TEXAS THOROUGHBREDS PACKED A PUNCH IN THE SEVEN TEXAS CHAMPIONS DAY STAKES AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Previous Stakes Winners Mr. Money Bags, Ima Discreet Lady, No Mas Tequila, Gold Pilot Joined by Lethal Move, Lucky’s Special and Tolonda
HOUSTON, TX - Sam Houston Race Park saluted accredited Texas-breds Saturday, March 26 with seven Texas Champions Day stakes. It was an exceptional renewal of the annual racing event with many compelling story lines. Several undisputed favorites did not disappoint and there were plenty of impressive performances from first-time stakes winners. From the $100,000 Richard King Stakes to the final stakes on the card, the $100,000 Star of Texas, there were thrills for each of the connections as well as racing fans in Houston and those watching via simulcasting.
Lethal Move Gives Caldwell Barn a Victory in the $100,000 Richard King Stakes
Though heavy morning-line favorite Singapore Flash was scratched from the $100,000 Richard King Stakes, that was not enough to keep trainer J.R. Caldwell out of the winner’s circle. Instead, Caldwell won the first of seven stakes on Texas Champions Day with his stablemate, Lethal Move.
Caldwell recently claimed the 7-year-old gelded son of Street Move at Sam Houston with the Richard King Stakes in mind.
“He has run some solid races in his career and we thought he was worth the money,” said Caldwell. “I also trained his daddy [Street Move]; he was probably the first really good horse I had.”
Lethal Move is owned by Farmers Fillies Racing and was bred by Stewart Armstrong, out of the Seattle Slew mare Lethal Temper. This was the first career stakes win for Lethal Move, who is now five for 34 lifetime with $173,712 earned in his career to date.
Jockey Stewart Elliot and Lethal Move started the series of stakes as an upset 9-1 winner in the field of six. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile stake on a firm turf course was 1:50.74.
Bubba Bling and Ry Eikleberry stalked the pace and followed through to finish in second place two lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Moojab Jr completed the trifecta, followed by Easter Snap, Stans Hookin Bull, and early pacesetter Robo.
Mr. Money Bags Cruises Home in the $100,000 Spirit of Texas
Fan favorite Mr. Money Bags did not disappoint as the striking winner of the $100,000 Spirit of Texas, the second stake of the night. The 6-year-old son of Silver City notched his tenth career stakes win and has won at least one stake in each of the last four years.
Ernesto Valdez-Jimenez and Mr. Money Bags ($2.10) tracked the leaders early from third place but passed horses in the turn to win convincingly by three lengths. The final time for the six-furlong event on the main track was 1:09.71.
“It’s always special with Mr. Money Bags, born and raised here in Texas. He races well every time”, said trainer Jaylan Clary, daughter of the late Mike Neatherlin, who trained Mr. Money Bags until his passing last summer.
Emma Cobb owns the gelding, who was bred by her late husband, Roy Cobb. He is out of the multiple stakes winning Texas-bred mare Miss Photogenic, by You and I.
Mr. Money Bags was honored as the TTA Horse of the Year in 2019. The gelding has earned $690,576 and is 13 for 26 lifetime. He appears to relish the surface at Sam Houston in particular, with five wins from six starts, including his prep for Saturday’s stake, the $75,000 H-Town Stakes in February.
K C Tiz Moro, with Lane Luzzi aboard, made up ground and put several lengths between him and the rest of the pack as the second-place finisher. Completing the field were Carbon Stryker, My Golden M, Wonders of Hislove, Dr. Boehrerand He’s a Suitor.
Lucky’s Special Wins First Career Stake in $100,000 Groovy Stakes
Lucky’s Special earned his first career stakes win in impressive fashion, clearing the field by nearly four lengths as Texas-bred 3-year-olds took the stage in the $100,000 Groovy Stakes.
“I was pretty confident,” said jockey Weston Hamilton of his horse’s performance. “I was waiting for something to come to me, but no one was coming, so I just went on with him and he had enough to finish up well.”
Hamilton has been aboard for all of Lucky’s Special’s four career starts and credited owner Victoria Heine and trainer Michael Whitelaw for the gelding’s progress.
“He’s just grown up so much, he’s a good horse, and Mike and Vicki do such a good job. I’m so blessed to be here and thank the good Lord for the everything and the opportunity to ride. He’s just an awesome horse. I love him.”
Heine also bred Lucky’s Special, who is sired by Special Rate and is out of the Lucky Lionel mare Maebelucky. All his four lifetime efforts have come at Sam Houston, including his maiden-breaking debut by 11 lengths in January. He has never finished out of the money and his career earnings now total $91,426.
The final time for the six-furlong dirt sprint was 1:10.81. Lucky’s Special stalked and then battled early in the stretch with Legally Lethal and Lane Luzzi, who led from the start and held on for second place.
Score Keeper finished in third place, followed by Chief Brady, Ghost Cowboy, Ironical and Take a Limo. Timed Event was scratched.
No Mas Tequila Finds Redemption in $100,000 San Jacinto Stakes
In 2021, post-time favorite No Mas Tequila lost the $100,000 San Jacinto Stakes by a head to Discreet Smile. Jockey Leandro Goncalves found redemption in the 2022 edition of the San Jacinto Stakes and turned the tables on the field, as No Mas Tequila won by 3 ¾ lengths as the 1-5 favorite.
