Jockey Francisco Calderon Eyes His Third Win in the Sam Houston Futurity
Sam Houston Race Park will host 13 trials for the Sam Houston Futurity on Friday, April 6. It is the richest race of the annual Quarter Horse meet, and second only to the Texas Classic Futurity at Lone Star Park as the state’s most lucrative racing event.
Jockey Francisco Calderon has 11 mounts on the card, which gets underway at 6:00 pm. After the first three days of the Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet, Calderon is on top of the standings with five wins, including a victory in the first stakes of the meet.
The 24-year-old was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and began riding in 2012. Calderon had to learn from the ground up and credits jockey Ignacio Bustamante for teaching him the ropes.
"I did everything I was asked to do in the barn," said Calderon. "Ignacio told me 'you have to know a horse before you get on a horse'. So, I groomed, fed, mucked stalls; it was all important."
The Sam Houston Futurity has special meaning for Calderon. His first major win was in the 2016 edition of the race, when he guided Just Call Me Carter to a decisive score for owned Joel Tipton and conditioner Angel Sanchez. It was the biggest race of his career and gave him tremendous confidence.
It also boosted his reputation and many horsemen began giving calls to Calderon. Veteran trainer Leon Bard took notice and tabbed Calderon to ride for his barn.
"Leon asked me to ride first call for his barn," added Calderon. "It was an opportunity that I could not pass up. He's a good horsemen and a great person. I don't feel any pressure riding for Leon; he has confidence in me and that means a great deal."
Calderon explains that preparing 2-year-olds for their first futurity is a laborious process that began about six months ago.
“We begin on the farm, galloping in company; then comes gate training and breezing 100 yards,” said Calderon. “Each horse is different, and some learn faster than others.”
One that impressed him from the very beginning was last year’s Sam Houston Futurity champion This Is An Eagle. Pete Scarmardo bred the son of One Famous Eagle from the First Down Dash mare Lady Lilia. He was the sale topper at the 2016 TQHA Yearling Sale, purchased for $100,000 by Mary Lynne Thompson.
“He is one of the smartest horses I have ever ridden,” stated Calderon. “I remember getting him ready for the trials last year. He was so fast in his early works; one morning he ducked out and dropped me! I didn’t mind; I just knew he was a really talented colt.”
This Is An Eagle set the fastest qualifying time last year and won the final in convincing fashion.
Of Calderon’s 11 mounts on Friday, ten of them are conditioned by Bard and the 11th is trained by Tooter Jordan. He’s worked each of the 2-year-olds and knows that some will rise to the occasion while others may need more seasoning.
“Trials are exhausting,” he admitted. “But it’s what we all work hard for. Six months of preparation go into getting these babies ready for futurity trials.”
Off the track, life is pretty good for Calderon. He and his wife, Valerie, welcomed their first child last August, a daughter they named Viridiana. He was the leading rider at Lone Star Park in 2016 and won the 2017 Retama Park title. And while the Sam Houston Race Park meet just got underway, it’s very likely that he will be in contention for his first Houston title when the meet wraps on May 12.
Trials for the Sam Houston Futurity Set for Friday, April 6
Sam Houston Race Park will host 13 trials on Friday for the richest race of the 2018 Quarter Horse Meeting, the $100,000-added Sam Houston Futurity (G2). There will be an early post time of 6:00 pm on Friday, April 6.
Rolando Almanza, Leon Bard, Jimmy Padgett, Saul Ramirez, Jr., Angel Sanchez and Rodolfo Sanchez all have multiple entrants. Bard won the 2017 edition of the Sam Houston Futurity with This Is An Eagle. The final of the Sam Houston Futurity will take place on Saturday, April 28.
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.