2018 SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK THOROUGHBRED RACING SEASON CONCLUDED ON MARCH 17
Steve Asmussen Repeats as Leading Trainer Lindey Wade Clinches His Second Leading Rider Title End Zone Athletics, Inc. Honored as Owner of the Meet
(Houston, TX) – The Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting concluded on Saturday, March 17. The racing season was supported strongly by many Texas horsemen and the stakes program enticed nationally prominent conditioners including Steve Asmussen, Mike Maker, Brad Cox, Mark Casse, Kenny McPeek, Keith Nations, Mike Stidham, Jason Servis and Doug O’Neill.
The Houston Racing Festival on Sunday, January 28 was one of the strongest days of the meet. Interest was high from racing fans in Houston and across the country with the day yielding the second highest handle for the Houston Racing Festival in the six year history of the event. $467,000 was wagered on the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, topping the $446,000 bet in 2017. In addition, $489,000 was wagered on the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup. Bigger Picture became a millionaire in the Connally, defending his title for Mike Maker. Four of the entrants in the Houston Ladies Classic went on to fare well in the Grade 2, $350,000 Azeri at Oaklawn Park.
Local fans were thrilled to meet Eclipse Award winning rider Jose Ortiz and to get autographs from jockey Florent Geroux, who jetted to Houston following his win aboard Gun Runner in the $16 million Pegaus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
Officials were pleased with the move from Mondays to Wednesday afternoon racing. Sam Houston Race Park handled over $13 million for the eight Wednesday matinees with an average of $182,632 per race compared to $163,000 on Mondays.
Furthermore, Sam Houston Race Park, once again, proved to have the safest racing surfaces in the country. Combined breakdown of .45 per 1000 starts.
“Overall, we are pleased with the 2018 Thoroughbred racing season and look forward to building upon the positives for next year,” said Sam Houston Race Park Senior Director of Racing, Frank Hopf. “We are extremely grateful to both our horsemen for their support and bettors, who have lauded our industry-low 12% takeout.”
Alamo City Named Horse of the Meet
Texas-bred Alamo City was voted 2018 Thoroughbred Horse of the Meet by racing officials. Owned by HDT Allied Management, LLC and trained by George Bryant, the 6-year-old son of Silver City out of the Magic Cat mare Most Magic won three of his five starts this season. He was ridden by Lindey Wade in his first start and by Lane Luzzi for the remainder of the meet.
“He loves running at Sam Houston,” said Bryant. “We claimed him for $6,250 from Karl Broberg two seasons ago at Retama Park. “He’s a big, good looking, sound horse and we have been very happy to have him in our barn.”
Bryant reports that Alamo City has already shipped to Lone Star Park and will make his next start either in allowance company or possibly a stakes in their upcoming meet.
Steve Asmussen Notches Tenth Leading Trainer Title
The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were also presented on the final day of the meeting. Steve Asmussen, won his tenth training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, finishing the meet with 35 wins. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Asmussen started 126 horses, finishing with a record of 35 wins, 40 seconds, 20 thirds and earnings of $464,162. He won two stakes this season with Red Dress capturing the $50,000 Bara Lass on January 28 and Direct Dial in the $65,000 Jim’s Orbit on the final night of the season, March 17.
In January, Gun Runner, trained by Asmussen, was honored as the Eclipse Award Horse of the Year. With racing operations spanning the country, Asmussen relies on longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, to oversee the Houston barn.
"He does a tremendous job," said Asmussen of Ocampo, who will head next to Lone Star Park. "Pablo continues to play a key role each year in Houston."
Asmussen continues to support Texas racing, and was inducted into the Texas Thoroughbred Association Hall of Fame last November. He and his family reside in Arlington, Texas and his parents Keith and Marilyn operate a breeding and training center in Laredo.
Karl Broberg was second in the standings with 21 victories, followed by Mindy Willis with 20 wins. Jerenesto Torrez won 12 races to round out the top four conditioners.
Lindey Wade Wins Second Leading Rider Title
Jockey Lindey Wade won three races on the final night of the meet to cap a very successful racing season The 27-year-old completed the meet with 53 wins, just shy of the record of 55 victories in the 32-day meet set by DeShawn Parker in 2015.
Wade had successful associations with several conditioners in Houston including Mindy Willis, Kari Craddock and Bret Calhoun. He won four stakes this season and lit up the toteboard with a $90 win for Calhoun aboard Swift Shock in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes on January 28.
“It has been a great season,” said Wade. “Winning a couple of stakes early in the meet skyrocketed things for me and gave me a lot of confidence and momentum going forward. I am very grateful to the trainers who put me on quality horses, my agent Kevin Johnson and a loyal team of family and friends who supported me in Houston.”
Wade and Bailey Ortiz will tie the knot in April and head to Greece for their honeymoon. Then he will ship his tack to Lone Star Park for their 2018 Thoroughbred meet,and aim for his second title at the Grand Prairie racetrack. He was leading rider there in 2013.
Iram Vargas Diego, winner of the title for the past two years, finished second with 37 wins and Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez and Quincy Hamilton tied for fourth with 19 wins each.
End Zone Athletics, Inc. is Leading Owner
End Zone Athletics, Inc. edged Steve Asmussen as owner of the meet with 14 wins to Asmussen’s 11. This was the first leading owner title for the entity headed by Karl Broberg. Jose Luis Espinoza finished third with eight victories.
Quarter Horse Racing Meet Begins on March 30
Sam Houston Race Park will host its annual Quarter Horse meet beginning Friday, March 30. The 20-day season will continue through Saturday, May 12. A complete list of the 2018 Quarter Horse schedule, including trial dates, is available on shrp.com.
Sam Houston Race Park, Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, is located just 15 miles from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 16 luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
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Photo of Bigger Picture: Coady Photography