Sam Houston Enters Final Week of Racing

The final stakes of the 2013 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet is set for Saturday evening. The $50,000 Auto Nation Spring Stakes will feature a solid field of 3-year-old fillies at a distance of one mile.

Trainer Michael Stidham has entered two fillies in the Auto Nation Spring Stakes. Livin Peace has made six starts for her owner and breeder, David Soblick. She had back-to-back main track wins before running seventh over the yielding turf course in the $75,000 Battle of New Orleans Stakes last month. Chris Landeros will ride the Songandaprayer filly, breaking from post position five.

Stidham’s other charge is the lightly raced Hopelands, a daughter of Curlin, bred by John Adger and owned by Haynes Stable, LLC.  Jockey Paul Nolan was in the irons for her maiden-breaking victory on February 18, where she drew off to a four-length score on the Connally turf course. Nolan has the return call for her stakes debut and has high regard for his filly.

“She showed me something in that race that I never saw when working her in the mornings,” stated Nolan. “I like the way she is maturing and relaxing more with each out. She loved the turf, but I think she will run well on the main track as well.”

Trainer Jack Bruner will saddle Legal Mind, an Illinois-bred daughter of Bellamy Road for owner Tom Durant. She broke her maiden last October at Retama Park and enters Saturday’s feature off a convincing allowance score here on February 9.

“She’s been a nice filly and has been training well since her last race,” said Bruner. “Her win impressed us; we liked the fractions and the way Gerry (Gerardo Mora) rode her. She deserves a chance to jump up to the stakes level.”

Mora, who is destined to win his first Sam Houston Race Park leading rider title, will ride the dark bay filly on Saturday evening.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends Unrivaled Honor, a Kentucky-bred filly who won her second career start at Sam Houston on February 4 in an impressive showing under rider Glen Murphy. She will break from post position eight, with Murphy, once again, in the irons.

The remainder of the field includes Bilrrubina (Mex) who makes her fifth career start for Kari Craddock; Satin Gold, making her 2013 debut off a third-place finish in the $75,000 La Senorita at Retama Park; Explosive Argument, winner of her last two at Sam Houston for trainer Dallas Keen and Portales, a stakes-placed daughter of Sharp Humor who ships in for conditioner Charles Edwin Smith.

The $50,000 Auto Nation Spring Stakes will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, with an estimated post time of 10:07 p.m. (CT).

Joyful Victory To Run Saturday at Santa Anita

Joyful Victory dazzled on January 26 at Sam Houston Race Park in her victory in the inaugural $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. The 5-year-old daughter of Tapit has been a shining star for trainer Larry Jones and owner Fox Hill Farms, Inc. She made the most of her Sam Houston debut, not only winning the richest Thoroughbred stakes here, but setting a track record of 1:42.30 for the distance of a mile and one-sixteenth under top jockey Rosie Napravnik.

On Saturday, March 16, she will match strides with some of the nation’s top fillies and mares in the Grade I, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita.

Jones had begun targeting the California stakes for Joyful Victory the week after her riveting win in the Houston Ladies Classic.

“It was a very good comeback race for Joyful Victory,” stated Jones. “I give a lot of credit to the folks at Sam Houston for creating the Houston Ladies Classic. She came out of that race in good shape and has been training well at Fair Grounds. Once we got flight arrangements set, we knew that’s where she would make her next start.”

The Santa Margarita will be contested at a distance of a mile and one-eighth and Joyful Victory will face a competitive field including More Chocolate,  winner of the Grade II La Caňada Stakes on January 20; Book Review, Great Hot, and My Miss Aurelia.

Jockey, Trainer  and Owner Standings 

Gerardo Mora won six races last week to remain in the lead in the rider standings at Sam Houston Race Park. He has made 43 trips to the winner’s circle and looks likely to win his first riding title here in Houston when the meet wraps up on Monday. Last year’s top jockey, Glen Murphy is in second place with 38 wins. Roman Chapa had a riding triple on Monday, March 11 and is third in the standings with 26 victories. Chris Landeros is next with 17 wins and Paul Nolan surged into the top five and is tied with Alfredo Sanchez Sigala with 14 first-place finishes.

Danny Pish won five races last week to remain the leading trainer at Sam Houston. Pish, who has won three previous titles here, has 25 wins following seven weeks of live racing. Steve Asmussen remains in second place with 17 victories. Jack Bruner has 14 wins, Brent Davidson follows closely with 11 firsts and David Wolochuk rounds out the top five with nine wins.

Dallas horseman Tom Durant is closing in on his second leading owner title in Houston. His horses have made 14 trips to the winner’s circle. End Zone Athletics is next with 5 wins, followed by H and H Ranch and Jose Luis Espinoza, who are tied with 4 wins each.

Final Weekend of Live Thoroughbred Racing

The 2013 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 18, with post times set for Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (6:30 p.m.) and Monday (1 p.m.).  Special events include:

  • 50 Cent Beer Fridays with ESPN’s Fred Faour and A.J. Hoffman featuring 50 Cent Draft Beer and $1.50 Wine Specials every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Fan Appreciation Night featuring FREE Admission. (March 16)
  • Monday Live Racing featuring FREE Admission. (First post 1:00 p.m.)

Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2013 live American Quarter Horse season on Thursday, March 28.