DEFENDING CHAMPION BIGGER PICTURE RETURNS IN THE GRADE 3, $200,000 JOHN B. CONNALLY TURF CUP AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 28
$400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and Four Additional Stakes to be Contested on the Houston Racing Festival Card
HOUSTON, TX – The marquee day of the 2018 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred racing season is set for Sunday, January 28. Post time is Sunday at Noon (Central) for, the Houston Racing Festival which features the $50,000 Groovy Stakes; the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint; $50,000 Bara Lass; $50,000 Groovy Stakes, the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the $50,000 Houston Distaff.
Trainer Mike Maker Hopes to Continue His Dominance in the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup
The Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, Sam Houston Race Park’s first graded stakes, has an outstanding history. The mile and one-half feature continues to attract some of the top turf horses in the country.
Trainer Michael Maker has won five of the last six editions of the Connally with Papa Bodie in 2012; Admiral Kitten in 2014; Coalport in 2015; Da Big Hoss and last year’s running with Bigger Picture. Last year, Maker upped his game in the Connally, not only winning, but finishing one-two-three when Oscar Nominated and Greengrassofyoming completed the trifecta!
Bigger Picture owned by Three Diamonds Farm, will defend his title on Sunday, at odds of 8-5. The 7-year-old son of Badge of Silver, won the Grade 1, United Nations last July at Monmouth Park, and hit the board in two additional graded stakes before shipping to Del Mar for the Grade 1, Breeders’ Cup Turf. Bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Bigger Picture has won 10 of his 28 starts and has banked $981,135.
“We were planning for this race since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Maker from his base in Florida. “He is a very good turf specialist and can adapt to anything.”
Maker will make the trip to Houston on Sunday as he has two other runners in the Connally: Camelot Kitten and Flashy Chelsey.
Camelot Kitten, a 5-year-old is a son of top turf sire, Kitten’s Joy, will break from the rail under Julien Leparoux. Also bred and owned by the Ramseys, he has won four graded stakes and is closing in on the million dollar earnings mark with $975,765 tallied to date.
“He’s been keeping good company and figures to be in the mix,” added Maker.
Flashy Chelsey, a 6-year-old son of Holy Bull is owned by Michael M. Hui and will make his Sam Houston debut under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. He ran fourth in the Grade 3, Sycamore last November at Keeneland.
Maker’s trio will have some very well-tested company in this year's edition of the Connally Turf Cup, which drew a field of 12 turf specialists from several regions.
Glen Hill Farm’s homebred Chicago Style ships in from California for trainer Tom Proctor. Also sired by Kitten’s Joy, the 5-year-old has won five of his eight career efforts and closed gamely for second in the Grade 2, Hollywood Turf Cup on November 24 at Del Mar. West coast top rider Drayden Van Dyke makes his first trip to Houston to ride the bay gelding as the 3-1 second choice.
Trainer Kenny McPeek will saddle two entrants: Some In Tieme (BRZ) and Harlan Strong (ARG). Some In Tieme came off the pace to take the Grade 3,Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs last May and Harlan Strong won a recent turf prep at Fair Grounds.
The field for the Connally Turf Cup, from the rail: Camelot Kitten, Julien Leparoux; Roman Approval, Shaun Bridgmohan; Big Bend, Florent Geroux; Net Gain, David Cabrera; Highly Prized (GB), Joe Bravo; Flashy Chelsey, Brian Hernandez, Jr.; Chicago Style, Drayden Van Dyke; Some In Tieme (BRZ), Manoel Cruz; Bigger Picture, Jose Ortiz; Paternal Pride, Iram Diego; West Road, Jermaine Bridgmohan; and Harlan Strong (ARG), Robby Albarado.
The John B. Connally Turf will run as race eight, with an approximate post time of 3:40 pm (Central).
Houston Ladies Classic Entices Eight Quality Fillies and Mares
As announced yesterday, an exceptional field of eight fillies and mares is entered in Sunday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest race of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet. The mile and one-sixteenth feature will run as the ninth race on Sunday with an approximate post time of 4:10 pm.
The Houston Ladies Classic field, in post position order, with riders and morning line odds: Ready to Confess, David Cabrera, 10-1; Martini Glass, Paco Lopez, 7-2; Promise of Spring, Robby Albarado, 20-1; Valadorna, Brian Hernandez, Jr., 5-2; Adore, Iram Diego, 15-1; Sandy's Surprise, Mario Gutierrez, 6-1; Actress, Jose Ortiz, 2-1 and Tiger Moth, Florent Geroux, 8-1.
The first running of the Houston Ladies Classic in 2013 was formed to serve as the marquee race for Sam Houston Race Park’s Thoroughbred racing season. It was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in December, 2015 and remains the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas. The Houston Ladies Classic will be the first stakes of the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge. Now in its fifth year, it will incorporate over 20 stakes races in 2018 worth over $5.5 million.
Excellent Weather Forecast for Sunday
Fans looking to enjoy the special live racing program at Sam Houston Race Park will experience ideal weather conditions for the ten-race card. No rain is expected with afternoon temperatures in the 60’s.
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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Photos: Coady Photography