Jan 16, 2024


The Houston Racing Festival, With Five Stakes including the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Set for Saturday, January 27

HOUSTON, TX—Nominations have closed for the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park. The annual event, featuring five stakes and purses in excess of $750,000 will be contested on Saturday, January 27 with an afternoon post time of 1:00 pm (CT).  The Houston Racing Festival includes two graded stakes, the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf.


Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016. Each year, the mile and one-sixteenth main track feature has produced exceptional champions who have advanced to Grade 1 victories and captured national headlines. Joyful Victory, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, trained by Larry Jones was the first winner of the Houston Ladies Classic. Eclipse Award winner Midnight Bisou, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, captured the 2019 edition of the championship and surpassed the $7 million earnings mark with five Grade 1 victories. St. George Stable LLC’s Letruska, went on to win five consecutive stakes, including four Grade 1 titles before completing her 2021 campaign in the Grade 1, Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. 


This year’s Houston Ladies Classic closed with 34 nominations. Asmussen, who has won 15 Sam Houston Race Park leading trainer titles, is the first trainer to win four editions of the Houston Ladies Classic. Last year’s champion Pauline’s Pearl, the Stonestreet Stables LLC homebred is a daughter of Tapit, successfully defended her title from 2022. Asmussen also won  in 2020 with Lady Apple.


His lone nominated mare for the 2024 running of the Houston Ladies Classic is Kaleem Shah Inc’s Bellamore, a 6-year-old mare by Empire Maker, who is already onsite at Sam Houston Race Park. She made five starts in 2023 in graded stakes company, running third in the Grade 1, Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.  


Trainer Brad Cox, who won the 2018 Houston Ladies Classic with Tiger Moth, has four nominated for this year’s championship. Godolphin LLC’s homebred  Comparativekicked off her 4-year -old campaign with a victory in the $150,000 Ladies Stakes at Aqueduct on January 6. Flashy Gem, owned by Spendthrift Farm LLC, has competed in graded stakes and exits a seven-length victory at Turfway Park on December 27.


Bret Calhoun, who has been running Thoroughbreds at Sam Houston since its opening in 1994, has nominated Hidden Connection, who ran second to Pauline’s Pearl last year. Owned by Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds, the 5-year-old daughter of Connect tuned up for the Houston Ladies Classic with a four-length score in the $100,000 “Spanky” Broussard last month at Fair Grounds. 


Millionaire Free Like a Girl is under consideration for trainer Chasey Deville Pomier. The 5-year-old daughter of El Deal was bred in Louisiana by retired jockey Kim Stover and her sister Lisa Osborne and has won 15 of her 33 lifetime starts with earnings of $1,077,578.


Nominations were strong for the Grade 3$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, at the distance of one and one-half miles with 45 nominations received by the Sam Houston Race Park racing office. The John B. Connally Turf was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid roster of past winners including Chorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff as well as three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture.   


Also, there were 31 nominations received for the $200,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Milefor three-year-olds.  Previously titled the Texas Turf Mile, it has drawn highly competitive fields for the past two years. The stakes was renamed in honor of Sam Houston Race Park’s former General Manager and respected industry leader, Robert Bork, who passed away on June 11, 2021.


The draw for the Houston Racing Festival will take place on Saturday, January 20The remaining stakes include the $75,000 Bara Lass and $75,000 Gexa Groovy Stakes.


The nominations for each feature can be viewed on equibase.com. Press releases on each of the Houston Racing Festival Stakes will be forthcoming.


About Sam Houston Race Park

Operated by Penn Entertainment Inc., Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston. The racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions for businesses, group outings and families during racing and the off-season. The track is best known for its award-winning dining and features multiple areas for fans looking for casual to upscale dining options including its Winner’s Circle Restaurant, Jockey Club, Luxury Suites and Pavilion Centre. For more information or tickets to upcoming live racing, shows and events, please visit www.shrp.com or follow on: FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok or YouTube.





Photos:  Coady Photography