FULL FIELDS DRAWN FOR THE FOUR HOUSTON RACING FESTIVAL UNDERCARD STAKES AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 28
Grade 3,$400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup Anchor the Sunday Card
HOUSTON, TX – The marquee day of the 2018 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred racing season is set for Sunday, January 28. Post time is Sunday at Noon (Central) for the stakes-filled card, the Houston Racing Festival.
In addition to the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, four additional stakes will be contested on Sunday afternoon. Each have drawn excellent fields with compelling story lines.
Direct Dial Headlines the Field in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes
The first stakes on the Houston Racing Festival card is the $50,000 Groovy Stakes for 3-year-old accredited Texas-breds at six furlongs.
Will S. Farish’s homebred Direct Dial, has been installed as the even money favorite in the ten-horse field. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, the son of Too Much Bling tested the waters in the Grade 3, Sanford last July at Saratoga. He recently won the Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park and will be ridden by defending Sam Houston leading rider Iram Diego.
Redatory, owned and bred by James Wessel, is the 3-1 morning-line second choice. The son of Oratory has won two of his three career starts and was just named Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) champion 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding.
He is trained by Allen Dupuy, who was one of the original members of the Sam Houston Race Park jockey colony when the track opened in 1994. He hung up his tack in 2003 and began training Thoroughbreds. His standouts included Special Praise and Cajun Don, but Redatory may be his most talented runner. He made his debut last October at Remington Park, winning his maiden special weight debut by two lengths under rider David Cabrera. Dupuy skipped the allowance level, sending him into the $100,000 Clever Trevor on November 3, which he won handily. His streak came to an end in the very contentious $400,000 Springboard Mile last month.
“He hit his back ankles and cut himself,” explained Dupuy. “We were disappointed in the loss, but have a farrier who shod him to offer more protection. He’s been training well and we drew a good post.”
In addition to liking the chances of a stakes repeat for Redatory, Dupuy has tremendous respect for Cabrera, who is having success at Oaklawn Park this year.
“He rode my first stakes winner (Wild Slew),” said Dupuy. “David galloped for me at Retama Park and always worked hard. It’s great to see him having success.”
Asmussen has also entered Royal Reality, for owners Larry Huntsinger and Buddy Lear. The gelded son of Jersey Town will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, who was honored as 2017 Eclipse Award Champion Jockey on Thursday night.
The Groovy runs as the fifth race of the card with an approximate post time of 2:10 pm (Central).
Hogy Leads Twelve Turf Sprinters in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Sprint
Next up is the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint, a five-furlong turf stakes with a full field of 12
Trainer Mike Maker won the 2017 edition of the race with Partly Mocha and ships in millionaire Hogy for owner Michael M Hui. The 9-year-old son of Offlee Wild has won 17 of his 48 starts and will be ridden by Ortiz as the 2-1 choice. The Kentucky-bred was a fast-closing second last year, but Maker expects a good effort on Sunday.
“He had a wide trip last year,” stated Maker of the multiple-stakes winning veteran.
American Sailor, owned by Raj Jaganan drew the far outside post under Shaun Bridgmohan. The 6-year-old sired by City Zip won the 2016 Bucharest Turf Spring at Sam Houston while in the barn of Joe Sharp. Trainer Wayne Potts now trains the chestnut gelding who ships in from Tampa Bay Downs.
Fair Grounds shippers Imma Bling and Balandeen, who ran first and second in the $75,000 Bonapaw are entered with Imma Bling expected to run Saturday night in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes.
She’s Pretty Lucky Heavy Favorite in the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes
A field of seven accredited Texas-bred fillies will compete six furlongs in the $50,000 Bara Lass. Trainer Eddie Kenneally reports that all systems are go for the 1-2 morning-line favorite She’s Pretty Lucky. Bred and owned by Will Kari, the daughter of Looking at Lucky broke her maiden at Churchill Downs on September 30 and was an impressive winner of the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds last month.
“We are very proud of this filly,” said Kenneally. “She hasn’t missed a beat since winning that stake in open company. The timing worked out well for this race and even though she will be facing state-breds, she still needs to bring her best game.”
