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Six Stakes Including the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Will be Contested on Sunday, January 31

HOUSTON, TX—Nominations have closed for the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park. The annual event, featuring six stakes and purses in excess of $1 million will be contested on Sunday, January 31 with a special afternoon post time of 1:45 pm (CT). 


The Houston Racing Festival includes two graded stakes, the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf.


The Houston Ladies Classic, to be contested at a mile and one-sixteenth on the main track, closed with 22 nominationsincluding 2020 champion Lady Apple. The 5-year-old daughter of Curlin out of the Clever Trick mare Miss Mary Apples is owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III and KatieRich Farms. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, the Kentucky-bred mare has won six of her 18 starts with earnings of $1,045,984. One year ago, she closed gamely under jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., defeating a contentious field which included 2019 Kentucky Oaks champion Serengeti EmpressMylady Curlin and Street Band. The victory was the second Houston Ladies Classic score for Asmussen, who is nominated for Eclipse Award winning trainer honors. In 2019, he saddled Midnight Bisou, who went on to national prominence winning five Grade 1 stakes, banking $7.4 million and honored as 2019 Eclipse Award winning Older Female.


Jeweled Princess is on target to ship to Houston and represent owners Walking L Thoroughbreds of The Woodlands, Texas.  Trained by Kenny McPeek, the 4-year-filly Cairo Prince, out of the Scat Daddy mare Jersey Jules, earned her fourth career win on December 18 at Remington Park when she captured the $75,000 She’s All In Stakes.  McPeek won the 2004 Great State Challenge Distaff at Sam Houston Race Park with Take Charge Lady as well as two editions of the Maxxam Gold Cup.


Trainer Michael Maker has nominated Ujayji, a 5-year-old mare by Smarty Jones, who would make her Texas debut for her breeder and owner T. L. Wise. The Pennsylvania-bred mare exits a third-place finish in the $100,000 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on January 17. 


Additional nominees include two fillies trained by Tom Amoss who are currently stabled at Fair Grounds. Hoffman Racing Family, LLC and Steve Landry’s Beautiful Trauma, a 4-year-old daughter of Tapiture exits a runner-up finish in the $75,000 Spanky Broussard on December 26. Figure It Out, owned by Joe Politi was an eight length winner in New Orleans on January 1. Trainer Scott Gelner is pointing Norman Racing Stables, LLC’Shes Our Fastest to the stakes. The Texas-bred daughter of Oratory won the 2019 Texas Rose Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park and has earned $344,537 in her 29 lifetime starts.


Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016.


Nominations were also strong for the Grade 3$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, at the distance of one and one-half miles with 43 nominations received by the Sam Houston Race Park racing office. Mike Maker, who has won the Connally a record seven times, has nominated 11 turf specialists. Three Diamonds Farm’s Marzo, ran third in last year’s edition of the race before running in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Sired by Medaglia D’ Oro, Marzo has won four races and $310,000 to date. Ajourneytofreedom closed to complete the superfecta in the $100,000 Gio Ponti at Aqueduct last November for her owners Paradise Farm Corp. and David Staudacher. Maker’s third likely starter isConviction Trade, who was claimed by Staudacher and tested his distance prowess last month in the H. Allen Jerkens, a two-mile turf stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-bred son of Exchange Rate closed for second.


Signalman, a 5-year-old son of General Quarters who has earned over $671,000 in his 17 starts, has been nominated by McPeek. He competed in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and won the Grade 2, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.  


The John B. Connally Turf was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid roster of past winners includingChorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff as well as three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture


The draw for the Houston Racing Festival will take place on Sunday, January 24. The remaining stakes include the $200,000 Texas Turf Mile for three-year-olds, which was added last year and drew a highly competitive field of ten; the $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint, the $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf Stakes and $75,000 Stonerside Sprint.



Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston.  The Park 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