FIVE TEXAS PREVIEW DAY STAKES ARE SET FOR SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18 AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
First Post is 1:00 pm (Central) for the Nine-Race Program
HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park will present Texas Preview Day on Saturday, February 18 featuring stakes on both the main track and Connally Turf Course. The nine-race card begins at 1:00 pm (CT) with several Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) champions and rising stars competing in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit, $75,000 Houston Turf, $75,000 Two Altazano, $75,000 H-Town Stakes and the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf. Admission for Texas Preview Day is $5.00.
The annual event sets the stage for Texas Champions Day, which will take place on Saturday, March 25. Purses for each of the seven Champions Day stakes showcasing the established and emerging stars of the Texas Thoroughbred industry were boosted to $100,000 in 2021 and remain at this level for the 2023 event.
Bling Bling Bling Seeking His Third Career Stakes Win in in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit
The first stakes of the Texas Preview Day card will be the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit with a field of 3-year-old colts and geldings going six furlongs on the main track.
Bling Bling has been installed as the 9-5-morning-line choice for Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, who, as of February 14, is just three away from winning his 10,000th career race. Owned by longtime Texas owners William and Corinne Heiligbrodt, the son of Too Much Bling out of the Golden Song mare Swifterthantaylor, was a six-length winner in the $81,000 TTA Stallion Series -Staunch Avenger on June 19 at Lone Star Park. Bred by Douglas Scharbauer, Bling Bling Bling began his 3-year-old campaign drawing off to a three-length victory in the $75,000 My Dandy here on January 7 under rider Stewart Elliott. He is the high earner in the field with $114,913 earned in five starts.
Just Whiskey, ran second in the My Dandy, and will try to overcome a troubled trip in the $100,000 Gexa Energy Groovy on January 28. Bred, owned and trained by Randy Mayfield, the son of Bradester will break to the outside of Bling Bling Bling. Racing fans should remember Mayfield who trained one of the top Texas-bred race mares, Coastalota. Bred by the late Hubert Southard, Coastalota won seven stakes in Texas and was honored as 2002 & 2003 TTA Champion Older Mare, prior to embarking on a successful broodmare career.
“He ran second to Bling Bling Bling in the My Dandy, but had all kinds of trouble in his second start,” said Mayfield, who will give a leg up to rider Gerardo Mora. “I trained the whole family of Coastalota; the mares produce. I really like this gelding and just want to see him get a good trip on Saturday.”
GFB Racing LLC’s I’m a Cowboy returns for conditioner Danny Pish. Also sired by Bradester, the bay gelding also ran in both Texas-bred stakes this meet; Alfredo Contreras has the return call.
The Jim’s Orbit will run as the fifth race on the card with an approximate post time of 3:00 pm.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the, a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. 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.
Singapore Flash and Sunlit Song Return in the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes
The first of three turf features, the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes, will run as race five. Written for accredited Texas-bred older horses, the mile and one sixteenth stakes will be contested on the Connally Turf Course.
Last year’s winner, Singapore Flash and runner-up Sunlit Song headline the field with 2021 champion Moojab Jr also hoping to add a second trophy.
Triple V Racing LLC’s Singapore Flash, a 7-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby is trained by J. R. Caldwell and was claimed for $40,000 in 2021 at Colonial Downs. The dark bay gelding ran second in the $100,000 Richard King Turf on the 2021 Texas Champions Day card prior to winning the Houston Turf Stakes. Virginia Jago Elder bred Singapore Flash and jockey, Lane Luzzi, who has ridden him in each of his Sam Houston starts, has the return call.
Sunlit Song, an 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 has won 12 of his 32 starts; ten of which have come on the turf.
“He was fighting a quarter crack last year and Singapore Flash ran a really good race,” said Willis. “My owners and I decided to give him some time off and he’s good now. I like our outside post and of course, having Stewart Elliott. Sunlit Song has been a real good horse for us; he loves the turf!”
Willis will also saddle turf allowance winner, Truly Danzig, a half-brother to Sunlit Song. Leandro Goncalves has the call aboard the 6-year-old son of Etesaal.
Moojab Jr owned by John L. Pierce, has four turf victories for trainer Paul Duhon and regular rider Iram Diego. The 9-year-old son of Moojab will be making his 52nd career start.
Izatiz Heavily Favored in the $75,000 Two Altazano
The very accomplished Izatiz will take on seven Texas-sired 3 year-old fillies in the $75,000 Two Altazano. The six furlong stakes is carded as the seventh race on the Saturday afternoon program.
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 will saddle the 3-5 favorite on Saturday. Jansen Melancon will ride Izatiz, who will make her seventh start with earnings of $116,985.
“From the first time we ran her, she showed her class and continues to be so professional,” Gomez said. “She handled the off going last month and ran a huge race without one of her back shoes!”
