Jan 28, 2024


Trainer Steve Asmussen Saddles His Fifth Winner in the Championship for Fillies and Mares

HOUSTON, TX – Four wins was clearly not enough for Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen in Sam Houston Race Park’s Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic. He added a fifth title today with a brilliant finish by Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Bellamore, under a well-timed ride by Sam Houston Race Park’s leading jockey Stewart Elliott.


The 6-year-old mare by Empire Maker, out of the Smart Strike mare Smart N Soft, was unhurried in the early stages of the mile and one-sixteenth main track event, content to follow the pace set by Free Like a Girl and Corningstone. Free Like a Girl had the lead in the final furlong, but Elliott edged closer as they neared the wire. He surged past the Louisiana-bred millionaire by a margin of a neck in a final time of 1:46.24, over the good main track.


“Right from the get-go, she made me feel pretty good about things,” said Elliott. “When it came down to the stretch battle, I felt she was good enough, but that filly dug in, but my filly gave her all.”


Bellamore joined the barn of 15-time leading Sam Houston Race Park trainer last November at Churchill Downs, and he cited her third-place finish in the Grade 1, Spinster as a solid prospect for the Ladies Classic.


Asmussen won previous editions of the Houston Ladies Classic with Midnight Bisou, Lady Apple and back-to-back titles by Pauline’s Pearl.


“You know this race means so much to me and I felt this was a great opportunity for the Shah Family,” commented Asmussen. “It was a very competitive field and Stewart made the difference.”


Kaleem Shah made his first start at Sam Houston Race Park and was joined in the winner’s circle by his family and was very proud of the victory by Bellamore.


“This mare was picked out at the OBS March Sale by my son Armand,” explained Shah. “Every horse he has picked out has been a graded stakes winner! Kudos to Armand and to Steve. I knew she had the momentum and was thrilled to see pass the frontrunner.”


Louisiana-bred mare, Free Like a Girl, made her Sam Houston Race Park debut for trainer Chasey Deville Pomier. Owned by Gerald Bruno Jr., Jerry Caroom and 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. While the majority of her 14 stakes wins were contested in Louisiana, the 2022 Louisiana Horse of the Year has made three out of state Graded stakes appearances, finishing in the money in each.


“I knew this one was going to be tough,” said Pomier. “Free Like a Girl has been amazing; I came to run in the top three against Asmussen.”


Nationally prominent conditioner Ken McPeek shipped two entrants to Houston, with Fillies Stable and Balios Racing Stable's Corningstone, running third under Fernando Jara and Barry Fowler and Magdalena Racing's Dear Lady completing the superfecta with David Cohen in the saddle. Perfect Wish, trained by Jayde Gelner, outran her odds of  28-1 for fifth, followed by last year’s runner-up Hidden Connection and 

Appropriated Funds. 


Bellamore, sent off as the second choice, paid $7.00 for the win. Her record stands at 21-4-4-5 and with today’s winner’s share of $176,400, the talented mare has now earned $644,992. No future plans were discussed, but Asmussen was pleased with what he saw today by Bellamore.


“Hopefully she will go on to compete in some significant races in the future,” he added.


Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016. The stakes 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. 


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.




Photo credit:  Jack Coady /Coady Photography