Maker has favored Field Pass, Megacity in $300K Texas Turf Classic
By Jennie Rees
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (Thursday, July 14, 2022) — Turf, Texas-breds and 2-year-olds will be on display this weekend as Lone Star Park heads into the stretch of its 2022 Thoroughbred race meet with nine stakes totaling $1,275,000.
Santa Fe Gold, with Jose Alvarez up, won her debut at Lone Star Park and now is one of the favorites for Sunday’s $150,000 TTA Futurity filly division for trainer Bret Calhoun. Dustin Orona photo
Horses from around the Midwest and East Coast will join a strong local contingent in Saturday’s Summer Turf Festival featuring a stakes quartet on grass. Sunday’s five-stakes Stars of Texas Day showcases Texas-bred horses as well as 2-year-olds that were offered for sale at one of the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s auctions, including the TTA Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in April, with a pair of $150,000 stakes.
“That’s been a race that has gained a lot of enthusiasm,” trainer Bret Calhoun said of the pair of Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity stakes, one for fillies and one for colts and geldings. “It’s created a market for people to try to acquire horses to run in these, at the sale or after one has run. It’s been an important race for a long time. If you’re running 2-year-olds in Texas this time of the year, you really want them eligible. It’s done a lot for the industry as a whole — the market, the breeders, the pin-hookers, everybody — because everybody focuses on horses that are eligible for the Futurity.”
Also on Saturday: Dollar Day, live music and a National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) qualifying tournament. Lone Star Park has a special first post of 11 a.m. CDT both Saturday and Sunday, with gates opening at 9:30 a.m. For reservations and to purchase tickets visit
Said Calhoun: “They created a big weekend, putting up a lot of money, where a lot of people from different parts of the country like to come and participate.”
Lone Star’s meet ends July 24.
Mike Maker brings in two favorites for Texas Turf Classic
Kentucky-based trainer Mike Maker, a frequent visitor for Texas’ grass stakes, sends two of the favorites in Saturday’s $300,000 Texas Turf Classic in Three Diamonds Farm’s 2-1 favorite Field Pass and 3-1 third-choice Megacity.
Megacity (inside) won a May 21 allowance race at Churchill Downs with an $80,000 claiming option, with trainer Mike Maker dropping the claim. He’s now one of the favorites for Saturday’s $300,000 Texas Turf Mile at Lone Star Park. Coady Photography
The 5-year-old Field Pass, who can become a millionaire in the Turf Classic, won a pair of graded stakes last year and has two thirds in three starts this year, most recently losing Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Arlington Stakes by a total of a neck. Megacity makes his first start for owner Michael Dubb and Maker after being claimed for $80,000 in his last start, a nose victory in a third-level allowance race with the claiming option at Churchill Downs. He’ll be the one to catch, with Maker retaining Megacity’s previous regular rider, Joe Rocco Jr.
“He’s the model of consistency,” Maker said of Field Pass. “I’m hoping he’ll appreciate the firm course over there.”
Maker said he had the 1 1/8-mile Texas Turf Classic, a race he won with Dean’s Kitten in 2011, in mind when he claimed Megacity. “He’s a classy horse who’s ultra tough when he’s been loose on the lead,” he said.
Calumet Farm’s Cellist, the 5-2 second choice, won Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Louisville Stakes in his last start for trainer Rusty Arnold.
The local contingent includes 15-time winner Popular Kid for trainer Shawn Davis, 10-time winner Fred’stwirlincandy (Ronnie Cravens) and the graded stakes-placed Sonneman from the barn of Lone Star Park and North America’s all-time winningest trainer, Steve Asmussen.
Bret Calhoun well-stocked for weekend
Texas product Bret Calhoun, whose large operation includes a Lone Star Park division, will come in from Kentucky to saddle horses in stakes both days.
Calhoun has the two favorites in the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity fillies division in 6-5 program choice Free Drop Maddy and 2-1 Santa Fe Gold. Free Drop Maddy, the TTA Two-Year-Olds in Training auction’s sales-topper at $200,000 for owner Landon Jordan of nearby Mansfield, was a good second in her debut at Churchill Downs. Calhoun says he wished he’d gotten in a couple more workouts but needed to get the filly started in order to make the 5 1/2-furlong Futurity, a goal since her purchase.
“I think with a race under her belt, a little time and some nice works coming back that she’s really ready for this race,” he said.
Santa Fe Gold won her debut at Lone Star Park for prominent Texas owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch.
“She’s a really nice filly, too,” Calhoun said. “I thought she ran unbelievably well the first time out. We knew she was talented, but I didn’t honestly think I had her completely ready. We were targeting the Futurity and we knew we had to get a race into her, that she was far enough along to run a really good race. But she ran even better than I expected.”
Calhoun also sends out James Stodola’s debut winner Vietnam Victory in Sunday’s $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity’s colts and gelding division at 5 1/2 furlongs.
James Stodola’s Vietnam Victory, shown winning his debut May 15 at Lone Star under Jose Alvarez, is one of the favorites in the $150,000 TTA Futurity colts and geldings division. Dustin Orona Photography
“He ran very professionally, ran very well,” Calhoun said of Vietnam Victory’s first start at 4 1/2 furlongs. “I don’t think he’s necessarily the kind of horse that you’d expect him to run 4 1/2, 5 furlongs early on. But I think he was just one of those mentally ready to do it and we had him physically prepared. But I suspect he can be better later in the year and a little bit farther. I think you’ll see him move forward this week as well.”
