Trainer Mike Maker Sending Three in Pursuit of His Eighth Connally Turf Cup Victory

HOUSTON, TX- The Houston Racing Festival will take place on Saturday, January 28 with five stakes, highlighted by the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic. The second graded stakes, the Grade 3$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, attracted 12 turf specialists, including 2021 champion Spooky Channel and last year’s winner Another Mystery. Post time for the ten-race program is 1:00 pm (CT).

NBS Stable’s Spooky Channel has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice. The son of elite turf stallion English Channel out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Spooky Kitten, has won 12 of his 26 starts, with lifetime earnings of $661,722. Following his victory in the 2021 Grade 3, Sycamore at Keeneland, the Kentucky-bred gelding had an extended layoff. He returned to action last month at Fair Grounds, winning the Buddy Diliberto Memorial. Trainer Jason Barkley and his owners were pleased with the performance of Spooky Channel.

“He was training well so we decided to run him at Fair Grounds,” said Barkley. “We had considered retiring him, but he had a huge comeback effort and came out of the race really well.”

Jockey James Graham, who rode Fantasioso to a thrilling dead heat finish with Another Mystery in last year’s edition of the Connally, has the call aboard the now 8-year-old Spooky Channel. He will break from post seven.

“James is a very accomplished turf rider,” added Barkley. “The horse has a true affinity for the turf and can cover a lot of ground. We are looking forward to Saturday’s race.”

Trainer Chris Block will saddle Another Mystery,who returns for the third time in the mile and one-half Connally. The 7-year-old Illinois-bred son of Temple City ran sixth here in 2020, but closed with authority last year under rider Jareth Loveberry to catch Fantasioso at the wire. It was the first dead heat in the 27-year history of the turf championship.

“I actually thought he had won it, but we were really proud of his effort,” said Block. “He’s obviously a three-turn horse and gets better the further he goes. In 2020, he did not have the preparation we wanted, coming into the race with just ten days rest. He had a real good work at Fair Grounds (on January 21) and Jareth always puts him in good position.”

Team Block won the 2006 Connally Turf Cup with Fort Prado. They bred and campaigned Another Mystery’s dam Ioya Two, who was a Grade 3 winner.

Trainer Mike Maker has won seven of the past ten editions of the mile and one-half  stakes which is named in honor of the late Texas Governor John B. Connally. He will not make the trip to Houston this year as he will saddle  twelve on Pegasus Cup Day at Gulfstream Park. Nevertheless, Maker will be represented by three turf runners in Houston this year, notably 2020 Connally runner-up, Bemma’s Boy for owner Paradise Farm Corp. The 8-year-old son of Into Mischief will be making his 23rd career start, breaking from post position seven under Reylu Gutierrez. Kinenos, a 6-year-old by Empire Maker, will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and exits a fifth-place finish in the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens last month at Gulfstream Park for Paradise Farm Corp. and David Staudacher. Completing the Maker trio isSanford J. Goldfarb’s Bay Street Money, who will make his stakes debut under Kendrick Carmouche. He’s a 6-year-old son of Street Sense out of a Dynaformer mare Collect the Cash who will break from the far outside post

“He’s run well in Houston in the past,” said Maker of Bemma’s Boy. “Kinenos had bad luck in the Allen Jerkens, but is doing well. Bay Street Money will make his first start at this distance, but I love his pedigree.”

Carmouche, one of the most respected jockeys in North America, was born in Vinton, Louisiana and rode here as an apprentice. The 39-year-old, who is currently the second-leading rider at Aqueduct  in New York, is looking forward to his return here on Saturday.

“I rode at Sam Houston as an apprentice in 2001 and believe I won around 18 races,” said Carmouche. “It’s been a while, but I am excited about riding there again on Saturday. Sam Houston has one of the best, if not the best turf course in the country!”

Maker’s past Connally winners include Papa Bodie in 2012, Admiral Kitten in 2014; Coalport in 2015; Da Big Hoss in 2016 and a three-peat by Three Diamonds Farm’s Bigger Picture who captured the 2017-2019 editions of the turf stakes.

Trainer Joe Sharp  will send in Scarlet Fushion, a 5-year-old Curlin gelding for prominent Texas owners Brad Grady and Carl Moore Management, LLC. Jockey Adam Beschizza will guide the Kentucky-bred who  returns to turf off his third-place finish in the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes last month at Oaklawn Park.

The John B. Connally Turf was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid roster of past winners including Chorwon, Warleigh, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff,  Swift Warrior  as well as three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture.  It will run as race ten, with an approximate post time of  5:55 pm (CT).The field, from the rail, with riders and morning-line odds: Scarlet Fusion, Adam Beschizza, 8-1; Kinenos, Corey Lanerie, 15-1;  Portos, Lane Luzzi, 20-1; Devamani, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, 30-1;  Bemma’s Boy, Rey Gutierrez, 7-2; Logical Myth, Leandro Goncalves, 15-1; U S Navy Cross,  Sahin Civaci, 30-1; Risk Manager, Weston Hamilton, 20-1; Spooky Channel, James Graham, 5-2; Another Mystery, Jareth Loveberry, 9-2; Seductive U S A,  RudyGuerra, 30-1 and Bay Street Money, KendrickCarmouche, 6-1.

As previously announced, the eleventh renewal of the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic will run as the ninth race, with an approximate post time of 5:25 pm (CT). Defending champion Pauline’s Pearl leads the field, from the rail, with jockeys and morning line odds:

Fast and Feminine, Weston Hamilton (30-1); Oliviaofthedesert, James Graham (15-1); She Can’t Sing, Jareth Loveberry (7-2); Hidden Connection, Reylu Gutierrez (4-1); Pauline’s Pearl, Stewart Elliott (6-5); Sixtythreecaliber, Kendrick Carmouche (3-1) and Moon Swag, Corey Lanerie (8-1).

“We are proud of our Houston Racing Festival, which continues to attract top connections and offer an exceptional afternoon of quality racing,” said Frank Hopf, Sam Houston Race Park’s Assistant General Manager. “The live feed of  the Houston Racing Festival card will be available for free on” 

Sam Houston Race Park to Host National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Contest 

The Houston Racing Festival National Horseplayers Championship will take placeSaturday, January 28 at Sam Houston Race Park. Registration is open for the contest with a $1,000 Bankroll Live Money format on the January 28 Sam Houston card and Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.

Two seats to the prestigious National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas will be awarded, with the winner’s choice to compete in the 2023 NHC Contest, March 10-12 or the 2024 final.  For rules and additional information, click here.

About Sam Houston Race Park

Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. Owned by Penn Entertainment Inc., the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and theJockey Club.  For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please