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FIVE TEXAS PREVIEW DAY STAKES WILL BE CONTESTED ON SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17 AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK

First Post is 1:00 pm (Central) for the Ten-Race Program

HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park will present Texas Preview Day on Saturday, February 17 featuring stakes on both the main track and Connally Turf Course. The ten-race card begins at 1:00 pm (CT) with several Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) champions and rising stars competing in the $75,000 Two Altazano, $75,000 Houston Turf, $75,000 Jim’s Orbit, $75,000 David E. Hooper and $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf.  

 

As previously announced, Sam Houston Race Park renamed the $75,000 H-Town Stakes to honor David E. Hooper, who passed away on May 29, 2023, following a courageous battle with cancer. The 88-year-old had an extensive career in the horse racing industry, which included serving as executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association from 1997-2012. Hooper was revered for his knowledge, outgoing personality and unsurpassed communication skills with racetrack administrators, breeders, trainers and jockeys in Texas and across the country.

 

Each of the five Texas Preview Stakes will set the stage for Texas Champions Day, which will be held at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, March 23. Of course, following the conclusion of the Sam Houston live racing season on April 7, opportunities for Texas-breds will continue at Lone Star Park when their 2024 Thoroughbred racing season kicks off on Thursday, April 18.

Too Much Kiki In Pursuit of her Fourth Stakes Win in the $75,000 Two Altazano

The first stakes of the card, the $75,000 Two Altazano, will run as race six, with eight Texas-sired 3 year-old fillies competing six furlongs on the main track.

 

Heavy favoritism will undoubtedly go to Too Much Kiki, who has won three in a row for owner Mansfield Racing and trainer Bret Calhoun. She turned back her rivals this meet in both the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter on January 6 and the $75,000 Bara Lass three weeks ago. The daughter of Too Much Bling out of the Action This Day mare, Soft Music was bred by Danele Durham and was the $100,000 sale topper at the 2022 Texas Summer Yearling Sale. She won the Pan Zareta, the first stakes in the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. TX Stallion Stakes Series last June at Lone Star Park and makes her sixth lifetime start with earnings of $166,500. Fernando Jara has the return call aboard Too Much Kiki as the 4-5 morning line favorite. 

 

“Too Much Kiki is a very consistent and competitive filly,” stated Calhoun. “She doesn’t do too much in the mornings; pretty much trains by herself, but  continues to impress us with her progress as such a young horse.”

 

Calhoun has won seven previous editions of the Two Altazano, beginning with Tin Top Cat in 2010, and has also entered Successfulpath, who ran third in the Darby’s Daughter and second in the Bara Lass. Also sired by Too Much Bling, she will be ridden by Jose Alvarez for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch.

 

The field also includes two fillies trained by Jayde Gelner. Highlander Training Center’s  High Tone Woman was the runner-up in the Darby’s Daughter and worked a four furlong bullet (:47.20) here on Saturday. Too Much Dreaming ran second in the Pan Zareta for Norman Stables LLC.

 

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 Oaks with Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in the saddle.

 

Texas Horse of the Year Sunlit Song Returns in the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes 

The first of two turf features is the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes. It’s written for accredited Texas-bred older horses who will compete at the distance of a mile and one sixteenth on the Connally Turf Course. 

 

Last year’s winner, Sunlit Song headlines the eight horse field. Honored as 2023 Texas Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse, Sunlit Song is a 9-year-old son of My Golden Song, bred in Texas by Carolyn Barnett and owned by Barnett and Becky Harding. The striking gray gelding will make his 44th lifetime start on Saturday for trainer Mindy Willis. His 2023 record was impressive with five wins and a second in 6 starts, including four stakes victories. Stewart Elliot has been one of Sunlit Song’s top riders and has the return call, leaving from post position three at odds of 6-5.

 

“He loves the turf and just keeps getting better and better,” said Willis. “People ask me when he will retire and I tell them he will retire when he tells us he’s ready, but he’s not ready yet!”

