The draw for the Saturday Texas Champions Weekend stakes took place on Wednesday, January 16. The Saturday night card is the second stakes-filled evening set for opening weekend of the 2013 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet. While Friday night salutes the ladies, Saturday’s action features colts and geldings in the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes, $50,000 Groovy Stakes, $50,000 Richard King Stakes and $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes.
Competitive fields have been drawn for each of the seven stakes in Texas Champions Weekend, much to the delight of Eric Johnston, vice-president of racing for Sam Houston Race Park.
“Texas Champions Weekend is a great way to kick off our 2013 racing season,” said Johnston. “We are pleased to showcase Texas-breds and feel that our fans will enjoy the entire card as well as these competitive stakes.”
$100,000 Star of Texas
Coyote Legend, has a storied history in Texas Champions stakes. In 2009, the talented Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. homebred captured the $50,000 Groovy Stakes. He returned last year and commanded from the opening bell in the $100,000 Star of Texas, a mile and one-sixteenth main track stakes. On Saturday evening, the 5-year-old son of Gold Legend will attempt to defend his title and further add to his stakes accomplishments.
Trainer Bret Calhoun has a great deal of pride in Coyote Legend, who has won 15 of his 29 career starts, bankrolling over $600,000 in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
“He came out of his race at Zia (Veteran Stakes on November 3) with an abscess in his hind foot,” said Calhoun. “Fortunately, he got over that quickly and ran a great prep last month at Remington Park. He has always run well over the Sam Houston surface and we look forward to a solid effort.”
Veteran rider Cliff Berry, who is currently riding at Oaklawn Park, made the trip to Houston last year to ride Coyote Legend and Calhoun tapped Berry to guide the multiple stakes winner again on Saturday.
Coyote Legend and Berry will break from the rail, followed by Halifax Flyer, Rohan Singh; Big Scrape, Alfredo Contreras; Patchwork, Alfredo Sigala; Cat’s Classy Rider, Chris Landeros and Anew Rumor, Glen Murphy.
$50,000 Spirit of Texas
Solar Charge, who won last year’s edition of the Spirit of Texas Stakes, returns to defend his title in the six-furlong sprint. The 6-year-old gelding is owned by H & H Ranch and will be saddled by Danny Pish. The highest money earner in the field with a career bankroll of $267,692 will break from the outside post under jockey Roman Chapa.
He will have some noteworthy competition, including Officer Prado, who has won his last two for owner/breeder Kathryn East and conditioner Cash Asmussen. Gold Element who ran third in the 2012 Spirit of Texas for Bret Calhoun, has won three of his four starts at Sam Houston.
The field, with riders, from the rail out: Como Se Llama, Chris Landeros; Gold Element, Cilf Berry; Canigotoo, Glen Murphy; Officer Prado, Larry Taylor; Abendlied, Benito Morales and Solar Charge, Roman Chapa.
$50,000 Groovy Stakes
The $50,000 Groovy Stakes has been a great springboard for young colts and geldings and a full field of ten will square off in Saturday’s seven-furlong feature.
Breathethefire, a son of top Texas sire, Valid Expectations, has won two of his four career starts for Eclipse Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen. The bay colt will be ridden by Glen Murphy, who was the leading rider in the 2012 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet.
Top Sam Houston Race Park conditioner Danny Pish won the Groovy in 2005 with Guacamole and in 2006 with Daddy Warbucks. On Saturday night, he will saddle Buck Ninety Nine, who won at first asking on December 22 at Retama Park. Gerardo Mora will ride the son of Chatain for breeder and owner Brant Schafer.
“He’s untested against this field of horses,” admits Pish. “But he’s been training well and deserves a chance to compete in stakes company.”
The field, with riders, from the rail out: Tuned Crusader, Rohan Singh; Martys Wimbledon, Alfredo Contreras; Reeds Chance, Weldon Cloninger, Jr; Buck Ninety Nine, Gerardo Mora; Seeing Payday, Dakota Wood; Breathethefire, Glen Murphy; Worldventurer, Cliff Berry; Lone Dove, Kris Fox; Mula Run, Ivan Arellano and Beyond Heat, Benny Landeros.
