STEWART ELLIOTT, STEVE ASMUSSEN AND END ZONE ATHLETICS, INC. WIN TITLES IN THE 2022 SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK THOROUGHBRED LIVE RACING SEASON
Successful 50-Day Meet Wrapped on Saturday, April 9
HOUSTON, TX- The annual Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred concluded on Saturday, April 9 with 11 races and the presentation of the end of the meet honors for the meet’s leading jockey, trainer and owner.
Stewart Elliott Defends His Sam Houston Race Park Leading Rider Title
Jockey Stewart Elliott picked up his second leading rider title at Sam Houston Race Park holding off a very contentious effort by Ry Eikleberry heading into the final week of the meet. Elliott had the support of trainer Steve Asmussen, riding first call for the Hall of Fame conditioner as he piloted 296 mounts, winning 62 races with earnings of $1,490,006. The successful union between Elliott and Asmussen began in Houston two years ago and has continued at Lone Star Park and Remington Park.
Elliott has a rich history in the sport, dating back to 1981 when he began riding in New England. He was the leading apprentice at Atlantic City and won several titles at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park. Honored by his peers in 2017 with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, presented annually to the rider whose career and character positively support the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing. Elliott is also known for his prowess aboard Smarty Jones in 2004, with victories in the Arkansas Derby (G1), Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1). His Equibase stats are extremely impressive with 5,326 wins from 33,771 starts and purses exceeding $114 million.
In accepting his leading rider award, Elliott also acknowledged the success he had this season riding for Mindy Willis and Michael Biehler. Members of the jockey colony, along with his wife, Lilibeth and son Christopher, joined him in the winner’s circle for the presentation.
“I have to thank Steve Asmussen and all the owners and trainers who gave me opportunities and put me on great horses,” said Elliott. “Also, to my agent Scott Hare, who did a great job, as always. I’m very appreciative to be in this position.”
Elliott will head to Lone Star Park to ride in their Thoroughbred meet, which gets underway on April 28.
A compelling rivalry between Elliott and Ry Eikleberry took place throughout the season, with the two respected veterans just separated by one win heading into the final week. Elliott drew off to defend his title, but graciously asked Eikleberry to join him for the awards presentation.
“Stewart is a great guy and deserves this,” said Eikleberry. “He’s been the man in the arena for a long time and a complete class act!”
The Phoenix, Arizona native finished second to Elliott here last year and has been his top rival from the beginning of Sam Houston 2022 season.
“I am grateful to all the connections I rode for this meet,” stated Eikleberry. “Karl (Broberg) was my biggest supporter, but many other trainers and owners rode me. It’s a lot of work to get these horses to the races; that’s why we try to do our best to reward them for their support.”
Eikleberry will ride at Oaklawn Park on Sunday, April 10 and then to Lone Star Park. He and agent Jose Santos are mulling options, which might include his return to Canterbury Park in Minnesota.
“Jose is a great guy, and we will figure it out,” he added.
Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez finished third in the standings with 41 wins. He is the regular rider of top Texas Thoroughbred Mr Money Bags, who won two stakes in the 2022 Sam Houston meet. Lane Luzzi continues to shine as one the talented young riders on the horizon, winning 40 races this meet and enjoying a highly successful association with trainer J. R. Caldwell.
Steve Asmussen Notches 14th Leading Trainer Title
Steve Asmussen, won his 14th training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, furthering his respected legacy and support of Texas racing. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,2018 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Asmussen started 259 runners, finishing with a record of 51 wins, 41 seconds, 55 thirds and earnings of $1,554,306. He conditions Stonestreet Stable LLC’s homebred Pauline’s Pearl winner of the richest race of the annual Sam Houston Thoroughbred season, the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic.
It was the third win in the Houston Ladies Classic for the Hall of Famer, who trained previous winners Midnight Bisou and Lady Apple. On Sunday, Pauline’s Pearl, at odds of 3-5, joined the list as his third winner of the featured race since the Houston Ladies Classic was inaugurated in 2013.
“We are very proud of the success we have in Texas,” said Asmussen. “To win the marquee race of the Sam Houston meet for Stonestreet meet means a great deal.”
The nationally prominent horseman, who tops the Equibase leader board in 2022 in wins and is a close second to Todd Pletcher in earnings, has always shown his allegiance to Texas racing. He continues to be grateful by the passage of House Bill 2463 by the Texas Legislature on September 1, 2019, which was initiated to boost the state’s racing and breeding industry.
“It is extremely significant where the money comes from,” stated Asmussen. “To have purses generated by equine generated tax revenues is excellent and hopefully will impact the quality of Texas racing.”
Asmussen thanked his longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, for overseeing the day-to-day operation in Houston and the skill of jockey Stewart Elliott.
"Pablo is the longest continuous employee for me and continues to do a wonderful job,” said Asmussen of Ocampo, who will head next to Lone Star Park. “Stewart is a tremendous professional and we complement each other well.”
Karl Broberg also had a very solid meet, finishing second in the trainer standings with 41 victories. He had stakes wins by Greeley and Ben and Ima Discreet Lady this season as well as his usual success at the claiming level. J. R. Caldwell followed with 34 victories, including stakes victories by Singapore Flash and Lethal Move. Trainer Austin Gustafsonhad his best showing this year, winning 21 starts.
End Zone Athletics, Inc. Takes Third Top Owner of the Meet Honors
End Zone Athletics, Inc. drew to a clear lead in the owner standings, starting 137 Thoroughbreds with 22 wins, 29 seconds and 18 third-place finishes. The ownership group, founded by Karl Broberg, has been a force at Sam Houston for over a decade with previous titles in 2018 and 2020. Noted for their claiming prowess, they also notched a victory in the $75,000 Stonerside Stakes with Greely and Ben on January 30.
“I want to thank my assistant Artemio Ramirez who handled the Houston string as well as Clemente Montoya and Abel Ramirez for their hard work,” said Broberg.
He also acknowledged the skill of Ry Eikleberry, his first call rider at Sam Houston Race Park.
“Ry has done an amazing job,” he added. “I am lucky to have him on our team.”
L and G Racing Stables finished second with 16 wins, including victories by Quinn Ella, Champagne Affair and Robo. Steve Asmussen, who has won top owner honors here seven times, finished tied for third with Danny R. Caldwell. Both won 12 races. Farmers Fillies Racing made 40 starts, winning 11 races to round out the top four spots.
Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse Meet Begins on Friday, April 22
Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2022 Quarter Horse racing season on Friday, April 22. The 25-day meet continues through Saturday, June 18. Racing will take place Thursday at 4:00pm, Friday and Saturday at 6:45 pm (Central) with special post times of 10:30 am for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 7; and 1:00 pm for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 21 and the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11.
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.