EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCES ON TAP IN EACH OF THE FIVE TEXAS PREVIEW DAY FEATURES AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Breeders Ronald and Margaret Ellerbee Win Two of the Five Stakes
HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park hosted Texas Preview Day with five stakes saluting Texas Thoroughbreds. The annual event serves as a preview for Texas Champions Day, which will take place on Saturday, March 25 and the majority of today’s winners are expected to return for the seven Champions Day stakes, which will each be run for a purse of $100,000 again this year.
I’m a Cowboy Last to First in the $90,000 Jim’s Orbit
The first stakes of the Texas Preview Day card was the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit for 3-year-old colts and geldings going six furlongs on the main track.
GFB Racing LLC’s I’m a Cowboy made the most of his second start this season at Sam Houston Race Park, with regular rider Alfredo Contreras aboard. The gelded son of Bradester out of the Benny the Bull mare Benny’s Bombshell was unhurried early, but gained command and crossed the wire in a final time of 1.12.26 over the fast main track.
"So often you can lead your horse over, all settled and ready, but you don’t have racing luck,” said trainer Danny Pish following the race. “In the last two races we didn't have too much luck but today he was fit and ready and had the perfect trip!”
Owner/breeder Steve Gee was on hand to see I’m a Cowboy take the next step forward.
"I want to thank Danny and his team for taking such good care of our horse,” said Gee. “We love the folks at Valor Farm. I am sure they are pleased with the success of Bradester, but I can’t think of anyone happier than me!”
Bling Bling Bling ran second for Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, and Texas owners William and Corinne Heiligbrodt. Just Whiskey another promising son of Bradester completed the trifecta for trainer Randy Mayfield.
Sent off at odds of 4.60 1, I’m a Cowboy rewarded his supporters with a win payout of $11.20. He earned $54,003 for his first stakes victory and his second career win.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the, a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. The In 2005, the Texas Thoroughbred Association named the colts and gelding division of the Texas Stallion Stakes for Jim’s Orbit, who won the Grade 2 Ohio Derby prior to competing in the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
Sunlit Song Dazzles in the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes
The first of two turf features, the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes attracted an exceptional field of the top accredited Texas-bred turf specialists. Three past champions went into the starting gate, but there would be no denying Sunlit Song the mile and one sixteenth stakes on the firm Connally Turf Course.
The 8-year-old son of My Golden Song was bred by Carolyn R. Barnett and is owned by Barnett and Becky Harding. Mindy Willis trains the gray gelding who was the runner-up last year, but did not disappoint as the favorite today.
Despite an awkward break, jockey Stewart Elliott settled Sunlit Song through the early stages of the race, with defending champion Singapore Flash setting early fractions of :25.15 and :49.88. Sunlit Song began gaining momentum on the backside, and took the lead at the top of the stretch. He drew clear by a margin of three lengths, in a final time of 1.44.79
“He jumped right when the gates opened., but still did what he had to do,” explained Elliott. “ Despite the break, he put me into position and just did the rest so easily. That was it!"
Willis shared that last year her charge was recovering from a quarter crack, but was training very well after some time off. She was thrilled with his victory today, his 15th in 38 lifetime races.
"He amazes me every time he steps foot on the track,” she said. “He has always run well here, but as a Texas-bred, I'd like him to get Texas horse of the year by himself this year (after sharing honors with Redatory two years ago). Carolyn, Becky and I make a great team and of course, we were so lucky to have Stewart ride.”
Barnett and Harding also bred runner-up Truly Danzig, a half-brother to Sunlit Song. Leandro Goncalves had the call aboard the 6-year-old son of Etesaal.
“My two boys ran first and second,” said Barnett, who has bred the family of Sunlit Song since 1977.
Stans Hookin Bull rallied to complete the trifecta for trainer Karen Jacks, followed by 2022 winner Singapore Flash.
Sunlit Song ($3.80) has earned $568,626 since making his debut on February 17, 2018 right here at Sam Houston Race Park. Willis plans on running the intrepid turf star here on Texas Champions Day.
Izatiz Scores Her Second Stakes of the Meet in the $75,000 Two Altazano
The very accomplished Izatiz did not disappoint as the heavily favored choice in the $75,000 Two Altazano
for Texas-sired 3 year-old fillies.
Billy Clevenger’s homebred has been a force this season at Sam Houston Race Park. The daughter of My Golden Song out of the Tiznow mare Tiz Tiz ran second in the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter on January 7, and upped her game with conviction on January 28 when she cleared a full field by a margin of 7 ½ lengths in the $100,000 Bara Lass. It was the first stakes victory for Clevenger and trainer David Gomez, who gave a leg up to rider Jansen Melancon.
She broke from post position four and challenged early leader Bubbles and Bling before breaking free and rallying to a clear lead. She crossed the wire of the six furlong stakes in 1.12.49. Waving Bye closed nicely under Floyd Wethey for second, followed by Missingyoucrazy and Hop on It.