$50,000 Richard King Stakes
The final stakes of Texas Champions Weekend is the $50,000 Richard King Stakes, for 4-year-olds and upward at a mile and one-eighth on the Connally Turf Course.
Skip a Smile, owned and bred by Rose Mary Chandler of Luling, Texas, was named the 2011 Texas Horse of the Year by the Texas Thoroughbred Association.
The 6-year-old son of Skip Away has career earnings in excess of $400,000 and has demonstrated versatility on both dirt and turf. Glen Murphy will ride for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Quiet Acceleration is trainer Danny Pish’s homebred and the 4-year-old has solid turf results in his past performances. The dark bay gelding has made 13 starts on the lawn, winning four races and earning just shy of $100,000.
“He’s stakes placed, with a second as a 2-year-old in the El Joven and just ran third in the Hall of Fame Stakes (at Retama Park),” said Pish.
Skip a Smile drew the rail, with Glen Murphy up. The remainder of the field is: Sarah’s Chief (entry), Ivan Arellano; Valid Message, Cliff Berry; Red Hot Quest, Jose Medina; Happy Hot Quest (entry, Ivan Arellano; Texas City Thor, Gerardo Mora; Ninian, David Cardoso; Doctor Romane, Jeremy Collier; Spiderman Ridge, Dakota Wood; Quiet Acceleration, Roman Chapa and Fly The Red Eye, Junior Chacalatana.
Post time for Texas Champions Weekend is 7:00 p.m. on Friday and 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 19.
Fond Texas Champions Memories for Trainer Danny Pish
Danny Pish has been one of the most prolific Texas trainers, with 13 titles at Retama Park and three leading trainer wins at Sam Houston. He has won 12 Texas Champions stakes, including back to back victories in the San Jacinto and Groovy Stakes. His first Texas Champions Stakes win was in 1998 with Royal Image in the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes. He admits he is hard-pressed to come up with a favorite win as there have been multiple memorable scores.
“It’s hard to say as I had big wins with Boots on Sunday, Leaving on My Mind, Goosey Moose and Alleged Hug,” recalls Pish. “But when Burnin Memories won (the San Jacinto in 2003) that was really special. She came off the pace to beat a really nice filly, Eagle Lake. That was a case where we took a gamble in stepping her up and it worked out.”
Pish took time to credit the owners and breeders who have remained in the Lone Star State.
“Even though we are struggling in Texas, we have lots of accomplishments to be proud of,” notes Pish. “Bravo to the owners for hanging in there. Thanks to them, we still have great competition in Texas racing.”
Summer Applause Ready for the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic
Sam Houston Race Park will present another exceptional evening of racing on Saturday, January 26. The $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas headlines the card, which will also include three additional stakes: the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup, the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes, and the $50,000 Allen’s Landing Stakes. The marquee racing event will be broadcast on HRTV, “The Network for Horse Sports” and FOX Sports Southwest.
Trainer Bret Calhoun has targeted the Houston Ladies Classic for his talented filly, Summer Applause. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Harlan’s Holiday is owned by the partnership of Gillian R. Campbell Group Management Ltd. and Greenwood Lodge Farm.
Summer Applause won the Grade 3, Rachel Alexandra Stakes and went on to compete in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks in May, where she finished fourth to Believe You Can. Following the Oaks, Summer Applause had surgery for a chip in her knee and is working well for her return to the racetrack. She has been training at Fair Grounds and covered five furlongs in 49.4 seconds on Saturday, January 12.
“She’s still on track for the Houston Ladies Classic,” said Calhoun from his Fair Grounds barn on Wednesday. “We tried to get a prep race here for her, but this filly is phenomenal and I am confident that she is set for a big effort.”
Calhoun will send jockey Miguel Mena to Houston for the mile and one-sixteenth Houston Ladies Classic.
The draw for the stakes will take place on Wednesday, January 23. Advance wagering for the January 26 card will be offered on Friday, January 25 and Sam Houston will offer a new wager, “The All-Stakes Pick-4”.
The Park will donate $1 for each patron to benefit the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure®. Patrons can also show their support for the fight against breast cancer by entering the “Think Pink Hat Contest”, presented by Cadence Bank. The winner will receive $500.