TRAINER STEVE ASMUSSEN SETS SIGHTS ON WINNING HIS THIRD VICTORY IN THE GRADE 3, $400,000 HOUSTON LADIES CLASSIC AT SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK
Hall of Fame Conditioner Will Saddle Pauline’s Pearl on Sunday, January 30
HOUSTON, TX- The fields are set for the premier day of Thoroughbred racing at Sam Houston Race Park. The Houston Racing Festival will take place on Sunday, January 30with a special afternoon post time of 1:45 pm (CT). The 11-race card includes six stakes, highlighted by the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup.
Now in its tenth running, the Houston Ladies Classic, at a mile and one-sixteenth on the main track, has been a springboard for top older fillies and mares The purse was boosted to $400,000 this year (from $300,000) in its previous editions and Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen will go for his third victory with Stonestreet Stable LLC’s homebred Pauline’s Pearl. The filly by Tapit out of the Dixie Union mare Hot Dixie Chick, drew post position three with Joel Rosario riding the 6-5 morning line favorite. He and Asmussen have teamed successfully of late; Rosario guided La Crete to victory in Saturday's Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds.
The victory by Pauline’s Pearl would vault Asmussen into the record books as the only conditioner to win three editions of the Houston Ladies Classic. He won with Midnight Bisou in 2019, the remarkable champion who went on to capture five Grade 1 stakes, banking $7.4 million and was honored as 2019 Eclipse Award winning Older Female. He also captured 2020 Houston Ladies Classic with Lady Apple is a 5-year-old daughter of Curlin owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III Ltd.
Pauline’s Pearl will be making her 11th career start on Sunday. She made her debut at Fair Grounds last year before shipping to Oaklawn Park for the 2021 Honeybee on March 6. She finished second in that Grade 3 before triumphing in the Grade 3, $600,000 Fantasy. The gray filly completed her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Zia Park Oaks on November 23. Asmussen sent the Kentucky-bred filly back to Fair Grounds where she had a series of works in December and January before vanning to Houston last week. On Saturday, January 22, she looked comfortable jogging on a fast main track under exercise rider Eulalio Rivera.
“She’s a very nice filly,” said Asmussen. “We have had success with both Midnight Bisou and Lady Apple in this race and look forward to running Pauline’s Pearl for Stonestreet Stables.”
The Mary Rose, bred and owned in Arkansas, by Shortleaf Stable, Inc, will ship to Houston from Oaklawn Park on Thursday, according to her trainer John Alexander Ortiz. He has conditioned the 5-year-old Macho Uno mare since last summer, with four on the board placings in five starts. She finished her 2021 season with an impressive seven-length score in a $50,000 allowance at Oaklawn Park on December 31.
“The lightbulb turned on for me in her second race last August at Colonial Downs,” said Ortiz. “She pretty much sprinted. I wanted to see what she did going two turns and she blew the doors off in her last race.”
Jockey Reylu Gutierrez has the call and will break from the far outside post at odds of 3-1. The talented young rider will make his second appearance in the Houston Ladies Classic after riding Jeweled Princess last year for Kenny McPeek.
Shipping from Fair Grounds in New Orleans will be Lothenbach Stable’s Inc’s Audrey’s Time who just won the $75,000 Joseph Spanky Broussard Stakes for trainer Neil Pessin. Corey Lanerie has the return call aboard the 5-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo. Trainer Michael Stidham has entered Velvet Crush, a 5-year-old Tapit mare bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farms and owned by Famousstyle Stables, LLC. Stakes placed at Monmouth Park and Belmont Park, she ran third to Audrey’s Time at Fair Grounds last month. Current Sam Houston leading jockey Ry Eikleberry has the call and will break from the rail at odds of 8-1.
Trainer Scott Gelner who competed in last year’s edition of the race with Shes Our Fastestfor Norman Racing Stables, will saddle Becca’s Rocket for the same connections with Adam Beschizza in the irons. The 4-year-old daughter of Orb will be making her 16th career start. Golden Curl, owned by George A. Sharp, will ship in from Turfway Park. The 6-year-old Curlin mare is trained by Shawn H. Davis with Tyler Gafflione flying in from Gulfstream Park to ride. Champagne Affair will make her Sam Houston debut for owners L & G Racing Stable. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Daredevil will be ridden by Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez for trainer Cesar Govea.
The field for the Houston Ladies Classic, will run as the seventh race, with an approximate post time of 4:53 pm (CT). The field, from the rail, with jockeys and morning line odds:
Velvet Crush, Ry Eikleberry (8-1); Audrey’s Time, Corey Lanerie (7-2); Pauline’s Pearl, Joel Rosario (6-5); Becca’s Rocket, Adam Beschizza, (10-1); Champagne Affair, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez (30-1); Golden Curl, Tyler Gafflione (20-1) and The Mary Rose, Reylu Gutierrez (3-1).
Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016. It anchors the annual Houston Racing Festival, which also includes the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, the $200,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile, the $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint, the $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf Stakes and the $75,000 Stonerside Sprint.
Press releases on each of the Houston Racing Festival Stakes 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 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 of Pauline’s Pearl, stall shot and with exercise rider Eulalio Rivera on Saturday, January 22: Jack Coady/Coady Photography