FOUR STAKES SET FOR SATURDAY, JUNE 17, THE FINAL NIGHT OF THE 2023 SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK QUARTER HORSE LIVE RACING SEASON
Presentation of the End of the Meet Trophies Will be Made to the Leading Owner, Trainer and Jockey
By Martha Claussen
HOUSTON, TX –Sam Houston Race Park will close out its 2023 live racing season on Saturday, June 17with ten Quarter Horse races, beginning at 6:25 pm (CT). The $50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes and $50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes both drew full fields. In addition, the program will include memorial stakes honoring trainer Jesse Yoakum, who was a longtime supporter of Texas racing, and Willie Hickman, who played many pivotal roles in the Sam Houston racing office.
Ghost Bear Installed as the Favorite in the $50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes
A competitive field of distance specialists will go to the starting gate in the $50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes. The race is named in honor of the late Quarter Horse trainer Jesse Yoakum, who passed away on October 3, 2019, at the age of 69.
Post-time favorite Ghost Bear has been a versatile stakes competitor for his owner Sarah Huskey. The 6-year-old son of Phantom Menace was bred in Texas by Sandra Garnett and is trained by Esteban Rubio. This will be his seventh appearance at Sam Houston Race Park with one of his most memorable races was his dead-heat victory with Dak in the 2021 Sam Houston 550 Stakes. Luciano Duenez rode Ghost Bear in his 870-yard prep race here on May 5 and will break from post position six as the 2-1 choice.
Owner/trainer John Boegner will saddle two runners, both sired by Flyin Color: Stargate, who will break from the rail under Alejandro Zuniga, and Flying Rusty with current leading rider Ali Rivera, who drew post position three. In addition, Byron Gardner’s homebred Eye Will Decide exits an 870-yard allowance victory on April 22 and will be ridden by Noe Villatoro. The 5-year-old gelding by Majestic Cartel is trained by Adan Guzman.CJS Rockhard N Ready will make his 69th career start for trainer Kie Mushinski, who trains the 10-year-old Rock Solid Jess gelding for owners Robert and Jody Norris.
Yoakum was a strong supporter of Texas racing and had tremendous success at Sam Houston Race Park. He was a jockey prior to beginning a training career that spanned 30 years and saddled 418 Quarter Horse winners with earnings in excess of $3.2 million. He trained Sam Houston Futurity (G1) winner, Beduinos Rusty, Sam Houston Classic (G2) winner A Glint Of Gold, 870-yard specialist, The Field Cricket, Governor's Cup Marathon (G3) winner Doctor Streakin, and Barnmaster Sprint Stakes (RG3) champion Turfinator.
The Jesse Yoakum Memorial will run as the fifth race on the program. Yoakum Yoakum’s wife Sharon, son Jerry Lee along with his wife, Rosslyn, and their daughter Jaycee will make the trophy presentation.
Defending Champion His Time to Deal Returns in the $50,000 Willie Hickman Memorial
Pete Scarmardo's homebred His Time To Deal will return in hopes of a repeat in the $50,000 Willie Hickman Memorial Stakes. The 400-yard stakes for accredited Texas-breds drew an excellent field of ten and will be run as the ninth race on Saturday evening.
Scarmardo has two chances to win the feature this year as in addition to His Time to Deal, a 5-year-old son of multiple stakes sire Dealagame, the cattle rancher from Caldwell, Texas,, has also entered Jess Good Leader.
His Time to Deal will be ridden by Gilbert Ortiz and Ali Rivera has the call aboard Jess Good Leader. Both are trained by John Stinebaugh.
Jet Black Grace, who has banked $729,627 for owner Carlos Ponce, is the 4-5 morning line favorite. The 4-year-old son of Jet Black Patriot will be ridden by Jose Herbert for top Sam Houston Race Park conditioner Juan Diaz, Jr. D Cosmic Cartel passed the $100,000 earning mark earlier this year at Louisiana Downs for trainer Leonel Hernandez. The 5-year-old sired by The Louisiana Cartel will be ridden by Noe Castaneda.
