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Mar 24, 2024

FINAL FOUR TEXAS CHAMPIONS DAY STAKES FILLED WITH EXCITING FINISHES AND FIRST TIME STAKES WINS FOR TWO JOCKEYS AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK

Erik Asmussen and Isaiah Wiseman Ride First Stakes on Saturday, March 23

HOUSTON, TX- While college basketball might take center stage in the month of March, Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park certainly provided its share of excitement, emotion and rewarding finishes for both Thoroughbreds and their connections. Seven stakes were contested with plenty of highlights throughout the afternoon card. A previous recap of the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks and Derby, as well as the emotional farewell victory by Mr Money Bags, can be viewed here.

 

Excellent efforts from each of the Texas-bred winners of Spirit of Texas, San Jacinto, Yellow Rose and Richard King Stakes, which were also completed on Saturday, March 23 

 

Josh’s Dream Earned His First Stakes Win in the $75,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes 

A competitive field of seven accredited-bred Texas-breds put on quite a show in the $75,000 Spirit of Texas, with Ken Pullen’s homebred Josh’s Dream out finishing his rivals in the six-furlong sprint. With Iram Diego in the saddle, the 5-year-old son of Race Day closed with authority down the lane, drawing clear of the front running Zavala, and drawing clear by a half-length. It was the first stakes victory for the gray gelding, trained by Alan Love, Sr., who crossed the wire in 1:10.48 in his tenth career start.

 

“He’s been running decent all meet; just didn’t have the fastest times,” explained Love. “His running style is to come off the pace, and he did just that today. He was ready today!”

 

Owner and breeder Pullen was in tears following the race noting that Josh’s Dream was named for a close friend who had passed away.

 

Zavala had won two previous allowance races this season for owner Simmons and Associates, Inc., finished second under jockey Floyd Wethey, Jr, with 2022 Jim’s Orbit winner Chief Brady completing the trifecta. 

 

Josh’s Dream ($15) earned $44,000 for the victory, increasing his career tally to $111,335. 

 

 

No Mas Tequila Edges Stablemate Imaluckycharm in the $75,000 San Jacinto Turf

The first of two Texas Champions Day turf features, the $75,000 Houston San Jacinto Turf Stakes, pitted two half-sisters and stakes winning mares, with the usual nail-biting finish for trainer Karen Jacks! It was the small, but mighty No Mas Tequila edging Imaluckycharm in a thrilling finish and giving talented young rider Erik Asmussen his first career stakes win.

 

Owned by James Sills, the 7-year daughter of Northern Afleet was bred by Ronald and Margaret Ellerbee and was making her 32nd career start. Jacks gave the mount to Asmussen, who guided the bay mare from the rail in the one-mile contest on the Connally Turf course. Fourth in the early stages, she completed the first-quarter mile in :24.26 and the half-mile in :49.61 before making her bid on the rail and surging past Imaluckycharm at the wire. The final time, over the firm course, was 1:45.35.

 

Erik Asmussen, one of two riding sons of Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, won his first race earlier in the Sam Houston 2024 season, celebrated the first stakes win of his career in the San Jacinto.

 

She’s such a game mare; all I had to do was be a passenger,” said Asmussen. “The Jacks had her ready. It’s an honor to win a stakes; I know how hard it is to get here!”

 

It was also a jubilant victory for breeder Margaret Ellerbee who bred both mares in conjunction with her late husband, Ronald. 

 

“It was so exciting at the end,” said Ellerbee! “We didn’t know which one was going to get there!”

 

Jacks has had success in this race with both mares.

 

”No Mas got the inside trip, which worried me a little,” said Jacks. “For a minute, it looked like she got trapped in with Imaluckycharm on the outside. They both had a chance, but I never know what is going to happen! I was just thrilled to see them finish one-two!”

 

With nine wins from 32 starts, No Mas Tequila ($10.20) has banked $417,577. Imaluckycharm has earned $338,995 for her owner Carl Moore Management, LLC. Missingyoucrazy completed the trifecta under Elvin Gonzalez with Gracie’s Kitten rounding out the superfecta.

 

First Stakes Victory for Peek Factor in the $75,000 Yellow Rose Stakes

Texas-accredited fillies and mares were next in the $75,000 Yellow Rose Stakes with post time favoritism going to Papillion Stables Charierre, but the trophy went to Kevin Peek’s homebred Peek Factor. 

