Total handle for the recently concluded 32-day Thoroughbred meet at Sam Houston Race Park increased more than 15% totaling $51,258,598 in 2015 up from $44,493,991 in 2014. 2015 also marked the fourth consecutive year of average daily handle gains for the annual thoroughbred season. Total average daily handle ticked up to $1,601,537 for the meet.
“This was another successful Thoroughbred racing season with many notable gains,” said Sam Houston Race Park president, Andréa Young. “We were very pleased to top the $2 million mark seven times this season compared to just once in 2014. Without a doubt, the success and the excitement surrounding this meet continue to build.”
Racing fans in Houston and across the country continued to take note of Sam Houston Race Park for its industry-low 12% take-out of multi-race wagers including the Pick 3 and Pick 4. This marked the second consecutive year of increases in handle of these wagers. Total multi-race wagers exceeded $6.23 million in 2015, an increase of 22%.
Other notable highlights from the 2015 season include:
• Average field size increase 5% to 8.4 runners per race
• Daily purses averaged $167,900 per day, a slight decrease over 2014
• Live attendance for Friday and Saturday increased to a daily average of 6,622, 8% over the 6,182 daily average from 2014.
The largest weekend of the season came on March 6 and 7, when Sam Houston Race Park hosted the fourth annual Camel and Ostrich Races, adding Zebras for this year’s festivities. The highly entertaining weekend attracted a crowd of 24,568, topping the record-setting attendance of 23,685 last year, and up significantly from 18,231 fans in 2013.
Cassatt Named 2015 Horse of the Meet
Cassatt, winner of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas, was named 2015 Horse of the Meet at Sam Houston Race Park.
The daughter of Tapit is owned by Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms, Inc. and trained by Larry Jones. Her Houston Ladies Classic victory was the third stakes in a row for the striking grey filly. She captured the $300,000 Zia Oaks and followed that with a victory in the Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds on December 21. Bred in Kentucky by Mt Brilliant Farm, Cassatt’s record stands at 6 wins from 9 starts. The winner’s share of $232,800 from the Houston Ladies Classic vaulted her career earnings to $603,033.
Under a confident ride by her regular rider Kerwin Clark, the daughter of Tapit out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Justenufftime, defeated seven rivals in the Houston Ladies Classic. Breaking sharply from the far outside post, Cassatt went immediately to the lead, covering fractions of :24.29; 47.85; 1:11.91 and holding off a huge late run from Angelica Zapata. Cassatt held on by a neck completing the mile and one-sixteenth stakes over a fast main track in 1:44.96.
Jones, who won four of his five stakes this season at Sam Houston Race Park, has been patient with Cassatt acknowledging that she is a late-developing filly, very similar to 2013 Houston Ladies Classic champion, Joyful Victory.
“We had a weird start to her career; had to do a lot of jumping around,” said Jones. “She has those cotton-picking nerves, but now we’re getting in a good rhythm.”
Jones is taking the same route with Cassatt as he did in 2013 with Joyful Victory, pointing to the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Margarita on Saturday, March 14. She arrived in California on Tuesday to prepare for the mile and one-eighth stakes.
“If we get another grade 1 winner out of this race it will make Sam Houston look good!,” said the affable horseman.
Steve Asmussen Notches His Seventh Leading Trainer Title in Houston
The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were also presented on the final day of the meeting. Steve Asmussen, won his seventh training title at the Houston racetrack, finishing the meet with 28 wins. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2014.
Danny Pish finished second with 22 wins, followed by Shea Stuart with 13 victories and Bret Calhoun, who won 12 races.
“It’s always nice to win a title,” said Asmussen. “I’ve had a lot of luck at Sam Houston and have always been pleased with their track surfaces.”
With racing operations across the country, the two-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner relied on his longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, to oversee the Houston barn.
“He does a tremendous job,” said Asmussen of Ocampo, who ran the Houston string and will head next to Lone Star Park. “Without a doubt, Pablo has played an important role in each of the Houston titles.”
Deshawn Parker Earns First Sam Houston Riding Title
Jockey Deshawn Parker made his Sam Houston Race Park debut last year, finishing a close second in the standings to defending champion Gerardo Mora. The respected veteran came to Texas to ride for trainer Eric Reed, but quickly caught the attention of horsemen and returned to Houston with plenty of business. With support from many trainers, including Reed, Steve Asmussen, Danny Pish and Travis Short, Parker began the 2015 meet in the lead and finished the season with 55 wins. He was the leading rider in money earned with $657,746 and a stellar 51% in the money statistic. Parker won two stakes this meet, guiding the Ghost is Clear to victory in the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup Stakes for Mike Maker and I am Jane Dough in the $50,000 Tomball Stakes for Pish.
Parker, 44, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and is the all-time leading rider at Mountaineer Park. He celebrated a career milestone in Houston, winning the 4,700th race of his career on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.
“I was lucky to ride for great horsemen,” said Parker. “My agent Billy Johnson did a great job. I worked hard and rode a lot of nice horses. This is a really nice racetrack, and the people here have been so good to me.”
David Cabrera, who was an apprentice last year, was second in the standings with 38 wins. The 22-year-old native of Guanajuato, Mexico is a jockey to watch with leading rider titles at Lone Star Park and Retama Park in 2014. Lindey Wade, leading rider as Sam Houston in 2011, finished third with 34 victories and Gerardo Mora, who won the title in 2013 and 2014, was fourth with 32 wins.
Parker will return to Mountaineer Park to ride on Saturday and will also have mounts at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.
Danny Keene Wins Second Owner of the Meet Title
Texas businessman Danny Keene won his second Sam Houston Race Park leading owner title with 15 wins. Keene’s winners were a mix of maidens and allowance runners with several horses winning more than once, including stable star Internet Success with a perfect three-for-three record this meet.
Keene entrusted Shea Stuart to train the majority of his runners and while a few horses were conditioned by Stuart’s father, Clint.
“I’m tickled to death with the job Shea did for us,” said Keene. “I expected a little better meet, but we were lucky to get what we got. It’s a pretty short meet, but the facilities are really good and the track surfaces are excellent.”
Keene, who owns a plumbing contractor company in McKinney, Texas, has been involved in Thoroughbred racing for less than five years. He was honored as leading owner of the 2013 Lone Star Park meet and tied with Karl Broberg as leading owner in 2014.
Steve Asmussen was second in the owner standings with 14 wins and George Bryant followed with seven victories.
Quarter Horse Racing Meet Begins on March 27
Sam Houston Race Park will host its annual Quarter Horse meet beginning Friday, March 27. The 24-day season will continue through Saturday, May 16 with post times set for Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.