 

Triple V Racing LLC’s  Singapore Flash winner of the 2022 edition of the race returns for trainer J. R. Caldwell, who won his 1,000th career race on February 4 at Sam Houston Race Park. The 8-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby will make his 26th turf start with six wins and ten on the board placings. Virginia Jago Elder bred Singapore Flash who will be ridden by jockey Rene Diaz.

 

Easter Snap, who ran sixth in the Houston Turf last year, returns for trainer Cesar Govea, who will also saddle Iberian Runner. Both are owned by L and D Stables. Breeder, owner and trainer Ronald Kotara has entered Crazy Ridge and Cowboy Ridge. Sired by Ronridge Will, the half-brothers will break side by side with Iram Diego aboard Crazy Ridge and Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez guiding Cowboy Ridge.

 

Bandera Bling Takes on Seven Rivals in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit

A quality field of 3-year-old colts and geldings will compete six furlongs in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit with Bandera Bling installed as the 5-2 morning line choice.

 

Bred by Julie Smoak and Desra Schlansky in Bandera, Texas, Bandera Blingunleashed a solid closing kick to capture the $75,000 My Dandy here on January 6.The son of Too Much Bling out of the Intimidator mare Precious Play returned on January 21 to win a $40,000 allowance under jockey Iram Diego, who has the return call on Saturday. Conditioner Karen Jacks, who called the dark bay gelding “a little string bean” is pleased with his progress this year.

 

“He hasn’t done anything wrong,” stated Jacks. “Nothing seems to bother him; he’s maturing at the right time and definitely seems capable of going two turns.”

Hezakoolcat piloted by Fernando Jara,  dueled neck and neck with Bandera Bling in the My Dandy and is also entered in the Jim’s Orbit. The colt by Early Flyer is owned by Stephen L. Fidel and trained by Austin Gustafson. J. R. Caldwell will saddle Unbridled Bling who will break from the rail with Rene Diaz in the saddle and Son of a Bling, who just broke his maiden on January 20. Three time leading Sam Houston Race Park jockey Stewart Elliott has the call.

 

Too Much Bling, who has been one of the most prolific stallions standing in Texas, was pensioned last October at the age of 20, and is enjoying retirement at Valor Farm in Pilot Point, Texas. He has sired over 250 winners who have topped the $20 million dollar mark in earnings, including 2008 Texas Horse of the Year Direct Dial

 

The Jim’s Orbit will run as the eighth race on the card with an approximate post time of 4:30 pm. The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS), 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. 

 

Fan Favorites Mr Money Bags and Algebra Take on Defending Champion Gold Pilot in the $75,000 David E. Hooper Stakes

The seven-furlong $75,000 David E. Hooper Stakes (formerly the H-Town)always attracts some of the top Texas-bred older horses. This year’s headliners are both horses that fans of Texas racing have come to know, respect and love!

 

The defending champion Gold Pilot is still in top form as a 7-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 24-9-3-5 with earnings of $395,077. Last year, trainer Bret Calhoun hopes for similar success this year.

 

“Foot issues backed up his training and with the freeze earlier this year, he missed a few works,” acknowledged Calhoun. “Gold Pilot has faced many of these older horses before; it always draws a tough field.”

 

Gold Pilot will be ridden by Jose Alvarez and will have plenty of quality competition from several noted Texas-Breds, including Texas Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Mr Money Bags, winner of the 2022 edition of the race. The 8-year-old son of Silver City was bred by the late Roy W. Cobb and owned by his wife, Erma. Mr Money Bags was also the pride and joy of trainer Mike Neatherlin, whose daughter, Jaylan Clary, conditions the handsome gray gelding.

 

“This was my surprise for Mrs. Cobb,” said Clary. “It’s a good distance for Mr. Money Bags and he is fit and ready to go.”

 

Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, who has guided Mr Money Bags in 29 of his 30 lifetime starts, has the call.