Gold Pilot will carry the banner of the stakes sponsor in Sunday’s $75,000 Highlander Training Center Assault Stakes for Texas-bred 3-year-olds and up at a mile on turf. Gold Pilot is co-owned by Hirsch, owner of the Highlander Training Center an hour east of Dallas, and Sanders. Calhoun said he doesn’t think Gold Pilot particularly cares for the turf but that the horse is in good form and there really wasn’t another logical spot to run.
William Reed’s Calhoun-trained Excess Magic comes into Saturday’s $150,000 Grand Prairie Turf Sprint at five-eighths of a mile off victory in Lone Star’s Chamberlain Bridge.
“That horse has been so solid from Day One,” Calhoun said of the 4-year-old colt. “I think this horse could be even better if he could get a little more ground. He’s a horse that you don’t find that right distance a whole lot on turf. I think three-quarters of a mile, 6 1/2 up to seven-eighths, he’d be a top horse. I think five-eighths of a mile is a little bit short for him, but he’s got enough class to get it done. Obviously things have to go just right for him to get up at five-eighths, but he’s been a very consistent horse with a tremendous turn of foot.”
More on Saturday’s stakes: Yes It’s Ginger returns
Brilliant Racing’s Yes It’s Ginger returns from Kentucky in pursuit of a repeat in last year’s $150,000 Chicken Fried Stakes at five furlongs on turf for fillies and mares. The 6-year-old mare, trained by Greg Foley, hasn’t run since Jan. 21.
The Greg Foley-trained Yes It’s Ginger returns from Kentucky to try to repeat her victory under Reylu Gutierrez in last year’s $150,000 Chicken Fried Stakes Saturday at Lone Star Park. Dustin Orona Photography
“We started talking about returning to defend our title the minute we crossed the finish line in front last year,” said Joe Kristufek, a founding member of Brilliant Racing and racing analyst for Churchill Downs and the Fair Grounds. “Ginger loved the course there, Rey (Gutierrez) gave her a great ride, and Lone Star provided excellent hospitality for our group. She wasn’t quite herself this winter at Fair Grounds, so we decided to give her a break and point to the Chicken Fried Stakes. She’s ready, but the purse has doubled and we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Shirley’s Temple, trained by Mindy Willis for owner Tye Smith, puts her 8-for-16 turf record — which includes three allowance victories over the Lone Star course this meet — on the line in the $150,000 Wasted Tears Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
More on Sunday’s stakes: Heiligbrodts’ Bling Bling Bling one to beat
Bling Bling Bling, an impressive maiden winner in the Texas Stallions Stakes Staunch Avenger Division, returns as the 6-5 favorite in the TTA Futurity colts and gelding division. Last year’s $175,000 TTA yearling sale purchase is trained by Asmussen for notable Texas owners Corinne and Bill Heiligbrodt. Asmussen has another one of the favorites in Lone Star debut winner Village Way, a $97,000 TTA 2-year-old purchase owned by Big D Thoroughbreds and Chuck Hovitz.
The Texas Thoroughbred Racing Club, in partnership with Ronnie Bruce and Ryan Duffy, earned its first victory when the Danny Pish-trained Straight Luck won by 4 1/2 lengths on June 25. Now the Racing Club — created to foster new ownership in Texas racehorses — will try to win its first stakes in the TTA Futurity.
“His last race was pretty much according to script,” Pish said. “I was really proud of the effort. He broke, put himself in a good spot and did give himself just a little bit of a breather and then kicked home the way you’d want one too. He’s trained really nice coming into the Futurity.”
The Texas Thoroughbred Racing Club, which is managed by CJ Thoroughbreds, purchased Straight Luck for $80,000 at the TTA 2-year-old sale. “A rare circumstance where a plan begins to come together,” Pish said. “Of course there were many others with the same idea. Probably the majority in the race were purchased with that idea.”
The win for the Racing Club “would be huge,” he said. “It’s really good for new owners, to get them excited and to prove that it’s possible. It’s not just a pipe dream. But I’m going to tell you, this is anybody’s race.”
The $75,000 Highlander Training Center Assault brings back the top three finishers in the June 19 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes in Kenai Bob, Stans Hookin Bull and Dust Em. Kenai Bob won the Assault last year. Owner/trainer/breeder Jaylan Clary has entered her exciting 2-for-2 Texas-bred 3-year-old Mr. Nightblinger in the mile turf stakes.
Shes Our Fastest from the Jayde Gelner barn and the Karl Broberg-trained Ima Discreet Lady, the 1-2 finishers in last year’s $75,000 Valor Farm, are both back in the stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs.
James Sills’ No Mas Tequila, winner of Lone Star’s Lane’s End Danny Shifflett Scholarship Stakes in her last start, is the 6-5 favorite in the $75,000 Fiesta Mile presented by Mr. Speaker at Forks Of The Paluxy, a stakes for accredited Texas-bred fillies and mares at a mile on turf.