THRILLING FINISHES AND EMOTIONAL TRIBUTES MADE FOR A SPECIAL TEXAS PREVIEW NIGHT AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Trainer Karen Jacks Wins Two of the Five Features
HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park hosted another successful edition of Texas Preview tonight and as expected, the pride of Texas breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys was in full display in each of the five stakes contested. The annual event serves as a preview for Texas Champions Day, which will take place on Saturday, March 26 and the majority of tonight’s winners are expected to return for the seven Champions Day stakes, which will each be run for a purse of $100,000 again this year.
Chief Brady Scores the Upset in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit
The first stakes of the Texas Preview Night card was the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit with a field of 3-year-old colts and geldings going six furlongs on the main track.
Southwestern Racing LLC’s Chief Brady broke his maiden impressively here on January 15 for trainer Dallas Keen and stepped up to the stakes level with confidence in the first feature of the evening. Jockey Jansen Melancon guided the chestnut gelding four wide on the backstretch before finding an opening on the rail and drawing off to a three-length victory. His final time, over the fast main track, was 1:12.20.
"He's never had dirt in his face, but took it well,” said Melancon. "He was moving nicely and dragging me along; I saw the rail open and took the opportunity."
This was just the second career start for the son of Bradester out of the Mr. Nightlinger mare Indian Minnie and a labor of love for trainer Dallas Keen.
"Its seven days a week, 365 days a year when you train horses," he explained. "This one was kind of problem child; he went through everything you could imagine. It all panned out he is a really good horse.”
Pinky Ring Bling, winner of the $75,000 My Dandy here last month, was sent off as the heavy favorite for owners Lone Star Racing Club. He vied for the lead, under rider Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, but could not keep pace with the winner. Grami’s Boy ran third, followed by Get Witt.
Sent off at odds of 5.90, Chief Brady rewarded his supporters with a win payout of $13.20. He has now earned $53,730 in two starts.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS), a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. The series features three sets of races, each split into two divisions (colts/geldings and fillies) for a purse of $75,000 per division. In 2005, the Texas Thoroughbred Association named the colts and gelding division of the Texas Stallion Stakes for Jim’s Orbit, who won the Grade 2 Ohio Derby prior to competing in the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
Texas Thunder Returned to the Winner’s Circle in the $75,000 Two Altazano
Texas Thunder, the longshot winner in last month’s $75,000 Darby’s Daughter, solidified her stakes-caliber class topping her rivals in the $75,000 Two Altazano.
Bred in Texas by Robert Francis, the daughter of Bradester, drew off with conviction January 20 for owner Carl Moore Management, LLC and trainer Karen Jacks. In that victory, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez guided the chestnut filly at odd of 28-1, in gate-to-wire fashion. Tonight, the talented rider went to the lead, but had to fight off a strong effort from Eagle Express and jockey Stewart Elliott, winning by a nose in 1:13.04.
“I saw her dig in and really show her grit, " said Jacks. "She's built like a Quarter Horse and runs like one. They gave her a run for her money tonight and we are all very proud of her."
0wner Carl Moore was at Sam Houston Race Park this evening and was very proud of her second win of the 3-year-old campaign.
"Karen's done a great job with her,” said Moore. "The race set up the way we thought it would: we knew she was the speed in this field, so Ernesto let her go and she held on.”
Moore, who has been very successful at Sam Houston and Lone Star with his Texas-bred stakes winners, was asked about the challenges of developing young Thoroughbreds.
“I don't know if patience is in my vocabulary, but you have to give them time to mature, mentally and physically,” he explained.
This was the second runner-up finish of 2022 for Eagle Express, bred and owned by W.S. Farish. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the daughter of Eagle, was named 2021 Champion 2-year-old filly by the Texas Thoroughbred Association.
Jan’s Turn to Win completed the trifecta under rider Lane Luzzi. It’s a Gee Thing and Facester completed the order of finish. Kim's Texas Bling and Imaluckycharmwere early scratches.
Texas Thunder ($6.00) has now won two of her of her four starts and increased her career bankroll to $102,177.
