TEXAS PREVIEW NIGHT AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK SET FOR SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19
TEXAS PREVIEW NIGHT AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK SET FOR SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19
HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park will present Texas Preview Night on Saturday, February 19 featuring five stakes on both the main track and Connally Turf Course. The nine-race card begins at 6:55 pm (CT) with several Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) champions and rising stars competing in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit, $75,000 Two Altazano, $75,000 Houston Turf, 75,000 H-Town Stakes and the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf.
The annual event serves as a preview for Texas Champions Day, which will take place on Saturday, March 26. Purses for each of the seven Champions Day stakes showcasing the established and emerging stars of the Texas Thoroughbred industry were boosted to $100,000 last year and remain at this level for 2022.
Pinky Ring Bling Seeking His Second Stakes Win in in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit
The first stakes of the Texas Preview Night card will be the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit with a field of 3-year-old colts and geldings going six furlongs on the main track.
Pinky Ring Bling, winner of the $75,000 My Dandy here last month will be the heavy favorite for owners Lone Star Racing Club. Trainer Ronnie Cravens will saddle the son of Too Much Bling, who will be ridden by Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez. Well-tested in seven starts in Texas and Oklahoma, Cravens is hoping that his charge will win the second stakes of his career.
“He came out of his last race in great shape and is training more forwardly than ever,” said Cravens. “Our owners are looking forward to watching him run again at Sam Houston on Saturday.”
Cravens and his wife, Melodie, set up an ownership group titled the Lone Star Racing Club four years ago. Their investment of Pinky Ring Bling, a $5,000 sale purchase, has been rewarding as he has already won $81,860.
His rivals include Grami’s Boy, owned by Jeffrey and Julie Puryear, who was the runner-up in the My Dandy for trainer Mindy Willis and Southwestern Racing LLC’s Chief Brady, who broke his maiden impressively here on January 15 for horseman Dallas Keen.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the, a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. The In 2005, the Texas Thoroughbred Association named the colts and gelding division of the Texas Stallion Stakes for Jim’s Orbit, who won the Grade 2 Ohio Derby prior to competing in the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
Rematch Between Texas Thunder and Eagle Express in the $75,000 Two Altazano
After impressing in her victory here in the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter, Texas Thunder will take on six Texas-sired 3 year-old fillies in the $75,000 Two Altazano.
Bred in Texas by Robert Francis, the daughter of Bradester, posted a very impressive upset on January 20 for owner Carl Moore Management, LLC and trainer Karen Jacks. Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez guided the chestnut filly, in gate-to-wire fashion, covering 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.46 at odds of 28-1.
“I knew she had it in her,” said Jacks. “She likes a tighter racing surface and got that in the Darby’s Daughter. I'm very happy for Carl as we had this plan for her and look forward to her return on Saturday.”
Jacks will also saddle Imaluckycharm, a filly by My Golden Song, who is also owned by Moore. Richard Eramia, who guided her to a maiden-breaking score on the turf here last month, has the return call.
They will face Eagle Express, bred and owned by W.S. Farish, who ran a game second under jockey Stewart Elliott in their most recent meeting. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the daughter of Eagle, won the Pan Zareta – Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park last June and was named 2021 Champion 2-year-old filly by the Texas Thoroughbred Association.
Trainer Danny Pish will saddle two in the six furlong Two Altazano. Kim's Texas Bling, bred and owned by Hall’s Family Trust, completed the trifecta in the Darby’s Daughter and will reunite with rider Jose Alvarez. Blackhorse Farm LLC’s Facester makes her first stakes start after breaking her maiden here on January 20 under jockey Gerardo Mora.
The Two Altazano will run as the fourth race on the program with an approximate post time of 8:21 pm. The stakes is named in honor of Two Altazano, the talented Texas-bred filly, owned by the late Harold V. Goodman, who won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 1994. She also captured the 1994 Sam Houston Oaks with Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in the saddle.
Sunlit Song Returns in the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes
The first of three turf features, the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes, will run as race five. Written for accredited Texas-bred older horses, the mile and one sixteenth stakes will be contested on the Connally Turf Course. 2021 TTA Champion Older Horse Sunlit Song has been installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite.
The 7-year-old son of My Golden Song was bred by Carolyn R. Barnett and is owned by Barnett and Becky Harding. Mindy Willis trains the gray gelding who has won 12 of his 32 starts; ten of which have come on the turf. He was the runner-up to Moojab Jr in last year’s Houston Turf and makes his second start of 2022 after finishing second in a turf allowance prep here on January 20.
“He went wide on both turns in his last, and not to take anything away from the winner (Singapore Flash), that just did not help him run his best,” said Willis. “I have been trying to get Stewart Elliott to ride my horse, and I was lucky that he did not have a call for Steve (Asmussen) in this stakes.”
Moojab Jr owned by John L. Pierce, will be a notable competitor for trainer Paul Duhon and regular rider Iram Diego. Last year, the son of Moojab sprang the upset and rewarded his backers with a $23.80 win payout.
Breaking from the far outside post will be Triple V Racing LLC’s Singapore Flash, who closed gamely under rider Lane Luzzi to defeat Sunlit Song on January 20. The 6-year-old by Shanghai Bobby is trained by J. R. Caldwell and was claimed for $40,000 last July at Colonial Downs. The dark bay gelding ran second in the $100,000 Richard King Turf on the 2021 Texas Champions Day card. He has never finished off the board at Sam Houston Race Park.
