TRIALS FOR THE $461,835 SAM HOUSTON FUTURITY (G2) WILL TAKE PLACE ON FRIDAY, MAY 12 AND SATURDAY, MAY 13
The Top Five Qualifiers From Each Night Will Advance to the Final on Saturday, June 3
HOUSTON, TX – It will be a very busy weekend for the connections of juvenile Quarter Horses at Sam Houston Race Park. The northwest Houston racetrack will run nine trials on Friday, May 12 as well as Saturday, May 13 for the $461,835 Sam Houston Futurity (G2). Post time is 6:15 pm (CT) with the fastest ten qualifiers in the 330-yard trials earning a berth to the final on Saturday, June 3.
The Sam Houston Futurity had its first running in 1994 with notable past champions including 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.
For the past two years, trainer Juan Diaz Jr. saddled the winner. TYKHE Racing LLC’s BH Inxs won in 2021 and Carlos Ponce’s Bye Corona Bye claimed the title last year. A three-peat is certainly a possibility for the 34-year-old horseman from Floresville, Texas. The current leading Sam Houston Race Park trainer has 22 juveniles entered in trials this weekend with several morning-line favorites.
“We always look forward to the Sam Houston Futurity,” said Diaz. “It takes our entire team with these many horses, but we are ready!”
Diaz credits his owners for signing tickets at the TQHA Yearling Sale, notably
Dashin Hocks who was purchased for $37,000 Carlos Ponce. The son of Kiss My Hocks runs Friday in the night trial with Juan Pulido in the saddle. Pulido and Jose Hebert will ride the majority of the Diaz runners as Victor Urieta, Jr., who won both previous Sam Houston Futurity titles, is recovering from a broken shoulder.
“Victor is doing well and will be back soon,” reported Diaz. “Jose is having a good meet for us in Houston and Juan has made his mark at Remington and Ruidoso.”
Dollar Bill will be another favorite running on Friday night. Also sired by Kiss My Hocks, he was a $39,000 TQHA Yearling Sale purchase by owner Celeste Martinez. He exits a runner-up finish in the $339,046 Louisiana Downs Futurity (G2) on March 25.
The Saturday trial standout for Diaz includes Josefina Guzman’s Colleys Cartel who qualified for the $533,270 Oklahoma Futurity (G2) on March 25 at Remington Park. The gelded son of Carters Cartel finished sixth but comes into his Sam Houston Futurity trial with earnings of $32,394.
Several trainers are hoping to claim their first Sam Houston Futurity including Brian Stroud, who is having a very good 2023 season at Sam Houston Race Park. On Friday, he will send out Absolute Corona and Doublethecelebration. Zee Tempting Dash will run Saturday evening in the ninth race. Jockey Claudio Aguilar has the call on each of the Stroud trainees.
“Absolute Corona is a real nice filly,” said Stroud. “She set the fastest time in her Retama Park schooling race.
Doublethecelebration ran third in his Louisiana Downs Futurity trial but did not qualify for the final, but that experience will be good for him. Zee Tempting Dash entered Sam Houston, but his race was rained out, so this will be his first start. He’s a Tempting Dash colt with a couple of good works.”
Stroud would love to get his first title in the rich Sam Houston Futurity. Stroud and his wife, Dana, had a career-high achievement when Jrc Callas First was honored as 2014 AQHA Racing Champion. The bay gelding, now ---years-old, is enjoying retirement on the Stroud’s farm in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Another very capable Texas trainer, Wendy Garcia, will run two juveniles: on Friday, she will saddle Mr. Prize B in the second trial. The gelding by Freighttrain B ran a game second in his Louisiana Downs Futurity trial on March 23. Garcia picked him out at the Heritage Place September Sale for her new owner Salazar Stables, LLC. Her entrant in Saturday evening’s eighth trial is Apollitical Diamond, a Leon Ranch homebred, who finished off the board in his Louisiana Downs Futurity trial.
“Mr. Prize B ran very well in his debut, and we are excited about him,” said Garcia. “Apollitical Diamond was pretty green in his trial. He’s by Apollitical Blood and those babies can be a handful. But we raised his grandma and have a good history on the dam side.”
It will be a busy three days for Garcia and her husband, jockey Modesto Pina. The couple have four children and reside in Mansfield, Texas. Garcia has been training for 15 years with Guidry Pride II, winner of the 2020 Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2) at Louisiana Downs.
On Thursday night, they will be at Remington Park with Salazar Stables, LLC’s Aj Rock My Heart in trials for the $1 million Heritage Place Futurity. The filly by Apollitical Jess broke her maiden there on March 26.
“The Salazar brothers are new clients and have been wonderful to work with,” she said. “Owners are so important to our racing program, and we want them to feel a part of the entire experience.”
The Sam Houston Futurity will always have special memories for trainer Toby Keeton, who saddled 2014 Sam Houston Futurity champion Kiss My Hocks, a son of Tempting Dash owned by Tyler Graham and Conda Maze. The striking Texas-bred colt set a new 330-yard track record of :16.433, in his trial, which still stands today. He retired in 2015 with earnings of $1,199,385 and is standing stud at Lazy E. Ranch. The Texas conditioner has five entrants in this year’s trials: Cowgurl Up and Corona Tres Eagle on Friday night and Beachbaby, Just a Blurr Runin and Takealookatmydash on the second night.
The top five qualifiers from each night will return on Saturday, June 3. The juveniles who set the fastest 11th through 20th times will be invited to compete in the $51,315 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes, which will also be contested on June 3.
Sam Houston Race Park Leaderboard
Heading into the fourth week of the 2023 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse meet, Juan Diaz, Jr. is on top of the trainer standings with 11 wins. Adan Guzman is second with six trips to the winner’s circle and Toby Keeton and Brian Stroud have each saddled four winners.
Ali Rivera, who won the 2022 title, and Jose Hebert are tied for the lead in the jockey standings with 10 wins each. Noe Villatoro follows with eight wins and Raul Ramirez, Jr. is third in the standings with 5 victories.
Carlos Ponce and Sarah Huskey are tied as leading owners with three wins each.
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