The Two Altazano, also part of the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS), is named in honor of Two Altazano. The talented Texas-bred filly, owned by the late Harold V. Goodman, who won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in 1994. She also captured the 1994 Sam Houston Oaks with Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day in the saddle.
Singapore Flash Defeats Sunlit Song By a Neck in the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes
The first of three turf features, the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes featured several of the most experienced Texas-bred turf specialists, including 2021 TTA Champion Older Horse Sunlit Song and 2021 Houston Turf Stakes champion Moojab Jr. But it was a gritty finish by Triple V Racing LLC’s Singapore Flash, that secured the victory in the mile and one-sixteenth stakes on the Connally Turf Course.
Breaking from the far outside post, the 6-year-old gelded son of Shanghai Bobby prepped for the Houston Turf with a strong driving finish here on January 20. Jockey Lane Luzzi had the return call and went to the lead, covering the first-quarter mile in :24.44 and the half-mile in :49.20. He led his rivals by five lengths before Sunlit Song mounted his bid under Stewart Elliott. As they neared the wire, Sunlit Song briefly got the lead, but Singapore Flash dug in to win by a neck. The final time, over the firm turf course, was 1:44.25.
The victory marked the first stakes score for the greatly respected Luzzi at Sam Houston Race Park.
"I felt that I had a few chances to get my first stakes here on tonight’s card,” said Luzzi. “It was a horse race down the stretch between me and Stewart. I felt Sunlit Song breathing down my throat, but my horse dug in. J.R.'s done a great job; it was a just good fun!"
Luzzi is the son of New York based jockey Mike Luzzi and showed his respect to his father in the post-race interview.
“I’m sure my dad is watching me,” added the young rider. “I have always admired him and he's the reason I'm a jockey; I never had any desire to do anything else!”
Caldwell, was proud of his runner, but also praised Sunlit Song and trainer Mindy Willis.
"Hats off to the Texas breeders and to Sunlit Song,” said Caldwell. “What a great finish with both horses laying it down the lane. My horse ran an awesome race, but to beat a champion like Sunlit Song was an awesome feat. I am appreciative of my owners buying Singapore Flash and letting me run him here.”
Claimed for $40,000 last July at Colonial Downs, Singapore Flash ($8.20) ran second in the $100,000 Richard King Turf on the 2021 Texas Champions Day card. He has never finished off the board at Sam Houston Race Park, and with the Houston Turf victory, has now won seven of his 22 starts and $217,875.
Moojab Jr owned by John L. Pierce and trained by Paul Duhon, ran third under jockey Iram Diego, followed by Stans Hookin Bull, Dust Em, Bubba Bling and Robo.
Emotional Victory for the Connections of Mr Money Bags in the $75,000 H-Town Stakes
The highly anticipated $75,000 H-Town Stakes featured a field of accomplished Texas-bred colts and geldings, including two Texas Thoroughbred Association Horses of the Year.
Mr Money Bags was the sentimental favorite and continues to deliver stakes wins for owner Erma Cobb. Bred by her late husband, Roy Wayne Cobb, the 6-year-old Silver City gelding was named 2019 TTA Horse of the Year and has a solid record at Sam Houston Race Park.
Last year, both Mr. Cobb and Mr Money Bags trainer Mike Neatherlin, passed away, which was tragic for the Texas racing community. Thankfully, Mrs. Cobb retained ownership of the accomplished runner and named Neatherlin’s daughter Jaylan Clary as trainer. Mr Money Bags made his 2022 debut in last month’s $75,000 Stonerside Stakes, running a game second to Greeley and Ben.
He entered the starting gate of the H-Town Stakes under Valdez-Jiminez carrying the high weight of 123 pounds and did not disappoint as the heavy favorite. Silence d’Oro broke quickly, taking the lead through the swift opening quarter-mile in :23.11 seconds, but Mr Money Bags got into stride, taking command at the top of the stretch under a driving finish. The striking gray crossed the wire in 1:24.40, by 2 ¾ lengths over Algebra, with Luzzi in the saddle , Gold Pilot and Kenai Bob.