Mr Money Bags and Direct Dial Renew Their Rivalry in the $75,000 H-Town Stakes
Two well-respected Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Horses of the Year lead the field in the seven furlong $75,000 H-Town Stakes.
Mr Money Bags has been tabbed as the 6-5 morning line favorite for his owner Erma Cobb. Bred by her late husband,Roy Wayne Cobb, the 6-year-old Silver City gelding is the high earner in the field with $588,576 banked in 24 career efforts. He was named 2019 TTA Horse of the Year and will be ridden by his regular pilot Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez.
Last year, both Mr. Cobb and Mr Money Bags trainer Mike Neatherlin, passed away, which was tragic for the Texas racing community. Thankfully, Mrs. Cobb retained ownership of the accomplished runner and named Neatherlin’s daughter Jaylan Clary as trainer. Mr Money Bags made his 2022 debut in last month’s $75,000 Stonerside Stakes, running a game second to Greeley and Ben.
“He ran awesome in that race and we look forward to sending him out on Saturday night,” said Clary. “Mr Money Bags is a seasoned veteran and loves Sam Houston. It takes a special horse to win at seven furlongs, but he’s been training well and hungry for the win!”
Mr Money Bags has bolstered the spirits of both Clary and Mrs. Cobb, who suffered tragic losses by Cobb and Neatherlin last year.
“It’s hard to describe how much Mr Money Bags means to us,” stated Clary. “We are so grateful by the support of so many people in the racing community.”
Defending champion William S. Farish’s homebred, Direct Dial is a 7-year-old son of Too Much Bling. He has been exceptional at Sam Houston Race Park with stakes wins in the 2018 Jim’s Orbit, 2019 Spirit of Texas and 2021 Star of Texas.
Honored as the 2018 Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Horse of the Year dominated his six rivals last year in the H-Town Stakes under 2021 Sam Houston Race Park leading rider, Stewart Elliott, who has the return call and will break from post position two at odds of 4-1. Direct Dial has won 11 of his 33 career starts with earnings of $533,171 for Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen.
“He is a beautiful horse and has always represented Mr Farish and Texas racing so well,” stated Asmussen,
The field also includes Michael Grossman’s Kenai Bob, who won the $75,000 Assault Stakes at Lone Star Park last July and has been versatile on turf and dirt for trainer J. R. Caldwell. He will also saddle Algebra, who began this year with a front-running allowance victory here on January 8 for Farmer Fillies Racing.
The H-Town Stakes will run as race six, with an approximate post time of 9:19 pm.
Boerne Takes on Ten Rivals in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf
Saturday night’s stakes action will conclude with the running of the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf. A field of 11 Texas-bred fillies and mares will compete at the distance of one mile on the Connally Turf Course.
De Luca and Sons Stable’s Boerne will make her 19th career start for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Bred by Randi Moreau-Sipiere & Eric Moreau-Sipiere, the 5-year-daughter of Fed Biz, is a multiple stakes winner, who prepped for this stakes with a commanding front-running score here on January 20.
“She is a real nice filly,” said Diodoro. “My assistant Ken Knusden took a liking to her, and she always gives 110%. She can come off the pace, but she does her best running on the lead, so we don’t plan on changing tactics on Saturday.”
The 6-5 morning line choice will break from post position seven under current leading Sam Houston Race Park jockey RyEikleberry, who won last year’s edition of the Miss Bluebonnet with Ima Discreet Cat.
Shes Our Fastest owned by Mark Norman and Norman Stables LLC, will break to the outside of Boerne with Stewart Elliott in the saddle. Bred by Eureka Thoroughbred Farm, the 7-year-old Oratory mare was named 2021 TTA Older Filly/Mare. Trained by Scott Gelner, Shes Our Fastest has won 10 races and is the top money earner in the field with $482,931 banked in 39 starts.
No Mas Tequila who ran third in this feature last year, returns for trainer Karen Jacks, who will also saddle Happy Sailor.
Gino Buccola Joins the Handicapping Set Friday and Saturday Night
In addition to handicappers Nick Tammaro, Trey Stiles and Jessica Paquette, Sam Houston Race Park will welcome Gino Buccola Friday and Saturday night. The California native was an analyst at TVG before branching out on his own and coordinating a variety of racing and sports experts to appear on his popular and entertaining That's What G Said Podcast.
Buccola will appear on SHRPe Time, the Sam Houston Race Park preview show and offer his analysis and suggested plays for the full card Friday and Saturday nights.
Racehorse Ownership Event Set for Texas Preview Night
The Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) invites individuals to learn more about the many facets of owning a racehorse on Saturday, February 19. Houston radio personality and horse racing handicapper Fred Faour and former Houston Oiler/Dallas Cowboy NFL star and now racehorse owner Mike Renfro and special guest Wade Phillips will be on hand for the owner-preview event in the suite level at Sam Houston Race Park.
Meet trainers and racehorse owners for valuable information and get a behind the scenes look at the racehorse ownership experience. Reservations are required; complete this form if you are interested in attending.
Sam Houston Race Park to Host a NHC Contest on Saturday, March 26
Racing fans are invited to enter the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) on Texas Champions Day, Saturday, March 26. The contest will be open to all horseplayers who are NHC members and will be a live money contest on the entire Sam Houston Race Park card. The top two winners will receive a berth into the 2023 NHC Championship in Las Vegas in January, 2023. Further information and an entry form 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: Coady Photography