Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 22nd live racing season Friday, January 16. The 2015 schedule has been approved by the Texas Racing Commission and begins with the 32-day Thoroughbred meet.
The 2015 Thoroughbred stakes schedule will offer nearly $1.7 million in purses and starts with Texas Champions Weekend, featuring the best Texas-breds competing over two days in seven divisions. Opening night will feature fillies and mares in three stakes ($50,000 San Jacinto Turf Stakes, $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes and $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes). Saturday will feature the boys in four stakes races ($50,000 Star of Texas Stakes, $50,000 Richard King Turf Stakes, $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes and the $50,000 Groovy Stakes).
Sam Houston Race Park President Andréa Young confirmed that the Houston Racing Festival will return Saturday, January 24. The richest day in Texas Thoroughbred racing will feature four stakes, including the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint and the $50,000 Allen’s Landing Stakes.
Proceeds from the Houston Racing Festival will once again benefit the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Stakes races will continue every weekend during the meet with the Tomball Stakes January 31 and the Bucharest Stakes February 7. The Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallions Stakes Series on February 14 will feature the $75,000 Two Altazano division for fillies and the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit division for colts and geldings, plus and the $50,000 Jersey Village Turf Stakes. February 21 will feature the Sam Houston Sprint Cup.
The Maxxam Gold Cup Racing Festival will take place February 28 and feature the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Turf Stakes and the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes.
“Our goal for 2014 was to continue to improve the quality of our live racing,” said President Andrea Young. “We feel we accomplished this with several of our 2014 stakes winners continuing on to showcase their talent on the national racing scene throughout the year. We look forward to raising the bar even higher in 2015.”
The 2014 Two Altazano champion Fiftyshadesofgold was very impressive after leaving Sam Houston Race Park. The Texas-bred ran second to the amazing Untapable in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and then won the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs. Admiral Kitten, who captured the Grade 3 Connally Turf Cup in January, went on to run in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs and placed in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. Frac Daddy, who ran second to Red Rifle in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup in March went on to claim the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, currently ranked seventh in earnings in North America, won four stakes races in 2014 at Sam Houston Race Park, including a track record setting performance aboard Sum of the Parts in the Champion Energy Services Stakes.
New for this year, the $0.50 Late Pick 4 will be guaranteed at $20,000 every Saturday night (races 7-10) during the Thoroughbred meet. The Houston High Five minimum wager has been lowered to only $0.20. This will allow players to bet more combinations with a five horse box costing just $24.00. Quinella wagers have been removed to help streamline the menu.
“Our simulcast audience is very important to us, and we are initiating the changes to our wagering format based on their excellent feedback,” said Young.
Friday and Saturday post times for the 2015 Thoroughbred Meet will be 7 pm and 6 pm, respectively. Day-time racing at Sam Houston will continue every Monday and Tuesday afternoon with a 1 pm post time.