In her most recent start, No Mas Tequila defeated a field of ten fillies and mares by over six lengths in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes at Sam Houston. Goncalves was also aboard for the Miss Bluebonnet win, which prepared her well for her San Jacinto effort.
Since last year’s San Jacinto, Goncalves has learned how to keep the 5-year-old mare happy. “Last year, that was the first time I had ever ridden her. We had no room to run and I came out too late. Just don’t mess with her, just leave her alone - whatever she wants to do, she’s the boss.”
Trainer Karen Jacks agreed. “She’s got all the right things in all the right places to get the job done. When it comes time, just keep her happy and let her do her thing.”
No Mas Tequila is owned by James Sills and the Estate of Ronald A. Ellerbee. She was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and Margaret Ellerbee, by Northern Afleet and out of the Street Boss mare Foxy Boss.
No Mas Tequila ($2.40) stopped the clock in 1:43.64 for the 1 1/16 miles stake on the turf for Texas-bred fillies and mares. She is now a multiple stakes winner and is also multiple stakes placed with $195,195 in earnings and five wins from 19 starts.
Rosie Jane and Stewart Elliot led the charge for the second place. Zarelda, Tahitian Breeze, Landons Congo, Discreet Smile, Tudela and Keep the Bling rounded out the field.
Ima Discreet Lady Defends Title in $100,000 Yellow Rose Stakes
Defending champion Ima Discreet Lady prevailed over Lady Ave in a thrilling edition of the $100,000 Yellow Rose Stakes. The top two finishers hooked up for a stretch duel that ended with Ima Discreet Lady pulling away to win by a length at the wire.
Jockey Ry Eikleberry had the call for trainer Karl Broberg and owners Raymond Todd White and Duane Coker. He was aboard for last year’s Yellow Rose Stakes as well as the mare’s recent allowance win to prep for her Texas Champions Day appearance.
“She’s been training excellent, and I can’t thank the Broberg barn enough,” said Eikleberry. “Every time we work, she seems to get better. She got a lot of confidence off that last race so I was pretty confident she was going to fire. It was a wide-open race, but she was the best today.”
The six-furlong dirt sprint for 4-year-old and up fillies and mares was run in 1:11.26.
Ima Discreet Lady ($8.20) is a multiple stakes winner at Sam Houston, with victories in last year’s Miss Bluebonnet Turf and the 2019 Bara Lass. The 7-year-old mare was bred by Larry Huntsinger, by Discreet Cat and out of the multiple stakes placed mare Ima Three Blinger, by Too Much Bling.
Ima Discreet Lady now has 11 wins and earnings of $473,628 in her 34 career efforts.
The duel in the stretch between Ima Discreet Lady and Lady Ave mirrored the current duel for leading rider at Sam Houston between their respective jockeys, Eikleberry and Stewart Elliot. The pair have been locked in a close battle for the title that will come down to the wire.
Completing the field were post-time favorite Boerne, Shes Our Fastest, It’s My Money and Metallic Silver.
Tolonda Much the Best in the $100,000 Bara Lass Stakes
Tolonda earned her first career stakes win and jockey Ry Eikleberry picked up his second stakes win of the night in the penultimate stake of the night, the $100,000 Bara Lass.
Tolonda stalked the pace early before making her way to the leady to win by a length, though the connections had to wait out an objection and an inquiry before the results were official for the even-money post-time favorite. The final time for the six-furlong stake on the main track was 1:12.15.
Trainer Austin Gustafson said they had always known they had something special and that the filly had a lot of speed early in her training. When asked about future plans for the 3-year-old daughter of Bind, he replied that fans “could expect to see her somewhere at Lone Star. Any sort of 3-year-old Texas-bred race – she’s going to be there.”
Tolonda broke her maiden in her debut at Remington Park and finished third in the Zia Park Princess Stakes. She is three for five lifetime and is undefeated in two starts in her native Texas. Saturday’s stake win pushed her career earnings to $106,897.
David L. Davis owns and bred the filly out of Princess Meg, by Walesa.
Ima Sky Traveler and Jose Alvarez overcame a bad start in last place to close swiftly and place second. Diamonds N Aces, Texas Ascot Queen, Eagle Express, Jan’s Turn to Win, Texas Thunder and Moro Lingerie completed the field. Turn on the Bling was scratched.
Gold Pilot Flies in Late to Win the $100,000 Star of Texas
Gold Pilot came from out of the clouds to take the final stake of the night on the Texas Champions Day card, the $100,000 Star of Texas.
Gold Pilot ($8.00) is trained by Bret Calhoun and was ridden by Jose Alvarez. The race set up well for the proven closer; the first half went in a quick 46.76 and gave the 5-year-old gelding the pace he needed to close late in the stretch. The final time for the one-mile event on a fast main track was 1:36.94.
Gold Pilot has a solid history in Texas-bred stakes winning the 2020 Jim’s Orbit at Sam Houston and was second last year in the Spirit of Texas. Owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch have campaigned several exceptional Texas champions including Taptam, Chief of Affairs and Zippit E.
Gold Pilot was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and Margaret Ellerbee, sired by My Golden Song and out of the multiple stakes winning mare Formal Flyer, by Early Flyer.
Front-running Algebra and Lane Luzzi set the pace before losing by a neck to Gold Pilot at the wire. Picknngrinn,Kenai Bob, Dust Em, Heavenly Rhythm, Bobby Brinkley, Sunday Bling and Direct Dial was the final order of finish.
Live racing continues on Wednesday, March 30. The 2022 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet wraps on Saturday, April 9.
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