“Even though my horse likes to go to the lead, I did not need to push him early,” said Valdez-Jiminez, who has piloted the Texas-bred to 12 career victories. “I knew he had plenty left. He is the best horse I have ever ridden!”
Clary and Neatherlin both felt that Mr Money Bags had the talent to handle seven furlongs.
“He ran awesome in his last race, and we knew he was going to run well,” said Clary. “This win proved to us that he is more than a sprinter and we are so proud of Mr Money Bags.!”
Clary also thanked everyone for their support as she mourned the loss of her father to COVID last summer.
“To all the fans of Mr Money Bags, thank you for your messages and support; it has meant so much.”
The tears flowed for Mrs. Cobb, who was accompanied by her twin grandsons, in the winner’s circle following the race as she spoke about how much her late husband adored Mr Money Bags.
“Roy was definitely a horse person and loved coming to the races and watching them run,” she explained. “He had so many offers to sell Mr Money Bags but turned them all down. He loved Mr Money Bags; we all do.”
She also spoke of the close bond with Neatherlin and his daughter, Jaylan taking over the training duties.
“Mike Neatherlin was a special person and he and Roy were very close,” she added. “We watched Jaylan grow up on the racetrack and love our “little Miss Prissy.” There was never a question as to who would continue to train Mr Money Bags.”
Defending champion William S. Farish’s homebred, Direct Dial, finished fifth under rider Stewart Elliott. Honored as the 2018 Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Horse of the Year dominated his six rivals last year in the H-Town Stakes under 2021 Sam Houston Race Park leading rider, Stewart Elliott, who has the return call and will break from post position two at odds of 4-1. Direct Dial has won 11 of his 33 career starts with earnings of $533,171 for Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen.
Mr Money Bags notched his 12th career victory in 25 starts. With his winner’s check of $43,200, the respected Texas-bred has earned $631,776 and will likely return on Texas Champions Day.
No Mas Tequila Stepped Up in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes
Saturday night’s action concluded with a field of 11 fillies and mares competing at one mile on the Connally Turf Course in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes.
Trainer Karen Jacks made her second appearance in the winner’s circle as No Mas Tequila ran a huge race under jockey Leandro Goncalves. The 5-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and his wife, Margaret Ellerbee. Owned by James Sills and the estate of Ronald Ellerbe, she ran third in this feature last year and had not competed since last June at Lone Star Park.
The early pace, as expected, was set by De Luca and Sons Stable’s Boerne who broke alertly and set early fractions of :23.70 and :48.20 for the half-mile under jockey RyEikleberry. Goncalves called on No Mas Tequila who rallied strongly as she entered the far turn and took the lead. The duo took command, drawing off by a margin of 6 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:38.14.
“She’s been training awesome,” said Goncalves, who had worked the bay mare. “She had run second or third in her previous races, but just didn’t have the best trip. Tonight, I got her to relax early, and she did. I was just the passenger, and she did the rest!”
“We didn’t have a prep race for her, but she was fine,” said Jacks. “Leandro has been working her and she was fresh and ready tonight. It all worked out just fine!”
Longshot Tahitian Breeze rallied for second under jockey Benny Landeros and Lane Luzzi guided Zarelda from off the pace to complete the trifecta with post time favorite Boerne finished fourth.
This was the fourth win for No Mas Tequila, sent off as the fourth choice in the wagering, who rewarded her fans with a $23.00 win payout. Jacks confirmed that she will return on March 26 for Texas Champions Day.
Live racing resumes on Wednesday, February 23 at 4:00 pm. The 2022 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred racing season continues through Saturday, April 9.
Sam Houston Race Park to Host a NHC Contest on Saturday, March 26
Racing fans are invited to enter the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) on Texas Champions Day, Saturday, March 26. The contest will be open to all horseplayers who are NHC members and will be a live money contest on the entire Sam Houston Race Park card. The top two winners will receive a berth into the 2023 NHC Championship in Las Vegas in January, 2023. Further information and an entry form is available on shrp.com.
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