ALI RIVERA, JUAN DIAZ, JR. AND CARLOS PONCE EARN TITLES IN THE 2022 SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK QUARTER HORSE MEET
HOUSTON, TX –The 2022 Sam Houston Quarter Horse racing season concluded on Saturday, June 18 with the running of six stakes for Texas-breds and the presentation of the end of the meet awards for leading jockey, trainer and owner.
Ali Rivera Notches His First Leading Jockey Title
Up and coming Quarter Horse jockey Ali Rivera held off two talented veteran riders to claim his first leading jockey title. The 20-year-old, who graduated from Elgin High School and began riding two years ago, finished the meet with 32 wins from 163 starts. He won three stakes, including victories aboard El Tartanero Jess in the Texas Twister and Sam Houston 250, with his mounts earning $673,898.
He thanked his father Eleazar Rivera who is also a jockey as well as his agent Aubrey Vega on closing night of the Sam Houston Race Park season.
“I want to thank God and many people who have helped me with this accomplishment,” said Rivera. “My father has been my mentor and also am grateful to trainer Angel Sanchez, who gave me my first mount. I am lucky that so many horsemen have given me opportunities to ride their amazing horses!”
Rivera, who was surrounded by his family and members of the jockey colony as he received his award, will ride next at Retama Park, in Selma, Texas.
Last year’s top jockey, Victor Urieta, Jr. finished a close second with 30 victories and the high earnings of $789,352, aided by his win in the Sam Houston Futurity with Bye Corona Bye. Luis Vivanco, who has been leading rider four times since Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994, rode 29 winners to finish third.
Juan Diaz, Jr. Repeats as Leading Trainer of the Meet
Texas horseman Juan Diaz, Jr. held the commanding lead in the trainer standings throughout the meet, finishing with 25 wins from 97 starts and $772,668 in purses. His highlights included his second victory in the $649,710 (G2) Sam Houston Futurity with Bye Corona Bye, setting the fastest qualifying time and drawing off impressively in the June 4 final. The Texas-bred son of Ivory James remains undefeated in four starts this year for owner Carlos Ponce. Diaz also won the $130,713 John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G3) for the second year in a row and will send Red Sea Racing Stables LLC’s Apollitical Dynamite to Horseshoe Indianapolis on October 22 for the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship.
“I have great owners and a very hard-working team,” said Diaz. “We had success with our 2-year-olds once again this season and were proud to have won the Sam Houston Futurity for a second year in a row.”
Toby Keeton and Raul Galvan tied for second in the standings with 11 wins each and Kie Mushinski won 10 races throughout the meet, which began on April 22.
Carlos Ponce Picks Up His First Owner Title at Sam Houston Race Park
The leading owner title went to Carlos Ponce who finished with eight wins and the top earnings of $370,862. He captured the Sam Houston Futurity with Bye Corona Bye and capped off the meet with a victory by Lethal White Veil in the Sam Houston Starter Stakes on June 18.
Texas breeder and owner Pete Scarmardo finished with five wins, including stakes scores with His Time to Deal in the $108,000 Willie Hickman Memorial Stakes and Hes Jess Dealin who captured the $91,163 Adequan Texas Derby Challenge. Donna Mushinski and Eleazar Martinez, Sr. finished in a tie for third place with four wins each.
Handle Figures Positive for the 2022 Quarter Horse Live Racing Season
Officials were pleased with positive trends throughout the 25-day meet, including total handle exceeding $15.5 million. Handle for the 2021 Quarter Horse season was $15.3 million with 23 scheduled days.
“We are certainly appreciative to our horsemen and horseplayers, both locally and across the country who continue to support our Quarter Horse racing product,” said Sam Houston Race Park Assistant General Manager, Frank Hopf.
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. Owned by Penn National Gaming. Inc., the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Photos: Coady Photography