Florent Geroux will guide She’s Pretty Lucky who probably faces her toughest competition from Douglas Scharbauer’s homebred Howbouthiscowgirl. Sired by My Golden Song, she is trained by Bret Calhoun and won the Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park on November 4. She will be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr.
Trainer Mike Maker Sends Three to the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff
The final stakes of the afternoon is the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff, with ten fillies and mares entered in the mile and one-sixteenth turf event.
The regally bred Susie Bee, owned by Calumet Farms ran third in the 2017 race, and prepped for her return with a turf allowance win at Gulfstream Park. She will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. Her stablemate Peru (GB) owned by Sarah K. and Kenneth L. Ramsey reunites with Julien Leparoux.
“Susie Bee is by English Channel,” said Maker. “She is a solid turf mare. Peru ran second in the Claiming Crown Ciara. We expect good trips from both.”
Maker’s third entrant is Rum Go, a Mizzen Mast filly making her tenth career start.
Trainer Michael Stidham will be represented by Godophin Racing LLC’s Charged who makes her Sam Houston Race Park debut under Joe Bravo. Stidham won many stakes here for Stonerside Racing in the 90’s.
Houston Ladies Classic Entices Eight Quality Fillies and Mares
As announced Wednesday, an exceptional field of eight fillies and mares is entered in Sunday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest race of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet. The mile and one-sixteenth feature will run as the ninth race on Sunday with an approximate post time of 4:10 pm.
The Houston Ladies Classic field, in post position order, with riders: Ready to Confess, David Cabrera; Martini Glass, Paco Lopez; Promise of Spring, Robby Albarado; Valadorna, Brian Hernandez, Jr.; Adore, Iram Diego; Sandy's Surprise, Mario Gutierrez; Actress, Jose Ortiz and Tiger Moth, Florent Geroux.
The first running of the Houston Ladies Classic in 2013 was formed to serve as the marquee race for Sam Houston Race Park’s Thoroughbred racing season. It was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in December, 2015 and remains the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas. The Houston Ladies Classic will be the first stakes of the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge. Now in its fifth year, it will incorporate over 20 stakes races in 2018 worth over $5.5 million.
Trainer Mike Maker Hopes to Continue His Dominance in the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup
The Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, Sam Houston Race Park’s first graded stakes, has an outstanding history. The mile and one-half feature continues to attract some of the top turf horses in the country.
Trainer Michael Maker has won five of the last six editions of the Connally with Papa Bodie in 2012; Admiral Kitten in 2014; Coalport in 2015; Da Big Hoss and last year’s running with Bigger Picture. Last year, Maker upped his game in the Connally, not only winning, but finishing one-two-three when Oscar Nominated and Greengrassofyoming completed the trifecta!
Bigger Picture owned by Three Diamonds Farm, will defend his title on Sunday, at odds of 8-5. The 7-year-old son of Badge of Silver, won the Grade 1, United Nations last July at Monmouth Park, and hit the board in two additional graded stakes before shipping to Del Mar for the Grade 1, Breeders’ Cup Turf. Bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Bigger Picture has won 10 of his 28 starts and has banked $981,135.
“We were planning for this race since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Maker from his base in Florida. “He is a very good turf specialist and can adapt to anything.”
The field for the Connally Turf Cup, from the rail: Camelot Kitten, Julien Leparoux; Roman Approval, Shaun Bridgmohan; Big Bend, Florent Geroux; Net Gain, David Cabrera; Highly Prized (GB), Joe Bravo; Flashy Chelsey, Brian Hernandez, Jr.; Chicago Style, Drayden Van Dyke; Some In Tieme (BRZ), Manoel Cruz; Bigger Picture, Jose Ortiz; Paternal Pride, Iram Diego; West Road, Jermaine Bridgmohan; and Harlan Strong (ARG), Robby Albarado.
Sam Houston Race Park, Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, is located just 15 miles from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 16 luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
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Photo of Direct Dial: Coady Photography