Apr 30, 2023


By Martha Claussen

HOUSTON, TX – Seven 350-yard trials for the $209,200  Sam Houston Derby (G3)  were contested Saturday evening over a fast track surface. 


Jess Good Wine broke from the far outside post under Bryan Candanosa in the second trial and set the fastest time of the evening of :17:323 seconds, aided by a 12 mph tailwind, equaling a speed index of 110. Owned by Guns Up Racing, the Oklahoma-bred son of Jess Good Reason Sa out of the Mr. Jess Perry mare Mr. Perrys Wine, began his career at Sam Houston Race Park last year, before shipping to Ruidoso Downs. Cindi Keeton, Toby’s wife, and an excellent horsewoman, ran the Keeton barn in Houston while Toby set up his string in New Mexico.


“Cindi had him here last year and he ran second in the John Deere Juvenile Challenge,” said Keeton. “We gelded him at Ruidoso Downs and he qualified for the Challenge there but got hurt in the final. He took the rest of the year off, but I knew he was ready for this race. He had a nice work (on April 13) and ran so good tonight; he made my hair stand up!”


Jess Good Wine ($4.80) improved his career record to two wins and two seconds from six starts with earnings of $41,197. Keeton has won two previous editions of the Sam Houston Derby: last year with Adam Smith’s homebred Special Apollitical and in 2000 with Bens Coasting for owner Ernesto Guerra, Jr. 


The second clocking of the evening went to Lil Perry Wagon, who ran second to Jess Good Wine in :17.629 seconds under rider Francisco Mendez.  The gelding by Lil Kool Wagon is trained by Frank Mendez for owner Ubaldo Fuentes, Jr.


Heavy favorite Delight Interest ($2.40), a gelded son of Separate Interest, set the fourth-fastest clocking of: 17.638 seconds in the final trial under jockey Juan Pulido. This was his first start at Sam Houston after a game victory in the $144,000 West Texas Derby (G3) at Sunland Park on February 25. Juan Diaz Jr. trains for owner Triple Five.


The top ten qualifiers will compete in the final on Friday, May 19 with the winner picking up a check for $83,680. For a complete list of Sam Houston Derby (G3) qualifiers, times, sires, dams, owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys CLICK HERE


Kentucky Derby Festivities Set for Saturday, May 6 at Sam Houston Race Park

Sam Houston Race Park will open early on Saturday, May 6 for a big day of live racing and the simulcast of the 149th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs. Gates will open at  8:00 am and the 12-race Live Quarter Horse Program begins at 10:30 am. All reserved seats, winner circle, and suite level are sold out, but fans are welcome to enjoy the grandstand and track apron area throughout the day. Admission is just $5.00 after 9:30 am. We will host our popular Kentucky Derby Hat Contest; registration is from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. The winner will receive $500; Second Place dinner for 4 in the Winner Circle and Third Place dinner for 2 in the Winner Circle


In addition, celebrate Cinco de Mayo along with the Pre-Derby Party on Friday, May 5th.  Fiesta-themed buffets in the Winner Circle. Advance Wagering on the Kentucky Derby throughout the day.  Admission is just $5.00. For more information, visit www.shrp.com



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