Trainer Bret Calhoun, who has won seven previous editions of the Two Altazano, beginning with Tin Top Cat in 2010, has entered Missingyoucrazy. The daughter of Bradester, owned and bred by Stephen F. Fidel, will make her stakes debut under jockey Jose Alvarez. She prepped for this with a runner-up finish here in a $35,000 maiden on January 27.
“Izatiz is impressive, for sure,” said Calhoun. “This filly didn’t break well in her debut, but she circled the field and came flying for second, so we thought she deserved a chance to step up.”
The field also includes Bubbles and Bling, owned by Erma Cobb and Jaylan Clary. The full sister to Texas Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Mr Money Bags will make her second start after running fourth in the Bara Lass. Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, who was the regular pilot aboard Mr Money Bags will guide Bubbles and Bling from the rail.
The Two Altazano will run as the fourth race on the program with an approximate post time of 8:21 pm. The 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 Oaks with Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in the saddle.
Fan Favorites Gold Pilot and Algebra Merit Respect 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 headliners are both horses that fans of Texas racing have come to know, respect and love!
Gold Pilot is still in top form as a 6-year-old. Purchased for $15,000 at the 2018 TTA Yearling and Mixed Sale by prominent Texas owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, the son of My Golden Song has a record of 20-6-3-5 with earnings of $268,677. Trainer Bret Calhoun gave Gold Pilot a freshening after running third in an allowance last May at Lone Star Park and was impressed with his victory here on January 20.
“He was very impressive off the layoff, running well against some good company,” acknowledged Calhoun. “I couldn’t question his fitness after that race as he was feeling so good in a subsequent morning work, he dropped his rider and circled the track twice.”
Gold Pilot, at odds of 2-1, defeated Algebra in that 6 ½ furlong prep race, but racing fans have embraced the 6-year-old Algorithms gelding who finished on the board in seven of his nine Sam Houston starts. The bay gelding was claimed for $25,000 by Farmer Fillies Racing, and ran second in the 2022 H-Town as well as the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes. Regular pilot Lane Luzzi has the call for trainer J. R. Caldwell.
“He absolutely loves it here,” stated Caldwell. “We gave him a little break after Lone Star and he came to Houston and ran a monster race as did Gold Pilot. We have to outrun him and he has to outrun us. They are both great horses.”
Caldwell will saddle two additional entrants in the H-Town Stakes: Sunday Bling (10-1) and Quarterback Dak (15-1). He will be a very busy man on Texas Preview Day with 11starters on the card and is pumped up about the big stakes day and the enthusiasm of owners Farmer Fillies Racing.
“They are great people and are having a lot of fun with their horses," added Caldwell. “They will also run Lethal Move and Singapore Flash, who will face Sunlit Song on the turf. We are looking forward to some really good races on Saturday!”
Defending Champion No Mas Tequila Takes on Eleven Rivals in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf
Saturday stakes action will conclude with the running of the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf. A field of 12 Texas-bred fillies and mares will compete at the distance of one mile on the Connally Turf Course.
Trainer Karen Jacks returns with defending champion No Mas Tequila, who makes her third appearance in this turf feature. The 6-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and his wife, Margaret Ellerbee. Owned by James Sills and the estate of Ronald Ellerbe, she ran third in the 2021 edition and ran a huge race last year off the layoff under regular rider Leandro Goncalves. Following that victory, the turf-loving mare won the $100,000 San Jacinto Stakes on Texas Champions Day and made her last start of 2022 with back-to-back victories at Lone Star Park.
“We didn’t have a prep race for her last year, but she was fine,” said Jacks. “Leandro has been working her and she will be fresh and ready for Saturday!”
No Mas Tequila drew post position seven as the 2-1 favorite. Jacks also owns and trains Discreet Smile and will saddle Imaluckycharm for owner Carl Moore Management, LLC.
Other notable contenders include Ima Discreet Lady, who has been versatile on turf and dirt for owners Raymond Todd White and Duane Coker. The daughter of Discreet Cat will make her 44th lifetime start for trainer Karl Broberg and won her first stakes here with a victory in the 2019 Bara Lass. Jockey Sahin Civaci guided the 7-year-old mare to her six-furlong main track win on January 16. With $549,208, she leads her rivals in earnings and is one of Broberg’s favorite stars.
“She’s been an absolute blessing,” said Broberg. “I give credit to Todd and Duane for their patience and allowing us to turn her out when she needs the time off.”
Last year’s Miss Bluebonnet Turf runner-up Tahitian Breeze returns for trainer Tina Hurley with Benny Landeros aboard the 6-year-old Too Much Bling mare. Danny Pish will saddle Rosie Jane, a daughter of I am Jane Dough, who won the 2016 Richard King Handicap on the Connally Turf. Both were bred in Texas by Rosemary Chandler.
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