Belmont Stakes & Bag of Donuts
June 8, 2024
Mar 3, 2020


Tribute for Two-Time World Champion Jessies First Down Set for Saturday, April 11

HOUSTON, TX - Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2020 Quarter Horse racing season on Friday, April 10.  The 23-day meet continues through Saturday, May 30 and features a lucrative purse boost from House Bill 2463, which was passed by the 86th Texas Legislature. It will contribute $25 million annually to the Texas horse racing industry, split equally between Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse interests.

The significant increases will be prominent from the claiming level through stakes races, with Texas-breds running for $3,000 more than open competition in maiden special weights. 

  • Maiden special weights for Texas-breds will run for $22,000 compared to $9,000 last year; open-bred purses will be increased to $19,000
  • Claiming race purses will be approximately 110% higher than last year
  • Allowance races will start at $21,000 compared to $10,000 in 2019
  • Texas-bred purses will be increased by $3,000 for all conditions


Nineteen stakes will be contested, including the running of the $125,000  added Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on Saturday, May 9. Past Sam Houston Futurity winners include Azoom, All American Winner, 2014 AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Kiss My Hocks, Especially Tres, Ivan James, This Is An Eagle and 2019 victor Trump My Record, who was honored as 2019 AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Gelding.


On Saturday, April 11, Sam Houston Race Park will honor two-time AQHA world champion Jessies First Down. A special tribute to the nationally acclaimed Quarter Horse, bred and owned by Ted Abrams, Sr., will highlight the opening weekend festivities. The exceptional champion, who won 19 career races, including six Grade 1 stakes, earned $1.6 million in 40 lifetime starts. He has a special history at Sam Houston Race Park where he ran six times and set a new 440-yard track record of :21.214 on April 22, 2017 in his $103,320 Bank of America Challenge (G1) victory. Retired last year, the 9-year-old son of FDD Dynasty is living the life of leisure on Abrams’ farm in Hempstead, Texas, approximately 40 miles northwest of Sam Houston Race Park. The tribute will take place in between races with Jessies First Down under his longtime jockey, Rodrigo Vallejo, expected to parade in front of the grandstand.


Sam Houston Race Park will also pay tribute to Texas horseman Jesse Yoakum with the inaugural running of the $60,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes on Saturday, May 23.

Racing will take place Friday and Saturday at 6:45 pm with special post times of 1:00 pm for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 2 and the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 16.

Frank Hopf, Senior Director of Racing, reports that interest has been strong for the annual Quarter Horse racing season, which follows the current record-setting Thoroughbred meet. 


"We are excited how our 2020 Quarter Horse meet has come together with the new purse structure and improved stakes program” said Hopf. "Building on the momentum from the Thoroughbred meet, our goal is to revitalize Quarter Horse racing in Texas.”


2020 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse Stakes Schedule

Friday, May 1, 2020

$50,000-added Sam Houston Derby (G3)               3 YO                          350 yards

$30,000-added Sam Houston Maiden Classic         3 YO & Up                350 yards

$45,000 Governors’ Cup Marathon                           3 YO & Up                870 yards

$45,000 Sam Houston Stakes                                  3 YO & Up                 350 yards

$45,000 Texas Twister                                              3 YO & Up                110 yards

$45,000 Harris County Stakes                                  3 YO & Up                 550 yards

Saturday, May 9, 2020

$125,000-added Sam Houston Futurity (G2)             2 YO                         330 yards

$25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes                     2 YO                         330 yards


Saturday, May 23, 2020

$60,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes           3 YO & Up                870 yards

$60,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes                            3 YO & Up                 550 yards

$60,000 Miss Sam Houston Stakes                           F & M 3 YO & Up     330 yards

$60,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes                            3 YO & Up                 250 yards

$50,000 Sam Houston Starter Stakes                       3 YO & Up                 350 yards

$75,000 Sam Houston Texas-bred Championship     3 YO & Up                400 yards


Monday, May 25, 2020

$30,000-added Colors of Hou Paint Juvenile (G2)    2 YO                        300 yards

$30,000-added Colors of Hou Paint Maturity(G2)     3 YO & Up               350 yards


Friday, May 29, 2020

$30,000-added John Deere Juvenile                      2 YO                           350 yards

$30,000-added Adequan Derby                              3 YO                           440 yards

$85,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2)                        3 YO & Up                440 yards


2020 Quarter Horse Trial Dates

Friday, April 10                                              Sam Houston Maiden Classic

Saturday, April 11                                          Sam Houston Derby

Friday, April 17 & Saturday, April 18             Sam Houston Futurity

(Depending on the number of trials)

Friday, May 8                                                 John Deere Juvenile Challenge Trials

Saturday, May 9                                             Adequan Derby Challenge Trials


Stall applications for the upcoming meet are due by Friday, March 6.  The online application is available on as is additional information on the upcoming season. The first condition book is available at Sam Houston Race Park and Retama Park and posted on The racing office is under the direction of racing secretary James Leatherman; phone (281) 807-8780 and fax (281) 890-5485.



A complete list of the 2020 Quarter Horse schedule is available on


Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston.  The Park offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack and accommodating groups from 20 to 300 people, 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




Photos:  Coady Photography