THREE TURF STAKES COMPLEMENT THE $100,000 MAXXAM GOLD CUP SATURDAY AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Trainer Joe Sharp Returns with Defending Champions in the $50,000 Bucharest Turf Spring and $50,000 Jersey Lilly
The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup is the marquee feature of Saturday night's Maxxam Gold Cup Racing Festival, but each of the three turf stakes on the ten-race card came up with highly competitive fields. A solid group of classy turf sprinters will compete in the $50,000 Bucharest Turf Sprint; fillies and mares will star in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes and the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for 3-year-olds will also be run on the Connally Turf Course. Saturday’s post time is 6:23 pm (Central).
Patrons are invited to attend the Wine Tasting at the Track on Saturday evening. Admission to the special event is just $20.00 and includes general admission and six (6) wine samples.
American Sailor To Defend His Title in the $50,000 Bucharest Turf Sprint
Last year, trainer Joe Sharp saddled the winner and runner-up of the $50,000 Bucharest Turf Sprint. He is hoping for a repeat performance from Newport Racing Stables LLC’s American Sailor, a 5-year-old son of City Zip, who won the 2016 edition of the five-furlong dash in front running fashion.
The speedy Kentucky-bred won turf sprints last year at Ellis Park and Laurel before stepping up and running in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes at Gulfstream Park on December 3. It was not a good day for the chestnut gelding, who finished last in the 12-horse field. Nonetheless, Sharp expects a good effort on Saturday night from his charge, who will be ridden by C. J. McMahon.
“American Sailor is a fast horse and the defending champion,” said Sharp. “We freshened him after the Gulfstream stakes and he resumed training in Ocala before shipping to Fair Grounds. He’s coming back as good as ever.”
His toughest test will likely come from Partly Mocha, who returns to Sam Houston after a definitive victory in the Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint on January 29. Owned by Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey, the 8-year-old son of Half Ours is trained by Mike Maker. He won with a rail-skimming ride by Jose Ortiz last month, and drew the far inside post again for Saturday’s stakes.
“I’m all for the repeat on the rail,” said Maker, who has tabbed Colby Hernandez to ride Partly Mocha. “He came out of the race fine and is doing great.”
Partly Mocha is the high earner in the stakes with $415,392 in 35 starts. The field also includes recent allowance winner Dance Proudly, trained by Brad Cox for Ten Strike Racing. The 7-year-old Louisiana-bred will be ridden by DeShawn Parker, who won the 2016 Bucharest Turf Sprint aboard Galton. Meme Jo and Mascherato, who ran third and fourth, respectively, in the $50,000 Houston Sprint Cup on February 11, will run.
The Bucharest Turf Sprint will kick off the stakes action as the fourth race of the card. From the rail: Partly Mocha, Colby Hernandez; Mascherato, Sasha Risenhoover; Dance Proudly, DeShawn Parker; American Sailor; C.J. McMahon; Wings Locked Up, Paul Nolan; Meme Jo, Ernesto Valdez-Jimenez and Ishaq, Julio Rios.
Mexican Miss Faces Nine in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes
Sharp shipped in Mexican Miss last year for the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes and the daughter of More Than Ready topped a full field in her stakes debut. Owned by Brad Grady, the 6-year-old mare is back to defend her title in the mile and one-sixteenth turf stakes. Jockey C. J. McMahon has the mount, and will break from post position two. Mexican Miss ran in two stakes last year after the Jersey Lilly, and made her 2017 debut on February 4 at Fair Grounds.
“She was a few works short of where she needed to be for that race,” said Sharp. “Brad has always been very patient with this mare; she’s ready to run and we are looking forward to returning to Sam Houston on Saturday night.”
It will be a very busy Saturday for Sharp, who made many trips to Sam Houston Race Park when he was Mike Maker's assistant. On his own since September, 2014, the accomplished horseman divides his time between Fair Grounds and the Kentucky circuit, with starters at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park as well this year. Sharp will saddle Cool Arrow and Girvin in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star on Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds.
Miller Racing LLC’s Selenite has faced tough company at Saratoga, Belmont Park and Fair Grounds, but trainer Brad Cox reports that the 6-year-old mare is doing well.
“She got beat by a quality filly (Cash Control) in the Blushing KD,” said Cox. “It was a very good effort in her last race, and should set her up well for this.”
The Jersey Lilly is not lacking for stakes-level competition with Miss Mo Kelly, a Congrats mare trained by Paul Holthus and Iowa Stallion Stakes winner, Another Bond Girl, the local hopeful for the Brent Davidson barn at Sam Houston Race Park.
