DEFENDING CHAMPION PAULINE’S PEARL RETURNED WITH A BRILLIANT PERFORMANCE IN THE GRADE 3, $300,000 HOUSTON LADIES CLASSIC AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 28
Trainer Steve Asmussen Captured His Fourth Victory in the Championship for Fillies and Mares
(Houston, TX) – An early morning storm in Houston rendered the main track muddy, but did not dampen the classy return of defending champion Pauline’s Pearl in the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies at Sam Houston Race Park.
For the fourth time, the victory went to Hall of fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, who sent Pauline’s Pearl back to the northwest Houston racetrack to defend her title. The Stonestreet Stables LLC homebred is a daughter of Tapit out of the Dixie Union mare Hot Dixie Chick. Last year she followed her Houston Ladies Classic score with a win in the Grade 1, $750,000 La Troienne at Churchill Downs.
With one previous win on an off track, the 5-year-old mare settled off the pace under jockey Stewart Elliott this year as Joel Rosario, was committed to mounts at Gulfstream Park. Elliott was content to track Hidden Connection through fractions of :24.08 and :47.91 before drawing even and crossing the wire of the mile and one-sixteenth feature in 1:45.69.
“This was my first time riding her and all I can say is what a nice filly,” he said. “She came out there and I got her to settle. Every time I asked her to cruise up a little, she was push button. So much talent and a delight to ride! With Steve, everything is done right and I am very fortunate to ride for him.”
Asmussen’s long time assistant Darren Fleming handled the saddling duties.
“It was very special to see her start off her new year like this,” said Fleming.
Asmussen was in Oaklawn, winning the King Cotton with Gunite and running second in the Southwest with Red Route One. He was reached for comments and was effusive in his praise for Pauline’s Pearl.
“I am so proud of her,” declared the Hall of Famer. “I was concerned with the off track, but I was not running the race; she was. But, she is so professional. Stewart got her out cleanly and once she set her sights on the leaders, she refused to give up!”
Pauline’s Pearl, sent off as the third betting choice, paid $10.20 for the win. With today’s winner’s check of $178,200, she has banked $1,873,400 in 16 starts.
Asmussen, who has won 14 Sam Houston Race Park leading trainer titles, is the first trainer to win four editions of the Houston Ladies Classic. Prior to the back-to back victories by Pauline’s Pearl, he won in 2019 with Midnight Bisou and 2020 with Lady Apple.
He also commended the breeding prowess of Stonestreet and had no immediate plans for Pauline’s Pearl, but did state that would have different paths for her and the other accomplished Stonestreet mare Clairiere.
Trainer Bret Calhoun, who has been running Thoroughbreds at Sam Houston since its opening in 1994, ran second with Hidden Connection for owners Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds.
Reylu Gutierrez had the call aboard Hidden Connection.
“She was comfortable out there and was traveling well,” he said. “There’s no harm in getting beat by a Grade 1 winner.”
Lothenbach Stables Inc.’s homebred She Can’t Sing ran third in her Sam Houston debut for trainer Chris Block. Moon Swag made a late bid under Corey Lanerie to finish fourth, followed by Fast and Feminine and
Sixtythreecaliber. Oliviaofthedesert was scratched.
Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016. The list of our former champions, who went on to earn Eclipse Award honors include Letruska, Midnight Bisou and Forever Unbridled.
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 Entertainment 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