 

Post time favoritism goes to Dust Em, a 6-year-old son of Too Much Bling, bred by Douglas Scharbauer. Trainer Karen Jacks will give a leg up to rider Lindey Wade and will be thinking of Sarah Delany as Dust Em enters the starting gate. Delany, a very popular Thoroughbred trainer in Texas and Louisiana was critically injured on February 7, when she was kicked in the neck in a stall accident at Delta Downs. She was airlifted to Houston where she underwent spinal surgery.

 

“Sarah called me last summer when Dust Em was up for sale,” explained Jacks. “She wanted us to know and we were thrilled to have him. Of course, we are all pulling for Sarah to make a full recovery.”

 

The field also includes 2023 Jim’s Orbit winner I’m a Cowboy and Algebra who was claimed for $25,000 by Farmer Fillies Racing. He ran second in this stakes two years ago and third last year for trainer J. R. Caldwell. 

 

Hooper’s wife of 25 years, Martha and daughters, Jennifer Kash, Cindy Slachta and Suzy Hooper, will be on hand to make the trophy presentation.

 

Defending Champion Imaluckycharm Takes on Nine 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 ten 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 Imaluckycharm for owner Carl Moore Management, LLC. The 6-year-old daughter of My Golden Song was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and his wife, Margaret Ellerbee.The dark bay mare ran third in the 2021 edition and ran a huge race last year under jockey Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez. Following that victory, the Sam Houston Race Park “Horse for the Course” won three stakes at Lone Star Park. She has won eight of her 11 career turf races and is closing in on the $300,000 earnings mark.

 

“She’s such a good turf runner,” said Jacks. “We always give our runners a break after Remington Park and bring them back at Sam Houston. This is a huge mare, so we try not to work her too hard.”

 

Other notable contenders include Billy Clevenger’s homebred Izatiz, winner of the 2023 Bara Lass here and Gracie’s Kitten who ships in for noted turf conditioner Michael Maker.

 

David Cabrera To Ride on Texas Preview Day

Racing fans at Sam Houston Race Park will have an opportunity to see jockey David Cabrera return to action for the first time since last September at Remington Park. Cabrera rode as an apprentice at Sam Houston in 2013 and has emerged as one of the top riders in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas as his career developed. He is named on four mounts on Saturday and will also ride here Sunday and on the special President’s program on Monday, February 19.

 

TOBA Owner Seminar on Texas Preview Day – Registration Deadline Friday, February 16

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) is hosting an Owner Seminar Saturday, February 17 at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas. The daylong seminar will be held on Texas Preview Day with five stakes for Texas-breds. Attendees will learn insights on different aspects of Thoroughbred ownership including bloodstock, pedigree, and conformation analysis from industry professionals as well as enjoy a day at the races. The Owner Seminar is sponsored by FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips, and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.  The topics and speakers at the clinic include:

• Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnerships, presented by Corey Johnson (CJ Thoroughbreds, President)

• Horse Selection/Conformation/Pedigree, presented by Cash Asmussen (Cashmark Farm, Owner)

• Role of the Veterinarian at Public Auction, presented by David Stephens, DVM, DABVP (Weems & Stephens Equine Hospital, Owner)

• Barn Tour of Multiple Leading and Stakes Winning Trainer Danny Pish, hosted by Danny Pish (Sam Houston and Texas based Thoroughbred Trainer)

• Bloodstock and Racing Manager Roles and Responsibilities, presented by John Adger (previously served as Bloodstock and Racing Manager of Bob and Janice McNairs’ Stonerside Stable)

 

The TOBA Owner Seminar is aimed towards all levels of experience – from beginners to knowledgeable owners looking to continue their education. The clinic is open to the general public, with a special discount for TOBA members. Meals, educational materials, and a TOBA gift bag are included in registration.

Registration is available online at: toba.memberclicks.net/seminars-clinics. Questions about the clinics and seminars may be directed to Barkley N. Porter at barkley@toba.org or (859) 276-6793.

 

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 www.shrp.com or follow on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube.

 

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