Trainer Mike Maker has won the Jersey Lilly three times, all with progeny of Kitten's Joy for Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey. His 2015 winner was Kitten's Queen; in 2014 he won with Always Kitten and captured the 2013 edition of the turf stakes with Artemus Kitten. This year, Maker will run the 5-year-old English Channel filly Susie Bee, owned by Calumet Farm. The gray multiple-stakes winner ran fifth in last year’s Jersey Lilly and third in the $50,000 Houston Distaff here on January 29.
Selenite breaks from the rail under Colby Hernandez, followed by Mexican Miss, C.J. McMahon; Untouchable, Geovanni Franco; Enchanteresse, Sophie Doyle; Event Of Default, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez; Miss Mo Kelly, Lindey Wade; Stormquility, Curtis Kimes. Girl’s Rule, Rohan Singh; Susie Bee, DeShawn Parker and Another Bond Girl, Gerber Pivaral.
The Jersey Lilly will run as the sixth race on the card.
Field of Eleven Set for the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes
The final stakes of the evening will be the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes. It attracted a field of eleven 3-year-olds to compete at the distance of one mile and one-sixteenth on the Connally Turf Course.
Taco, owned by the partnership of Kathleen Amaya, Raffaele Centofanti and Daniel Alonso, puts his three-race win streak on the line. The son of Gio Ponti was a back-to-back winner at Gulfstream Park and ships in off a solid allowance score at Fair Grounds. Jesus Rio will pilot the dark bay colt for trainer Efren Loza, Jr.
Phat Man, owned by Brad Grady, ran in the Grade 3, $200,000 LeComte at Fair Grounds for Joe Sharp. He will make his fourth career start, and second try on the turf.
"We really like this horse," said Sharp. "He had a very tough trip in the LeComte, and had to deal with really fast fractions. His dam was a game turf sprinter, so the pedigree is there."
Current Sam Houston Race Park leaders, Steve Asmussen and Iram Diego team up with Smooth Flight, a Kentucky-bred son of Concord Point. Owned by Griseldo Trevino, Asmussen steps him directly to stakes company following a solid maiden-breaking win here on February 7.
This will be the second year that the Texas Heritage Stakes will be contested on the Connally Turf Course. It has been a springboard race for several notable 3-year-olds including Departing, who won in 2013, then added four graded stakes. Kip Deville, captured the 2006 edition of the Texas Heritage Stakes, before winning the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park.
Set as the eighth race on the card, the field from the inside is: Moojab Jr, Sasha Risenhoover; Taco, Jesus Rios; Tiz A Melody, DeShawn Parker; Fast Talkin Man, Efigenio Garcia Ruiz; Witts Town, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez; Smooth Flight, Iram Diego; Phat Man, C.J. McMahon; Kielbasa, Ted Gondron; Valentine Street, David Cabrera; Spring For Gold, Lindey Wade and Blanco Grande, Quincy Hamilton.
Iron Fist Headlines the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup
As previously announced, the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup attracted a field of 11 exceptional horses to compete at a distance of a mile and one-eighth on the main track. It will be run as the seventh race of the Saturday night card.
The complete field, in post position order, with riders is: Raagheb, DeShawn Parker; Tiger of Wales, C.J. McMahon; Money Flows, Colby Hernandez; Kin of New York, Geovanni Franco; Albano, Lindey Wade; Phantom Trip, Paul Nolan; Iron Fist, Iram Diego; Financial Modeling, Sophie Doyle; Witt Six, Sasha Risenhoover; Salsa’s Return, David Cabrera and Fear The Cowboy, Jesus Rios.
The Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park had its first running in 1994, and has produced an outstanding roster of distance specialists. Past champions of the mile and one-eighth main track feature include Sir Cherokee, Reporting for Duty, Student Council, Alumni Hall, Cease, Unstoppable U and Red Rifle. Last year's Maxxam champion was Mobile Bay, who became a millionaire on February 11th at Delta Downs.
Maxxam Gold Cup Festival Weather
There were showers earlier this week in Houston, but the weekend is expected to be perfect racing weather. Saturday's forecast is for a clear, sunny day with an afternoon high of 70 degrees and a low of 48 for the evening.
Sam Houston Race Park, Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, is located just 15 miles from downtown Houston, and offers a variety of attractions including 16 luxury suites overlooking the race track, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Photo: American Saillor
Photo Credit: Coady Photography