SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK KICKS OFF ITS 2022 QUARTER HORSE RACING SEASON ON FRIDAY, APRIL 22
Solid Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule and Tributes for Horsemen Leon Bard, John Buchanan and Jessie Yoakum Set for the 25-day Meet
HOUSTON, TX - The 2022 Quarter Horse racing season at Sam Houston Race Park gets underway on Friday, April 22 with a ten-race card, beginning at 6:45 pm (CT). Opening weekend continues with ten races set on Saturday, April 23, also at 6:45 pm. The 25-day meet will run through Saturday, June 18.
Veterans and Youngsters Will Make for a Competitive Jockey Colony
Defending champion Victor Urieta, Jr., leads a strong group of Quarter Horse riders into the opening weekend action. The 28-year-old jockey made 54 trips to the winner’s circle last year to claim his first leading rider title. Last year’s runner-up Luis Vivanco will also return in search of this fourth title at Sam Houston Race Park along with Claudio Aguilar, Noe Villatoro, Juan Ignacio Garcia, Jose Vega, Humberto Vital as well as popular veterans, Everardo Rodriguez and Gilbert Ortiz.
There will be one notable new addition here on opening weekend as David Alvarez, Jr. has seven mounts. The 16-year-old son of top Quarter Horse jockey David Alvarez, began his career this year at Louisiana Downs, running second in his debut on March 5 aboard Blue Bueno in a trial for the Mardi Gras Futurity. His mount, at odds of 21-1, drew the rail, and the young rider’s dad was right next to him aboard Lrh Twister Sister.
“I thought I was going to win,” recalled Alvarez, Jr., as he briefly held the lead before finishing second. “I was a little nervous, but it was very exciting. I even beat my dad!”
Watching that trial was nerve-racking for his mom, Wendy Alvarez, who was at Louisiana Downs with her two daughters for her son’s professional debut.
“I always root for my husband, but that day was the first time I watched my first-born child,” she explained.
Alvarez, Jr.’s first win came just two weeks later as h
is one of the top jockeys in the region with over 1,503 wins since he began riding in 2006. He won 120 races in 2021, finishing as the second- leading Quarter Horse jockey in the nation in wins and seventh in earnings.
“I am looking forward to riding at Sam Houston and Delta Downs,” said Alvarez, Jr. “I will try to do my best on each horse and hopefully qualify for a futurity some day!”
Fond Memories at Sam Houston Race Park for Trainer Toby Keeton
Entries were strong for opening weekend with many Texas and Louisiana horsemen returning for the 2022 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse season.
Trainer Toby Keeton is always one to watch in Houston. Born in Uvalde, Texas, the 57-year-old has been prominent since Sam Houston opened in 1994. He trained a number of stakes winners including Gol, Show Me Your Toole, Sixarunner, Jody Pops Zoomer, Mitowilard and Bens Coasting.
But there is no denying that a Texas-bred juvenile in 2014 vaulted Keeton to new heights. That runner was Kiss My Hocks, a son of Tempting Dash out of the Tres Seis mare Romancing Mary. The handsome chestnut colt made his debut in trials for the $563,950 Sam Houston Futurity (G2). He won his 330-yard heat, setting a new track record of 16.433 seconds, which still stands today.
Following his victory in the final of the Sam Houston Futurity, his owners Tyler Graham and Conda Maze sent Kiss My Hocks to Ruidoso Downs where he won the 2014 Ruidoso Futurity as well as the Rainbow Futurity (G1). He was honored as 2014 AQHA Champion 2-year-old and Champion 2-year-old colt and went on to win the 2015 Rainbow Derby (G1). Retired in 2016 with 9 wins from 12 starts and earnings of $1,199, 385, Kiss My Hocks stands stud at Southwest Stallion Station near Austin, Texas.
“He was something,” admits Keeton. “I wake up every morning hoping for the next one and see a lot of potential in a few 2-year-olds this season.”
Keeton has won 1,384 races with earnings over $16.8 million in his career. His wife, Cindi, an excellent horsewoman in her own right, will play her usual key role in caring for the 50-horse Sam Houston string.
“I hope to spend a lot more time this season at Sam Houston,” added Keeton. “Usually, I am traveling back and forth to Ruidoso Downs, but have some quality help there this year.”
Juan Diaz, Jr., who won the training title here last year, will return along with Lewis “Tooter” Jordan, Kie Mushinski, Jose Sanchez, III, Roberto Madrigal, Brian Stroud, Jimmy Padgett and John Stinebaugh.
Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse Racing Post Times
Racing will take place Thursday at 4:00 pm, Friday and Saturday at 6:45 pm (Central) with special post times of 10:30 am for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 7; 1:00 pm for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 21 and the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11. The 2022 Quarter Horse meet continues through June 18.
Upcoming Stakes and Tributes at Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park will run 21 features, with three blockbuster nights, beginning on Friday, May 20 with the final of the $100,000-added Sam Houston Derby (G3) and four additional stakes. Fans will see five stakes, highlighted by the $150,000-added Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on Saturday, June 4. There will also be six stakes contested on Saturday, June 18, which is closing night of the 2022 Quarter Horse meet.
Sam Houston Race Park will also pay tribute to three Texas horsemen: John Buchanan, Leon Bard and Jesse Yoakum with stakes named in their honor. Each trainer supported Sam Houston Race Park when it opened as the first Texas Class 1 racetrack in 1994 and for decades to follow. The $50,000 John Buchanan Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old fillies will be run on Saturday, June 4 and the $50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes is set for Saturday, June 18. Bard, who passed away on January 5, 2022, will be fondly remembered on June 4 with the inaugural running of the $50,000-added Leon Bard Stakes for 3 year-olds.
A complete list of the 2022 Quarter Horse schedule and trial dates is available on 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 National Gaming. 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: Kiss My Hocks and Victor Urieta, Jr: Coady Photography
David Alvarez, Jr. Photo: Hodges Photography