BLUERIDGE TRAVELER LIVES UP TO HIS FAVORTISM IN THE $100,000 MAXXAM GOLD CUP AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Second Maxxam Gold Cup Title for Trainer Kenny McPeek
The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup has attracted nationally prominent horses since its first running in 1994. This year’s field featured a mix of seasoned veterans as well as several horses rising the ranks and testing their skills at nine furlongs.
Youth was served as 4-year-old Blueridge Traveler became a stakes winner for Horizon Stables and trainer Kenny McPeek. The son of To Honor and Serve lived up to the potential he showed in his 3-year-old campaign, when he ran second in the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
Jockey Channing Hill settled his mount off the pace as Holiday Mischief took the lead, setting fractions of :25.14, 50.88 and 1:15.16. As the field approached the far turn, Hill called on the bay colt, who responded with a late kick, finishing the nine furlong trip in a time of 1:51.47 over the fast main track.
"My trip was good,” said Hill. “He really came home nice. This race was more impressive than his allowance win at Oaklawn. He had to overcome a lot; I give a lot to the second place horse; he ran big. Kenny and assistant trainer Jeff Hiles did a great job."
McPeek was reached by telephone following the race and was pleased with the stakes win this evening.
Net Gain, a 6-year-old owned by Claim To Fame Stable ran second by a neck under jockey Glenn Corbett. The Iowa-bred is a multiple stakes winner trained by Clinton Stuart and showed his solid main track form this evening.
“It’s a heartbreaker for a horse to try that hard and run that good to finish second,” admitted Corbett.”
Holiday Mischief, owned by Joe Offolter and Carter Thoroughbreds LLC, completed the trifecta, followed by Hyper Drive, Franco and Social Misfit.
Blueridge Traveler ($3.20) earned $60,000 for his win in the Maxxam Gold Cup, increasing his career bankroll to $286,500. He has now won three of his nine lifetime starts.
McPeek said his colt will be pointed to the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park on March 17 and then the Ben Ali at Keeneland
The stakes history at Sam Houston Race Park for McPeek goes back to 2002 when he won the $275,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff with Take Charge Lady. He returned in 2013 and saddled the winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup, Unstoppable U a 4-year-old Exchange Rate colt owned by Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables, Inc. The Kentucky-based horsemen made a third trip to Houston for the 2014 Maxxam Gold Cup with Frac Daddy, who ran a game second to the classy Red Rifle.
The Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park had its first running in 1994 and has produced an outstanding roster of distance specialists. Past champions include Student Council, Valhol, Alumni Hall, Cease, Unstoppable U and Red Rifle. Three millionaires have won previous editions of the Maxxam Gold Cup: 2013 champion Red Rifle; Mobile Bay in 2016 and last year’s winner, Iron Fist.
Frontrunning Score for Wings Locked Up in the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup
Saturday’s stakes action gets underway in the sixth race of the card with eight accomplished runners in the six-furlong $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup.
Wings Locked Up, a 6-year-old son of Munnings went to the lead under rider Glenn Corbett, and held off a fast-closing charge from Counterforce, winning by a margin of a half-length. He crossed the wire in a speedy 1:09.94, much to the delight of the ownership team of Sad Sac Racing.
“It looked like the rail was the place to be," said trainer Clinton Stuart. "It's the first time I got to run him on the dirt here; his other starts were on the turf."
Leading Sam Houston Race Park conditioner Steve Asmussen shipped in Counterforce for Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC. The 5-year-old son of Smart Strike made his Sam Houston debut with Asmussen’s Houston first call rider Iram Diego up. Bending Saints completed the trifecta, followed by Schivarelli, who shipped in for trainer Tom Morley.
Wings Locked Up, sent off as the third betting choice, returned $9.00 for the win. Stuart reports that the Oklahoma-bred gelding will likely make his next start at Oaklawn Park and then compete at Prairie Meadows.
Proud Reunion Scores From Off the Pace in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes
One of the most exciting finishes of the evening came in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes with a three-horse photo finish going to Brereton Jones’ homebred Proud Reunion.
Trained by Tom Proctor, the 4-year-old filly by Proud Citizen, was ridden this evening by Sophie Doyle, who tracked the pacesetters, laying fourth before engaging in a spirited duel to the wire with Brooks House and defending champion Stormquility.
A photo declared Proud Reunion the winner, covering the mile and one-sixteenth turf feature in 1:45.09.
"Instinctively I thought I had it," said Doyle. “Tom called me and asked me if I would come back to Houston and ride the filly. I am always happy to ride for Tom.”
“The turf course had a nice give it to it; my filly traveled tremendously, took me through a tight hole and gave me everything she had. It was a great performance by her,” Doyle added."
Brooks House ran under rider Iram Diego, followed by Stormquility; Witt’s Town, Rum Go, Zippit E, Joyous Thunder, Special Rockstar and Gurlin.
This was the third win in 11 turf starts for Proud Reunion ($5.20) who has now earned $177.380.
Closing Kick for Bonjour Baby in the $50,000 Houston Turf Stakes
The final stakes of the Maxxam Racing Festival was the $50,000 Houston Turf Stakes with a field of nine accredited Texas-breds going a mile and one-sixteenth.
Bonjour Baby owned by Alvin Wong turned the tables on several rivals that had denied him in previous matchups. Trainer Larry Stroope gave a leg up to Sasha
Risenhoover, who settled off the pace in mid pack through the far turn. Turning into the stretch she put the gelded son of Sing Baby Sing into a long drive to prevail by a nose over P. Millers Clock It was another nose back to Gavin in third. Can’t Be Wrong, Moojab Jr, Don’t Blame Dexter, Mav Master, Special Praise and F J Uncle Vic completed the order.
“It was amazing,” said Risenhoover. “The race set up good and I had a ton of horse at the end. He gave me everything he had.”
It was the first stakes win for Wong, who thanked both Risenhoover and Stroope.
“Larry has done a wonderful job since day one,” he said. “Sasha rode her eyeballs out; the horse is so game, and I am very happy!”
“He may be the best turf horse I’ve ever trained,” acknowledged Stroope. “It’s rained a lot, so we were very happy to get this race run on the grass.”
Bonjour Baby paid $8.60, earning his ninth win in 22 starts.
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.
Photos: Coady Photography