"I put her into position and she relaxed for me,” said Melancon. “This filly handles herself like a veteran; it was push-button once she got clear."
Gomez has been impressed with Izatiz since her runner-up effort in the Pan Zareta last July at Lone Star Park. Her victory last month in the Bara Lass over a sloppy track was dominant.
"Last time she won easily, but today she dug in and that's what we wanted to see,” stated Gomez. “She got down and ran. She just keeps getting better and better!"
Breeder Billy Clevenger was thrilled to see his filly earn her second career stakes. He and his wife, Linda have enjoyed seeing Izatiz flourish and applaud the care that Gomez and Christy Hamilton give their homebred.
“Christy sings “My Girl” to Izatiz every day and made sure Jansen knew the song!” said Linda.
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite Izatiz ($6.00) improved her record to 7-3-3-0 with earnings of $170,910.
The Two Altazano Stakes is named in honor of Two Altazano, the talented Texas-bred filly, owned by the late Harold V. Goodman, who won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 1994. She also captured the 1994 Sam Houston Oakswith Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in the saddle.
Gold Pilot Surged Clear in the $75,000 H-Town Stakes
The seven-furlong $75,000 H-Town Stakes always attracts some of the top Texas-bred older horses. Last year’s edition pitted two highly respected Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Horses of the Year, Direct Dial and Mr Money Bagswith Mr Money Bags emerging victorious.
This year’s winner, Gold Pilot ran an exceptionally today under jockey Jose Alvarez, rallying with authority to win his seventh career race.
Purchased for $15,000 at the 2018 TTA Yearling and Mixed Sale by prominent Texas owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, the 6-year-old son of My Golden Song prepped for the H-Town with a victory here on January 20. Calhoun was at Fair Grounds this afternoon; his longtime assistant Hernan Zamudio saddled the gelding, who was bred by Ronald and Margaret Ellerbee.
Jon Newbold, ranch manager at Highlander Training Center, was in the winner’s circle following the victory by Gold Pilot.
"He didn't away very well but came running at the end,” said Newbold.” It takes a whole team and so much credit goes to (stallion) Golden Song. His offspring are like a fine wine; they just get better with age”.
Sanders and Hirsch have been solid supporters of Texas Thoroughbred racing with stakes winners including Chief of Affairs, Zippit E and Kat’s Infatuation.
Gold Pilot ($3.80) completed seven furlongs in 1:24.07 by a margin of four lengths over Too Much Action.
Fan favorite Algebra ran third followed by Sunday Bling.
Imaluckycharm Tops Defending Champion No Mas Tequila in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf
Saturday stakes action concluded with the running of the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf. A field of 11 Texas-bred fillies and mares competed at the distance of one mile on the Connally Turf Course.
Trainer Karen Jacks won last year’s edition with No Mas Tequila and came prepared for victory with three turf runners today. It was the 4-year-old Imaluckycharm who topped her stablemates in gate-to wire fashion with rider Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez in the saddle.
Ronald Ellerbee and his wife, Margaret Ellerbee bred the daughter of My Golden Song out of the Street Boss mare Foxy Boss. Owned by Carl Moore Management, LLC, Imaluckycharm was a turf allowance winner here last April before running third in two stakes last summer at Lone Star Park.
“She’s a big, long-striding filly,” said Jacks. “She was full of herself and got an easy pace. No Mas had to chase her and that’s how it happened!”
Both were coming off a layoff, and Valdez-Jiminez was asked about letting Imaluckycharm take the early lead.
“She was very fresh and I didn’t want to fight with her, so I let her go,” he said. “The fractions were very slow (:25.15; :50.74), so that worked for me!”
Breeder Margaret Ellerbee was pleased to see the half-sisters complete the exacta. She commented on the front-running victory of Imaluckycharm.
“When she took off, I didn’t think there was any catching her,” she said. “I was impressed; she’s so big and good looking! And Karen Jacks has been super; we couldn’t ask for a better trainer!”
Imaluckycharm was sent off at odds of 5:50-1 and rewarded her backers with a $12.20 win payout. No Mas Tequila, a 6-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet out of Foxy Boss, ran second for owner James Sills followed by longshot Tudela and last year’s Miss Bluebonnet Turf runner-up Tahitian Breeze.
Texas Champions Day Set for Saturday, March 25
The final stakes day of the 2023 Sam Houston Race Park live racing season will be Texas Champions Day on Saturday, March 25. The stakes, saluting Texas Thoroughbreds, are as follows:
$100,000 San Jacinto 4&up F&M- 1 1/16 Mile (T)
$100,000 Spirit of Texas 4&up- 6 Furlongs
$100,000 Yellow Rose Stakes 4&up F&M- 6 furlongs
$100,000 Star of Texas 4&up- 1 Mile
$100,000 TTA Derby 3yo C&G- 1 Mile and 70 yards
$100,000 TTA Oaks 3yo F- 1 Mile and 70 yards
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