her trial win, covering 350 yards :17.238 seconds, setting a new track record under rider Jerry Lee Yoakum. The 3-year-old daughter of Jet Cartel is owned by J.T. Hooten and trained by Jesse Yoakum.
Purchased for $4,200 in the 2010 TQHA Yearling Sale, Sarah Must broke her maiden last March at Sam Houston before finishing ninth in the $400,000 TQHA Sale Futurity last July at Retama Park.
"She had surgery after the futurity," said Yoakum. "We were hoping to have her fit as a 3-year-old and she showed she is fit and ready."
Yoakum will give a leg up to his son, Jerry Lee. Sarah Must drew the far outside post in the 350 yard stakes.
Another talented filly, Charmin Chief Corona was the second fastest qualifier, for her owner and breeder, Gary Kurz. The chestnut filly is trained by Cindi Keeton and was clocked at :17.382 under rider Francisco Raul Ramirez, Jr.
"She's doing great and pulled up out of her trial real well," reports Keeton. "I am looking forward to her running a good race for Gary and his wife, Pat. They are super nice people."
Keeton is the wife of the affable Toby Keeton, who is running horses at the 2012 Remington Park Quarter Horse meet. Toby has been one of the top-ranked conditioners in Houston since 1994, but has been commuting between Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Sunland Park, just outside of El Paso. He has relied heavily on Cindi for the Houston string.
"She's doing a wonderful job," said Keeton of Cindi. "I don't know how I deserved to get so lucky, but I couldn't do this without her."
The winner of the Sam Houston Derby will earn $72,360.
$25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile To Be Contested Saturday Night
The $25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stake will kick off the stakes action on Saturday evening. The field of ten American Quarter Horses competed in trials for the Sam Houston Futurity on March 31, but missed the cut-off time of:16.836 seconds. Two of the entrants, Sixes Award and One Corona Then Zoom won their trials with times of :16.886 and :16.979, respectively.
Ten races are set for Saturday night, beginning at 7:00 p.m. The Sam Houston Juvenile will be run as the sixth race (9:10 p.m.); the Sam Houston Derby follows at 9:36 p.m.; the Bank of America Texas Challenge will run as the eighth race (10:02 p.m.) and the Sam Houston Futurity will be the ninth race with an estimated post time of 10:28 p.m. (CT)
Sam Houston Race Park's 2012 live American Quarter Horse meet will feature racing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. There will be one Sunday card on May 13; racing for the week of May 11-13 shifts to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 27-day racing season will run through Saturday, May 19 .For the full calendar of Sam Houston Race Park’s 2012 live race dates, visit www.shrp.com.
Promotions and Concert Series Set at Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park will offer a variety of promotions for the 2012 Quarter Horse meet. Every Thursday features free admission for all racing fans and upcoming events include the popular Crawfish Boil on April 28; live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 138th Kentucky Derby with Mint Juleps and the annual Kentucky Derby Hat Contest on May 5, a special Sunday live racing program in honor of Mother’s Day on May 13 and live racing coupled with the simulcast of the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19.
The 2012 Concert Series at Sam Houston Race Park will take place on the Bud Light Stage and will feature artists performing on Friday and Saturday nights following live quarter horse racing. Ticket prices begin at $10 and can be purchased at shrp.com.
The performers are:
Friday, April 20 Cory Morrow with Amanda Nagurney
Saturday, April 28 The Outlaws with Whiskey Myers
Friday, May 4 Randy Houser with Rosehill
Saturday, May 12 Bob Schneider with Honeybrowne
Friday, May 18 Roger Creager with The Jeff Bootz Band
Saturday, May 19 38 Special with Blackberry Smoke
& Folk Family Revival
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.
$1,000,000 Arkansas Derby Closes Out Oaklawn Meet on Saturday
Sam Houston Race Park will simulcast two key prep races for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. The Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby is the closing day feature at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Trainer Bob Baffert has two top contenders, Secret Circle and Bodemeister in the 11 horse field.
Keeneland will present the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) with a field of 13 including Hansen, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year and the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqeduct last month.
For post times and more information on simulcast racing across the country, visit shrp.com.
Up Close and Personal With Q-Racing Ace, Martha Claussen
Sam Houston Race Park invites racing fans to meet Quarter Horse expert, Martha Claussen every Saturday night for an "Up Close and Personal" introduction to American Quarter Horse Racing. Claussen is a member of the Q-Racing Aces, a touring fan education program initiated by the American Quarter Horse Association in 2010.
There is no charge for the program, which will take place each Saturday at 6:30 p.m. adjacent to the Sam Houston Race Park Saddling Paddock through May 19. Claussen will provide an introduction to American Quarter Horse Racing with a preview of the horses in the first race. Her special guest this Saturday will be noted Quarter Horse breeder and owner Jerry Windham. The native Texan and past president of AQHA has a distinguished roster of champions, including the all-time leading money earner, Stolis Winner. Claussen and Windham will answer questions from fans on any aspect of Quarter Horse racing. The first 20 fans each week will receive a complimentary $2.00 wagering voucher as well as informative handicapping materials, courtesy of the AQHA.