Some of the industry’s top trainers will ship horses to Sam Houston Race Park for its 2015 live Thoroughbred meet, which gets underway on Friday, January 16. The impressive roster of includes a number of new faces and includes Kenny McPeek, Ron Moquett, Ben Colebrook and Jeff Thornbury.
They join a noteworthy core returning group of horsemen lead by two-time Eclipse winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Bret Calhoun, and Danny Pish. Asmussen has six leading training titles at Sam Houston Race Park. Pish has been on top of the standings in Houston four times and recently clinched his 15th training title at Retama Park.
McPeek announced earlier this year that he would be sending a string to Houston for the 2015 Thoroughbred meet. McPeek made his first trip to Sam Houston in 2002 with his well-regarded mare Take Charge Lady, winner of the $275,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff. He returned in 2013 and won the Maxxam Gold Cup with Unstoppable U. The Kentucky-based horsemen made a third trip to Houston last March with Magic City Thoroughbred Partners Frac Daddy, who ran a game second in the 2014 Maxxam Gold Cup and followed that with a victory in the Grade 3, Ben Ali at Keeneland.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Golden Ticket, the upset winner in the 2012 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, and Frac Daddy, are two of the McPeek standouts to be shipped to Houston.
“The first van of my horses left Kentucky on Wednesday (December 10),” said McPeek. “Golden Ticket and C J’s Awesome, who ran fourth in both the Pennsylvania and Indiana Derby, were on that van. Frac Daddy will be sent with the next load.”
McPeek has been given almost 40 stalls for the upcoming season and will make several trips to Sam Houston. He has tabbed Matt Shirer to oversee his Houston barn.
Ben Colebrook is a young trainer who worked for four plus years as an assistant to noted conditioner Christophe Clement. He went on his own in 2013 and saddled his first stakes winner on October 17 when Sparkling Review won the Grade 3, Pin Oak Valley View at Keeneland. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is one of 20 Colebrook trainees coming to Houston in January.
The 36-year-old Colebrook resides in Lexington, Kentucky and shipped Dixiana Farms LLC Moon Philly to Houston for the 2014 Houston Ladies Classic. She ran fourth in the $400,000 stakes and overall, Colebrook had a very positive first impression of the northwest Houston track.
“I was very happy with the surface and liked what I saw last January,” said Colebrook. “My decision to run at Sam Houston is based on starting the year on a good, safe racetrack.”
Eric Reed had 32 stalls last year at Sam Houston Race Park and won 17 races, finishing third in the standings to Asmussen (29) and Pish (22). Reed requested 50 stalls for the 2015 Thoroughbred meet and hopes to build on his success from his inaugural season here.
“We’re going to load up and try to do even better this year,” stated Reed. “I picked up some new owners from Houston and am shipping several stakes-placed turf horses.”
Remington Park wrapped their 2014 Thoroughbred meet on December 14 and a solid group of Oklahoma horsemen, including Joe Offolter, Francisco Bravo, Kari Craddock, Kenneth Nolen, Jody Pruitt and Martin Lozano will ship to Houston.
The Sam Houston Race Park barn area for the 32-day Thoroughbred meet opened on Thursday, December 4 and horses began training on December 11.
Nationally prominent conditioners including Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Larry Jones and Graham Motion have shipped horses in for stakes. The 2015 Thoroughbred Stakes schedule will offer nearly $1.7 million in purses, and kicks off on January 16-17 with Texas Champions Weekend. The Houston Racing Festival follows on Saturday, January 24 and remains the richest day in Texas Thoroughbred racing. Featured events include 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. A complete stakes schedule is posted at shrp.com.
Fred Hutton will serve as racing secretary for the upcoming meet and was pleased with the interest from horsemen for the 2015 live racing season.
“We reviewed 1,900 stall applications and are still receiving calls from trainers interested in shipping horses to Sam Houston,” said Hutton. “The combination of Houston’s mild winter weather and the reputation of both our main and turf track appealed to a broad range of horsemen.”
Friday and Saturday post times for the 2015 Thoroughbred Meet will be 7 pm and 6 pm, respectively. Post time is 1 pm every Monday and Tuesday afternoon.