Jun 11, 2024



HOUSTON, TX –Sam Houston Race Park will close out its 30thanniversary  live racing season with a stakes-filled card leading up to the richest race of the meet, the $621,810 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on Saturday, June 15. Since its first running in 1994, the 330-yard championship for 2-year-old Quarter Horses has thrilled racing fans and rewarded breeders, trainers, and jockeys with a memory that lasts for a lifetime. 


Trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. to Saddle Five in the $621,810 Sam Houston Futurity (G2) 

Two nights of trials were contested on May 24 and 25, and Texas-based Quarter Horse trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. sent in 20 juveniles. He has won the last three editions of the richest race of the meet, and as expected, came prepared with well-bred and talented 2-year-olds. He qualified five for Saturday’s final topped by Machiavelli, who blazed to victory on the first night of the trials in:16.786 seconds. That time held throughout the remainder of the trials. CH Horse Racing, LLC purchased the California-bred gelding for $51,000 at the 2023 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale. Nestor Duran rode the son of Tempting Dash out of the Apollitical Jess mare Chalala Jess and will ride the fastest qualifier from post five.


“Odds are for the betting public,” said Diaz. “When the field enters the starting gate, the clock is set at zero and it starts all over.”


As was the case for his previous wins in the Sam Houston Futurity,  Diaz has to secure riders for his other four finalists. One of the top riders for the barn is Victor Urieta, Jr. who won the 2022 Sam Houston Futurity aboard Bye Corona Bye. This year, he will pilot  Tailwynde for owner Florentino Leon. The Ivory James gelding set the fifth-fastest clocking (:17.036) and is undefeated in two starts.


“We don’t have a “ranking” on the horses that qualify,” explained Diaz. “Nestor and Victor will ride the horses they qualify. Juan (Pulido) and Martin (Osuna) are experienced riders and Ubaldo (Luna) rode the winner for us last year.”


Pulido will ride Dk Marney Jess, also owned by CH Horse Racing, LLC. The filly by Apollitical Jess won the $398,000 Louisiana Downs Futurity(G2) on March 30 and is undefeated in three career efforts. She is the high earner in the field with $187,966.


Last year, Diaz called top Louisiana-based jockey Ubaldo Luna to pilot Jess Flying Cowgirl, who left the gates at 11-1. Naturally, Luna was thrilled to accept the invitation to come to Houston to ride Leviram Racing LLC’s Marfalous this year.


“Marfalous and Mi Favorito Whiskey don’t have the experience of the other qualifiers,” added Diaz. “With 2-year-olds, sometimes one that you least expect can run their very best in the final.”


Trainer Toby Keeton, who won the 2014 Sam Houston Futurity with Kiss My Hocks, has qualified two for this year’s final. Hocksareback, sired by Kiss My Hocks, finished second to Machiavelli in a time of:16.983 seconds under jockey Luis Vivanco, who will retain the mount for owner Cindi Keeton. Kevin Hogan’s homebred Hogans Hero, who was the runner-up in the $102,382 John Deere Juvenile Challenge(G3) earlier this meet, will be ridden by Bryan Candanosa, who was the winning pilot for Keeton in last Sunday’s $1,000,000 Ruidoso Futurity (G1) 


Janessa Muniz is hoping to claim her first victory in the Sam Houston Futurity with Celebratingtheeagle for owner Jesus Molina. The son of  2017 Sam Houston Futurity champion This is An Eagle won his trial in: 17.006 seconds under jockey Eric Reyes. Muniz and  Reyes qualified Trixlee for last year’s final. 


Francisco Urteaga’s Favorite Mvp Z a filly by Favorite Cartel set the seventh fastest qualifying time for Jose Sanchez and will be ridden by Ali Rivera.


Walk Thru Favorite, owned by Ruse Ranch LLC and trained by Juan Galvan also earned a berth to the final, setting the third-fastest qualifying time of :16.988 seconds. One of the three finalists sired by Favorite Cartel, Walk Thru Favorite will be ridden by Noe Villatoro 

Here is the Sam Houston Futurity field, in post-position order, including jockey assignments and odds:

1.      Tailwynde (Victor Urieta, Jr.), 7-5

2.      Hogans Hero (Bryan Candanosa), 7-2

3.      Mi Favorito Whiskey (Martin Osuna), 15-1

4.      Dk Marney Jess (Juan Pulido), 8-1

5.      Machiavelli (Nestor Duran), 10-1

6.      Favorite Mvp Z Kiss (Ali Rivera), 12-1

7.      Walk Thru Favorite (Noe Villatoro), 9-2

8.      Celebratingtheeagle (Eric Reyes) 20-1

9.      Hocksareback (Luis Vivanco) 20-1

10.  Marfalous (Ubaldo Luna), 30-1


The winner will receive a check in the amount of $248,724 and add his or her name to a distinguished group of Quarter Horses. The notable list of past Sam Houston Futurity champions includes War Colors, Azoom, All American Winner, Snowy Alibi, Especially Tres, Ivan James and This Is An Eagle. Several winners have gone on to national prominence, including  Kiss My Hocks, who won in 2014 and was honored as AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Colt, and Trump My Record, who was named 2019 AQHA Champion 2-Year-Old Gelding.


Two Chilitos Offspring To Run in the $69,090 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes 

It’s not merely seconds that count in Quarter Horse racing. Qualifying for a major futurity can be decided by a hundredths of a second. The top ten fastest runners earned a place in the final in the Sam Houston Futurity; the eleventh through 20th timed entrants from the trials have been invited to run in the $69,090 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes


Trainer Juan Diaz, Jr. has qualified three for this final, also to be run at a distance of 330 yards. Seis Chilitos, a $28,000 TQHA Sale purchase by Jamie Cardenas will be breaking from post four under jockey Nestor Duran. Raul Galvan will saddle the other entrant sired by Chilitos, Jess Louisiana Girl, who is undefeated in two starts for owner Eleazar Martinez, Jr.


Here is a link to the Sam Houston Juvenile finalists, with trial times and connections.


Additional Stakes are to be Contested on Saturday, June 15 at Sam Houston Race Park

In addition to the Sam Houston Futurity (Race 11) and Sam Houston Juvenile (Race 9), the following stakes are on the closing night card:

Race 1             $20,000 Colors of Texas Paint Maturity(G2)               

Race 4             $50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes 

Race 5             $50,000 Sam Houston 550 Stakes  

Race 6             $50,000 Willie Hickman Memorial Stakes  

Race 7             $50,000 Sam Houston 250 Stakes   

Race 8             $50,000 Miss Sam Houston  Stakes  

Race 10           $280,450 Sam Houston Derby (G3)


About Sam Houston Race Park

Operated by Penn Entertainment Inc., Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston. The racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions for businesses, group outings, and families during racing and the off-season. The track is best known for its award-winning dining and features multiple areas for fans looking for casual to upscale dining options including its Winner’s Circle Restaurant, Jockey Club, Luxury Suites, and Pavilion Centre. For more information or tickets to upcoming live racing, shows, and events, please visit www.shrp.com or follow us on: FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok, or YouTube.




Photos: Coady Photography