Joyful Victory, winner of the richest Thoroughbred stakes in Texas, was named Horse of the Meet at Sam Houston Race Park. The 5-year-old daughter of Tapit is owned by Fox Hill Farms Inc. and trained by Larry Jones.
The remarkable gray mare drew off by over four lengths in winning the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, which attracted a stellar field of contenders with collective earnings in excess of $2.3 million. Joyful Victory not only gave a first-class performance under one of the nation’s top riders, Rosie Napravnik, but she set a new track record as she covered the mile and one-sixteenth feature, over a fast track, in a final time of 1:42.30. The previous track record of 1:42.74 was set on February 13, 1999, by Desert Air.
Joyful Victory earned $237,600 for the Houston Ladies Classic victory. What might have been even more impressive is that she made her next start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, March 16. Again, with her front-running score under Napravnik, she eclipsed the million-dollar mark in career earnings. Purchased for $60,000 in the 2009 January Sales at Keeneland, Joyful Victory has now won six of her 17 career starts bankrolling $1,090,679.
“She learned a lot in the Houston Ladies Stakes,” said Jones. “We have always believed in her talent, but she has grown and matured so much from her 4-year-old campaign. Rosie is amazing in getting her to relax so she can show that fantastic cruising speed.”
Jones will give Joyful Victory a break and will look at some opportunities in late May. The long term goal is a victory in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) in November at Santa Anita.
Danny Pish Notches His Fourth Leading Trainer Title in Houston
Texas horseman Danny Pish had another strong showing, winning his fourth Sam Houston Race Park training title with 27 wins. He showcased some promising rising stars, including Platinum Song, who captured the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes on Texas Champions Weekend.
“It was a great meet,” acknowledged Pish. “We started with a bang, with the filly in the Bara Lass, and all in all, we kept winning races. I was very pleased that two of my horses, Pharme’s Phire and Temparnillo, were undefeated this meet.”
Pish, who operates a training center in Cibolo, Texas, credits his Sam Houston team, led by assistant Jasmine Daniels, for their hard work over the last three months.
“I have to give a huge thanks to the team,” said Pish. “I always say the owner comes first, the horse is second and everyone from my assistant to the jockeys to the hot walkers all play big roles. Jasmine did an outstanding job and I am proud of both Roman (Chapa) and Gerardo (Mora).”
Pish won his first Sam Houston Race Park title in 2006 and was the leader the following year as well. In 2010, he finished in a tie with Karl Broberg. With four leading trainer titles in Houston, Pish is second to Steve Asmussen, who holds the record with top honors for five seasons since the track opened in 1994.
Of course, he has blazed his name in the Retama Park history book as trainer of the meet for a record 13 years and added his first title at Lone Star Park last summer. He will have a full barn in Grand Prairie when their Thoroughbred meet kicks off on April 11.
Pish, 48, was born in Yoakum, Texas, and has become one of the Lone Star State’s most successful trainers. According to Equibase statistics, since 1995, Pish has saddled 9,730 horses, winning 1,606 races and purses of $21.9 million.
Asmussen was second with 17 wins; Jack Bruner saddled 16 winners and Brent Davidson finished the meet with 11 victories.
Gerardo Mora Wins First Sam Houston Riding Title
Last year, as an apprentice rider, Gerardo Mora impressed horsemen and fans with his talent and finished the meet in second place to veteran Glen Murphy. This year, Mora started strong, dueling mid-meet with Murphy, before drawing off to win his first Sam Houston Race Park leading rider title with 47 victories.
Mora won two stakes this season, taking the $50,000 Bara Lass aboard Platinum Song for Pish on Texas Champions Weekend. He also won the $50,000 Auto Nation Spring Stakes on March 16 with Legal Mind for trainer Jack Bruner.
“I want to thank all the people that have supported me in Houston,” said Mora. “My agent (Toby Cathey) and so many trainers named me on great horses. I am very happy to be leading rider.”
Born in Palestine, Texas, the 20-year-old Mora had family ties to racing as his uncle, Adrian Ramos, has ridden in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico since 2001. Mora began working horses in Louisiana three years ago, and rode as an apprentice at Retama Park near San Antonio in 2011. He was the leading rider at Retama Park in their 2012 Thoroughbred meeting and will head to Lone Star Park to see if he can win the rare Texas triple.
Murphy was second in the standings with 38 wins. Roman Chapa had a strong season with 26 victories and Chris Landeros finished the meet well with a total of 22 wins.
Tom Durant Wins Second Owner of the Meet Title
Prominent Dallas businessman Tom Durant won his second Sam Houston Race Park leading owner title with 16 wins. He shipped in 36 starters, all trained by Jack Bruner, with a mix of maidens, allowance runners and stakes horses. Rising star Legal Mind, a 3-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road, ably stepped up to stakes company to win the $50,000 Auto Nation Spring Stakes on March 16.
Durant’s previous owner title came in 2011. Durant was pleased with the meet and the success of their runners.
“All of our horses were coming off lay-offs,” said Durant. “We started slow, but then really took off. The meet turned out very well for us.”
Durant was proud of Legal Mind and noted potential in many of his Sam Houston starters.
“She showed us she can do it,” Durant noted of Legal Mind. “Several others look they have potential to be quality stakes horses.”
Durant is the owner of Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, and sums up the key to his long term association with Bruner.
“I let Jack choose where to run the horses; my job is to sell enough cars to pay for them!”
End Zone Athletics, Inc. was second in the standings with six wins. Jose Luis Espinoza, Ralls and Foster LLC and Pharme Racing, Ltd. were tied with five victories each.