Jun 13, 2023


The Winners Will Advance to the Bank of America Challenge Championships on October 21 at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas

By Martha Claussen

HOUSTON, TX –Sam Houston Race Park will close out its 2023 live racing season this weekend with stakes action on both Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17. First post for both evenings is 6:25 pm (CT). Friday’s features are the $125,945 John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G2) and $91,163 Adequan Derby


Trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. Will Saddle Two in the  $125,945 John Deere Juvenile Challenge 

Six 350-yard trials for the $125,945 John Deere Juvenile Challenge were contested on May 26 with the top ten fastest 2-year-olds returning to action in Friday’s tenth race.


Leading trainer Juan Diaz, Jr., won the last two editions of the John Deere Juvenile Challenge.  Last year, it was a dominant performance by Apollitical Dynamite, with De Laurentis emerging victorious in 2021. The 34-year-old conditioner will have two quality contenders this year in Stormguard and Fire Cowboy


Stormguard, a son of  Duponte is owned by Silvestre and Maria Maldonado and has one win from three starts. He ran second in his trial, crossing the wire in :17.914 seconds with Victor Urieta, Jr. in the saddle. Urieta will ride trials for the Firecracker Derby on Friday at Delta Downs, so Diaz has given the call to rider Nestor Duran. Stormguard will break from post position three as the 5-2 morning line choice, with the second Diaz trainee Fire Cowboy and Jose Herbert, breaking to their inside. Fire Cowboy, sired by Flying Cowboy 123, broke his maiden in his May 12 debut for owner Emmanuel Villarreal.


Diaz continues to bring a strong brigade of well-bred juveniles to Sam Houston Race Park, winning his third Sam Houston Futurity here on June 3. He has juggled his jockeys very successfully this season, beginning early in the meet when Victor Urieta, Jr., was injured in a training race accident at Retama Park, suffering a broken shoulder. Honored as Sam Houston Race Park’s leading rider in 2021, Urieta was cleared to ride last month, making his return on May 18, and winning his first race on the following night.

"Victor knows each horse so well and I rely on his feedback on many things," Diaz said. "Jose Herbert and Nestor Duran stepped up while Victor was out and Ubaldo Luna rode a great race on Jess Flying Cowgirl (in the Sam Houston Futurity). Everyone has played an important role for our barn.”

Other notables include Vodka From Texas, who was bumped in his trial, but still able to win under jockey Jose Vega in a time of :18.035 seconds. Bred and owned by the Terrazas Family, the son of Triple Vodka is trained by Arturo Terrazas, III.  Garza Laurel Partnership LLC’s homebred Tempting Cowboy is still a maiden, but showing potential, according to his trainer Jose Sanchez, III. 

“He is my first (gelding by) Flying Cowboy 123,” said Sanchez. “I told my owner that he’d be late to develop, but he is a smart horse and getting better each time.”


The approximate post time for the Adequan Derby is 10:28 pm. The winner will earn a berth to the $125,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) at Lone Star Park on Saturday, October 21. 


Dash for the Flash Looks to Keep Streak Alive in the $73,304 Adequan Derby Challenge 

Three trials were contested on May 27 to determine the ten finalists for the $73,304 Adequan Derby Challenge, which will run as race nine on Friday’s program. An excellent field of 3-year-olds will compete at 400 yards with the winner advancing to the national championship at Lone Star Park.


Jose Sanchez, III qualified two for Friday’ night’s final, which will run as the ninth race. Dash for the Flash has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite and will break from post nine under Eddie Sanchez, the trainer’s younger brother, who rides first call for the barn. The colt by Tempting Dash out of the Pyc Paint Your Wagon mare  Its Braggin Time was bred by Curtis Crenwelge. He was purchased by Jose N. Chavez at the 2021 TQHA Yearling Sale for $25,000 and has won three of his five career outs. Kas Hes Revenant, a son of A Revenant, bred and owned by Francisco Javier Garza, will break to the inside of his stablemate under jockey Nestor Duran.


“Dash for the Flash  made three starts last year and had some shin issues,” explained Sanchez. “We gave him  time off and he came back really well this year, winning an allowance here (on April 23) and showing even more in his trial win. Kas Hes Revenant had surgery last year and the trial was his first race back. He was a little tentative at first, but changed leads and finished well.”


Mickey Tiner’s Chilli Red, a homebred son of the Corona Cartel stallion Lethal Corona notched the fastest qualifying time in his trial, winning his heat in :20.237. Regular rider Noe Villatoro has the return call for  trainer Adan Guzman and will break from post position seven at odds of 4-1. Guzman will also saddle Deagree for owner J.J. Racing. The gelding by Capo de Capi drew the rail and will be ridden by Jose Vega.
Trainer John Stinebaugh also has two runners in this regional final. Pete Scarmardo’s homebred A Game of Corona will break from the far outside with Sam Houston leading rider Ali Rivera aboard. Last year, Scarmardo and Stinebaugh won the Adequan Derby Challenge with Hes Jess Dealin.


The winner will represent Texas in the $150,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) at Lone Star Park on October 21. For more information on the 2023 Bank of America Challenge Championships, CLICK HERE.


Four Stakes Set for Saturday, June 17 at Sam Houston Race Park

The Sam Houston Race Park 2023 Quarter Horse live racing season will wrap on Saturday, June 17 with the running of four stakes as well as the presentation of the end of the meet awards to the meet’s leading owner, trainer and jockey. The $50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes and $50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes both drew full fields. In addition, the program will include memorial stakes honoring trainer Jesse Yoakum, who was a longtime supporter of Texas racing and Willie Hickman, who played many pivotal roles in the Sam Houston racing office.  A press release on these features will be forthcoming.


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 Entertainment 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