Apr 28, 2023


By Martha Claussen

HOUSTON, TX – The first test for 3-year-olds will take place Saturday, April 29 with seven trials for the $209,200  Sam Houston Derby (G3). Post time is  6:15 pm (CT) with the fastest ten qualifiers in the 350-yard trials earning a berth to the final on Friday, May 19.


Trainer Toby Keeton will saddle three trial entrants on Saturday night. The popular Texas horseman has won two editions of the Sam Houston Derby, last year with Adam Smith’s homebred Special Apollitical and in 2000 with Bens Coasting for owner Ernesto Guerra, Jr. 


Jess Good Wine will break from the far outside post under Bryan Candanosa in the fourth race as the 8-5 morning line choice. Owned by Guns Up Racing, the Oklahoma-bred son of Jess Good Reason Sa, ran second here last June in the $131,000 John Deere Juvenile Challenge. Keeton sent him to Ruidoso Downs where he qualified for the Ruidoso Juvenile Challenge on August 27. 


Mary G. Thompson’s homebred Funny Faced Eagle has a strong Sam Houston connection as he is a son of 2017 Sam Houston Futurity champion This is an Eagle. Raul Ramirez, Jr. will pilot the sorrel gelding who has been installed as the 9-5 choice in race five. Keeton was impressed with his progress last year.


“He’s a well bred horse, for sure,” stated Keeton. “We weren’t sure what was going on in his two starts at Sam Houston, but he went to running at Lone Star and finished the meet really well.”


In addition, Keeton will also run first time starter Anytyme,  bred and owned by P & J Racing Ltd, in the first trial. The colt by Corona Cartel will be ridden by Francisco Giles. 


Other notable Derby trial entrants include Delight Interest, a gelded son of Separate Interest making his Sam Houston debut after a game victory in the $144,000 West Texas Derby (G3) at Sunland Park on February 25. Top conditioner Juan Diaz Jr. will give a leg up to jockey Juan Pulido in the final trial.  Brian Stroud has a solid contender in Daddy Caliente, who will break from the rail in race seven under Claudio Aguilar. The colt by Big Daddy Cartel qualified for three futurities last year, earning $152,051 for owner Mi Cielo Ranch. Maurilio Jr Ornelas’ The Heroine, a Valiant Hero filly, exits a win in the $107,000 Mardi Gras Derby on March 24 at Louisiana Downs. Jose Hebert has the call for trainer Raul Galvan at 3-1 in race five. 


The first running of the Sam Houston Derby took place in 1994 with Develop a Plan winning for the late Steve VanBebber and jockey Alvin “Bubba” Brossette. The noted list of past champions includes Tailor Fit, Streakin Sin Tacha, Diamond Tres Seis and Moonin the Eagle. The 2019 Sam Houston Derby champion was the petite, but powerful filly Eysa Jess Jumpn. Bred in Louisiana,  Eysa Jess Jumpn was a $11,500  purchase at the 2016 LQHBA Yearling Sale for Jose Estrada Quarter Horses. The daughter of Heza Fast Dash out of the Mr Jess Perry mare Jess Jumpn went on to win 15 of her 21 career starts, banking $932,387. 


Stakes Schedule for the 2023 Sam Houston Quarter Horse Meet

Sam Houston Race Park will run 15 stakes, beginning on Friday, May 20 with the final of the $209,200 Sam Houston Derby (G3) and $50,000-added Sam Houston Classic (G2). Fans will see four stakes, highlighted by the $75,000-added Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on Saturday, June 3. There will also be four stakes contested on Saturday, June 17, which is closing night of the 2023 Quarter Horse meet.


The northwest Houston racetrack will also pay tribute to three Texas horsemen: John Buchanan, Leon Bard and  Jesse Yoakum with stakes named in their honor. Each trainer supported Sam Houston Race Park when it opened as the first Texas Class 1 racetrack in 1994 and for decades to follow. The $50,000 John Buchanan Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old fillies will be run on Saturday, June 4 and the $50,000 Jesse Yoakum Memorial 870 Stakes is set for Saturday, June 17. In addition, longtime racing office official and stakes coordinator Willie Hickman will be fondly remembered on June 17 with the running of the $50,000-added Willie Hickman Memorial. A complete list of the 2023 Quarter Horse schedule is available on shrp.com.


Trial Dates
Saturday April 29                               Sam Houston Derby

Friday & Saturday May 12-13            Sam Houston Futurity

Thursday May 25                                Colors Of Houston Futurity

Friday May 26                                    John Deere Juvenile Challenge & Adequan Derby Challenge


Sam Houston Race Park 2023 Promotions

The 2023 Quarter Horse meet began on Friday, April 28 and will continue through Saturday, June 17. Racing will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:15 pm (Central) with special post times of 10:30 am (Central) for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 6; the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 20 and the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 10.


 In addition to exciting live racing, Sam Houston Race Park is pleased to offer the following promotions and food and beverage offerings:


  • Thursday Drink Specials – Happy Hour 5pm to 7pm  $3 Margarita, Moscow Mule and Airline Minis
  • Friday Drink Specials – 6:00pm to 9:00pm  $2 Domestic Beer and $2 wine.


  • Celebrate Cinco de Mayo along with the Pre Derby Party on Friday, May 5th.  Fiesta themed buffets in the Winner Circle. Advance Wagering on the Kentucky Derby throughout the day


  • 149th running of the Kentucky Derby on  Saturday, May 6th along with Live Quarter horse racing (all reserved seats, winner circle and suite level are sold out) Admission $5.00 – First Post time 10:30am. Kentucky Derby Hat Contest, registration 1:00 to 3:00 – Winner $500, Second Place dinner for 4 in the Winner Circle,  Third Place dinner for 2 in the Winner Circle


  • Simulcast of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday May 20th. Quarter Horse racing begins at 1:00 pm with Corgi Races to be conducted between live races. Registration deadline is May 10


  • Simulcast of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of Thoroughbred racing’s prestigious Triple Crown on Saturday June 10th  Quarter Horse racing begins at 1:00 pm


  • Admission is just $5.00. For more information, visit www.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 Entertainment 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