 

The 6-year-old daughter of Too Much Bling was unhurried in the initial stages of the six-furlong sprint, but well prepared for the finish under confident handling by jockey Isaiah Wiseman. The duo advanced from fifth in the eight-horse field, drawing off by a margin of 1 ¾ lengths in 1:11.25. It marked the first stakes win for both Peek and Wiseman.

 

“She’s been a real consistent mare and Kevin is kind of the “one man band” so it’s nice to get it done for him,” said Wiseman. “She’s been aimed for this race all meet; got the perfect set up and kicked on when she needed it and it worked out today.”

 

Out of the She’s Secret mare, Peek Factor has done the majority of her running at Remington Park in Oklahoma.

 

Most of her starts have been outside of Texas, but we had high hopes for her competing against Texas-breds, ”said Peek. 

 

Dismissed at odds of 10-1, Peek Factor rewarded her backers with a win payout of $10.20.and boosted her record to four wins from 19 starts and $150,058.

 

Izatiz, winner of the 2023 Bara Lass at Sam Houston, ran second under jockey Jose Alvarez. She was bred by Billy Clevenger and trained by Matt Hebert. Reclusive, conditioned by Tina Hurley was third, with longshot Blushing Bellecompleting the superfecta.

 

Singapore Flash Notches Second Stakes Win of the Meet in the $75,000 Richard King Turf

The final stakes of the Texas Champions Day program was the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes, with the 2022 and 2023 champions returning in the mile and one sixteenth contest on the Connally Turf Course. The compelling rivalry between defending champion, Sunlit Song and Houston Turf winner went to 2022 Houston Turf Stakes champion Singapore Flash.

 

Triple V Racing LLC’s Singapore Flash continues to make his mark in Texas and has only finished off the board twice in his 12 starts here. Sunlit Song and jockey Stewart Elliott went to the lead in this feature with Singapore Flash settled off the pace under Rene Diaz. Heading down the stretch, the momentum went to Singapore Flash, who drew off to win in 1:52.51. over the firm turf course.

 

Rene Diaz had the return call aboard the 8-year-old multiple-stakes winning gelding.

 

“He’s pretty versatile; if you want him to be on the lead, he will go to the front, but if you ask him to set off the pace, he’ll do that as well,” said Diaz. “J. R. and his team do an amazing job every day to keep him on his game. Props to the connections of Sunlit Song; its been competitive each time we face each other.”

 

“Our horse is just getting good,” acknowledged Caldwell. “Sunlit Song’s eight-year old year was his best and I believe this is the year for our horse. He’s just getting better and better; right now we have the edge. Rene is pretty confident on him at this point.”

 

It’s been another solid meet for Caldwell who won his 1,000thcareer win on February 4 here at Sam Houston Race Park. He will send his trainees to Lone Star Park for their 2024 Thoroughbred season.

 

With Saturday’s win, Singapore Flash has won ten of his 33 starts and amassed career earnings of $423,306. Virginia Jago Elder bred the gelding by Shanghai Bobby and out of the Thunder Gulch mare Dare to Dance.

 

Singapore Flash went off as the second choice in the wagering and paid $6.20 to win. Sunlit Song, ridden by Stewart Elliott ran second for owners Carolyn Barnett and Becky Harding. The intrepid turf specialist has won 18 of 44 starts for trainer Mindy Willis. Iberian Runner, who ran second in the Houston Turf, completed the trifecta with Leandro Goncalves riding for L and G Racing Stables.

 

Live racing resumes on Sunday, March 24 with the 2024 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet wrapping up on Sunday, April 7.

  

Houston Betting Championship Set for Saturday, April 6
Sam Houston Race Park will host the inaugural Houston Betting Championship on Saturday, April 6. Two seats to the 2025 National Handicapping Championship and one entry to the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge will be awarded. This is a $2000 bankroll live money contest. There is no entry fee.  Players must wager at least $1000 on the Sam Houston Race Park live races and at least another $1000 on approximately 35 simulcast races   from Aqueduct, Keeneland, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita. Limit of 2 entries per contestant.  Contest rules and entry forms are available on shrp.com. For further information, contact mike.steindler@pennentertainment.com.

 

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  or follow on: FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok or YouTube.

 

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Photo credit:  Coady Photography

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