Jun 17, 2024


HOUSTON, TX –.There was little reason to doubt that Fire Cowboy's win streak was in jeopardy when he entered the starting gate as the prohibitive favorite in the $280,450 Sam Houston Derby [G3] at Sam Houston Race Park. 


Trained by Juan Diaz, Jr. and owned by Emmanuel Villarreal,  Victor Urieta, Jr, who has ridden Fire Cowboy for his last three starts, broke from the rail and drew clear by a margin of 1 1/2 lengths. His final time, over the fast main track, was:17.346 seconds, besting his May 23 trial clocking of:17.905 seconds.  


Fire Cowboy was bred in Texas by  Edward J and Von Zae McNelis and made his first start here last year in trials for the Sam Houston Futurity. His six-race win streak began on September 1 at Retama Park. He won the $237,00 Evangeline Downs Futurity(G2) on December 15 before taking a well-deserved break until his May 4 allowance victory here.


 His owner, Emmanuel Villarreal, hand-selected Fire Cowboy from the Los Alamitos Equine Sale and purchased three-year-old gelding fPerky by Walk Thru Fireor $22,000 from breeders Edward and VonZae McNelis. The first prize Sam Houston Derby check of $112,180 boosted his career earnings to $357,773. While trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. departed quickly to saddle his quintet of finalists in the Sam Houston Futurity, Villarreal talked about how greatly he admired Fire Cowboy. 


"He is a super horse," he stated. "I went all the way to California to buy him. He was a Texas-bred at Los Alamitos. I believe in his bloodlines. I want to thank God, all the team, and especially my wife, who has been super patient with me, for this win."


Fire Cowboy ($2.60) will remain in Texas with Villarreal confirming that the sorrel gelding is paid into the Retama Derby as well as the Texas Classic Derby later this year at Lone Star Park. His sire Flying Cowboy 123 won the Texas Classic Futurity in 2018 and retired following his victory in the 2019 Texas Classic Derby on November 9, 2019. 


"Let's see if he can do what his daddy did," added Villarreal with a smile. 

Trainer Toby Keeton, who had won two previous editions of the Sam Houston Derby with Bens Coasting and in 2022 with Special Apollitical, saddled the runner-up Jaegar for owner Guerras Racing Stables. The son of Apollitical Jess won his Derby trial under Luis Vivanco after two starts at Louisiana Downs. Maria Solis' homebred Jmg One Hot Eagle ran third followed by Hesa Game, Cr Dmj Policy, Eyes Like An Eagle, Princess Chenoa, Dragones, Swanky B, and Revolutionaerie

Sam Houston Race Park to Simulcast Royal Ascot – June 19-22

The 30th anniversary of Sam Houston Race Park live racing concludes on June 15, but throughout the remainder of 2024, horseplayers can enjoy simulcasting from race tracks across the country as well as special racing festivals in Europe! Next week, Sam Houston Race Park will celebrate one of the most anticipated international racing events, Royal Ascot from Ascot Racecourse in Windsor, England.  Sam Houston Race Park will open at 10:00 am on Wednesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 20; then 8:00 am on June 21 and 22 so that fans can enjoy the pageantry of this esteemed British Racetrack with elite Thoroughbreds from North America, Europe and Japan competing in numerous Group 1, 2 and 3 stakes run over the four-day event. For more information on simulcasting and special events, visit shrp.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.




Photos: Coady Photography