The stakes is named in honor of Willie Hickman, a longstanding member of the racing office. The native of Red Rock, Texas passed away in Houston on March 15, 2022, at the age of 64. Hickman was involved in many roles in the racing community, from training racehorses to serving in a variety of duties in the Sam Houston Race Park racing office for over 20 years. As stall superintendent and stakes coordinator, Hickman had lasting relationships with horsemen in both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. He also did an excellent job as a jockey agent to rider Alfonso Lujan, who won over 2,100 races prior to his retirement in 2018.
His daughter Cheyenne Hickman Bourgeios and family members including Shyrl O’Banan Hopkins will make the presentation in the winner’s circle for the Willie Hickman Memorial.
Shockinglyfamous Returns to Sam Houston Race Park in the $50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes
One of the most accomplished distance horses in the country Shockinglyfamous returns to Sam Houston Race Park for the second year in a row and will headline a competitive field in the $50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes. The 7-year-old son of One Famous Eagle is co-owned by Kasey Willis and Stone Chase Stables, LLC, and was the winner of the Jesse Yoakum 870 Memorial last year.
Clarence Scharbauer III bred Shockinglyfamous from the thoroughbred mare Shocktime by Langfuhr and he had success at 550 yards at Remington Park winning the SLM Big Daddy on March 12. He will break from the rail as the 6-5 favorite under rider Benito Baca.
“Last year, when I got the call from trainer Kasey Willis to ride this horse, I said absolutely; tell me the date and the place and I'll be there," said Baca. " He's a complete class act; very professional.”
Shockinglyfamous will make his 38th career start in pursuit of his 18th victory. He has banked $323,763 but is not the high earner in the field. That distinction goes to Viva Le Don, who passed the half-million dollar mark on April 2 at Remington Park. Owned by Rockin J Running Horses and trained by Tammy Kay Johnson, the 7-year son of Rock Solid Jess is a perfect three for three at Sam Houston. Jose Vega had the call and drew post position six. In addition to the top two earners, the field includes Donna Mushinski’s Dm Preacher Man, trained by her husband Kie with Claudio Aguilar in the saddle. Rey Donovan will make his 550-yard debut for trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. The 4-year-old Valiant Hero gelding will be ridden by Jose Herbert.
The Sam Houston 550 Stakes will run as race eight with an approximate post time of 9:34 pm.
Competitive Field of Ten Entered in the $50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes
The final race of the 2023 Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet is the $50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes. The race attracted ten accredited Texas-breds with Laney Fowler’s Hallmarke gunning for her sixth career victory. The 4-year-old daughter of Duponte is trained by Justin Powell and broke her maiden at Evangeline Downs on December 1 and added four more consecutive victories, including the Cherokee Overnight Stakes in April at Sandy Ridge at the Red Mile. She will break from post position six under veteran jockey Gilbert Ortiz.
Ortiz announced earlier this year that he will hang up his tack in December. The well-respected Texan was one of the first leading riders at Sam Houston Race Park when it opened in 1994. He has won over 3,000 races and his Texas stakes winners included War Colors, Show Me Your Toole, Hadtobenuts, Zookie Street, and the legendary race mare Kool Kue Baby.
Three Bar T Quarter Horses’ Phreedom returns to Sam Houston off a fifth-place finish in the $54,000 Leon Bard Memorial on June 3. Toby Keeton trains the 3-year-old gelding by Tempting Dash. Raul Ramirez, Jr. has the return call. Mo Delirio exits an allowance score here on May 4 for owner Manuel Ortiz. Trainer Enrique Alvarado will saddle the 4-year-old Desirio gelding with Juan Carlos Garcia in the irons.
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston. Owned by Penn Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ – PENN), 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 us on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tick Tok or YouTube
Photos: Coady Photography