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June 8, 2024
Apr 16, 2024


Opening Night Features Trials for the Adequan Derby and John Deere Challenge

HOUSTON, TX - The 2024 Quarter Horse racing season at Sam Houston Race Park, presented by 811 Call Before You Dig, gets underway on Friday, April 19 with a ten-race card, beginning at 6:30 pm (CT). Opening weekend continues with nine races set on Saturday, April 20, also at 6:30 pm.  The 25-day meet will run through Saturday, June 15.  

Opening night will feature trials for the Adequan Derby Challenge and John Deere Juvenile Challenge. The ten fastest qualifiers will return on Friday, May 10. The series, under the direction of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), is part of a national program in which regional qualifiers advance to the Racing Challenge Championship. 

Bryan Pettigrew, Vice President and General Manager of Texas Racing Operations for PENN Entertainment looks forward to the return of Quarter Horse racing.

“Sam Houston Race Park boasts a huge fan base for Quarter Horse racing,” acknowledged Pettigrew. “For the next three months, we will offer something for everyone with live racing, the simulcast of each of the Triple Crown races and a full slate of family-friendly promotions. We look forward to a great season!” 

Quarter Horse Champions Play a Huge Role in Sam Houston Race Park’s 30th Anniversary Season

Throughout the recently concluded Thoroughbred live racing season, Sam Houston Race Park paid tribute to the many equine champions as well as humans who created special moments since 1994. Texas is one of the leading states in the United States for breeding Quarter Horses. They are standouts in many disciplines including roping, reining, barrel racing and rodeo, but their explosive breaks from the starting gate and speeds up to 45 mph, have created many unforgettable moments at Sam Houston Race Park.


One of the most esteemed Quarter Horse champions here was Azoom who won 11 of his 14 career starts for owner Enrique Carrion, trainer Frank Cavazos and jockey Rodrigo Vallejo.


AQHA champion breeder Jerry Windham bred the son of Shazoom out of the Beduino mare Crystalinas. Foaled in Texas on March 30, 2002, Azoom made his first five starts in Mexico before making his United States debut at Sam Houston Race Park on June 20, 2004. That was the year that Lone Star Park hosted the Breeders’ Cup, so Azoom dominated his 2-year-old rivals, winning the TQHA Sale Futurity (G1), Sam Houston Futurity (G1) and Texas Classic Futurity(G1). 


Cavazos worked tirelessly with the brown colt in the starting gate and repeatedly stating that Azoom was simply a “super freak” as his Grade 1 victories continued throughout the year.


Azoom was retired at the end of 2004 and stood stud at Granada Farms for five years. He died on March 22, 2018, from an acute liver disease. 


Jockey Ali Rivera Eager to Return to Sam Houston Race Park

Young Ali Rivera continues to prove that he is one of the top Quarter Horse jockeys in the region as he returns in pursuit of his third leading rider title at Sam Houston Race Park. He blazed onto the scene in 2022, winning 32 races and repeated as top rider last year guiding 33 mounts to victory.


The 22-year-old, from Elgin, Texas, who began riding just three years ago, is grateful to each owner and trainer for their faith in his ability.


“I am very blessed to have reached this level in such a short period of time,” said Rivera. “Winning titles here has opened doors for me and the support of so many horsemen has given me a lot of confidence.”


Last year, Rivera won his first leading rider title at Retama Park and will return to the Selma, Texas oval once Sam Houston wraps. 


“I began this year riding at Remington Park and things have been going well,” added Rivera. “My family has always been so supportive, and it is great to have them see me ride in Texas.“


The experienced jockey colony includes former leading riders Victor Urieta,  Rodrigo Vallejo and Luis Vivanco as well as Claudio Aguilar, Noe Villatoro, Francisco Giles and Nestor Duran.


Trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. Returns in Pursuit of his Fourth Title

Texas horseman Juan Diaz, Jr. held a commanding lead in the trainer standings last year winning 32 races including the $461,435 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) with Jess Flying Cowgirl.  


The resident of Floresville, Texas, will saddle eight runners this weekend and has already notched stakes victories in 2024 at Louisiana Downs and Remington Park.


“I am fortunate to have good owners and a hard working team,” acknowledged Diaz. “We love running in Texas and have had a lot of success at Sam Houston.”


Toby Keeton, John Stinebaugh, Juan Hernandez, Kie Mushinski, Janessa Muniz and John Boegner will also be well represented this weekend.


Sam Houston Race Park Post Times and Upcoming Promotions

Sam Houston Race Park will run 25 days with Thursday-Saturday cards at 6:30 pm (Central). Special post times of 10:30 a.m. for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 4; and 1:00 p.m. for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 18 and the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8. Promotions will be plentiful, offering racing fans of all ages an opportunity to enjoy racing, contests and entertainment. For more information on racing, dining, suite rentals and special events, visit


2024 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule

Sam Houston Race Park will host 16 stakes throughout the Quarter Horse racing season. Trial dates and stakes finals are as follows:


Friday, May 10

$75,000 Sam Houston Classic(G2) 3 YO & Up 440 yards

$40,000 John Deere Juvenile(G3) 2 YO 350 yards

$40,000 Adequan Derby 3 YO 400 yards

$50,000 John Buchanan Memorial Stakes 3 YO Fillies 350 yards

$50,000 Leon Bard Memorial Stakes 3 YO 350 yards

$20,000 Colors of Houston Derby 3 YO 350 yards


Saturday, June 8

$40,000 Colors of Houston Futurity(G2) 2 YO 300 yards


Saturday, June 15

$150,000 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) 2 YO 330 yards

$50,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes 2 YO 330 yards

$100,000 Sam Houston Derby (G3) 3 YO 350 yards

$50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes 3 YO & Up 870 yards

$50,000 Willie Hickman Memorial Stakes 3 YO & Up 400 yards

$50,000 Miss Sam Houston Stakes F & M 3 YO & Up 330 yards

$50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes 3 YO & Up 250 yards

$50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes 3 YO & Up 550 yards

$20,000 Colors of Houston Maturity(G2) 3 YO 350 yards

All final purses will include added money, with the exception of the Sam Houston Juvenile.


2024 Quarter Horse Trial Dates

Thursday, April 19 Adequan Derby Challenge Trials

John Deere Juvenile Challenge Trials

Saturday, April 20 Colors of Houston Futurity

Thursday, May 23 Sam Houston Derby and Colors of Houston Futurity

Friday, May 24-Saturday, May 25 Sam Houston Futurity


A complete list of the 2024 Quarter Horse schedule is available on


About Sam Houston Race Park

Operated by Penn Entertainment Inc., Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and

entertainment facility, located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston. The racetrack, which opened in

1994, offers a variety of attractions for businesses, group outings and families during racing and the off-

season. The track is best known for its award-winning dining and features multiple areas for fans looking for

casual to upscale dining options including its Winner’s Circle Restaurant, Jockey Club, Luxury Suites and

Pavilion Centre. For more information or tickets to upcoming live racing, shows and events, please

visit or follow on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube.




Photos: Coady Photography