The Houston Racing Festival, With Five Stakes including the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Will Take Place on Saturday, January 28

HOUSTON, TX—Nominations have closed for the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park. The annual event, featuring the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf will be contested on Saturday, January 28 with an afternoon post time of 1:00 pm (CT).  

Inaugurated in 2013, the Houston Ladies Classic was awarded its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016.  Each year, the mile and one-sixteenth main track feature has produced exceptional champions who advance to Grade 1 victories and capture national headlines. Joyful Victory, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, trained by Larry Jones was the first winner of the Houston Ladies Classic. Midnight Bisou, the incomparable mare who captured the 2019 edition of the championship surpassed the $7 million earnings mark with five Grade 1 victories. St. George Stable LLC’s Letruska, was the 2021 champion and went on to win five consecutive stakes, including four Grade 1 titles. She was also honored with an Eclipse Award prior to her retirement from racing and is in foal to Curlin.

This year’s Houston Ladies Classic closed with 24 nominations. Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen has nominated 2021champion Pauline’s Pearl. The Stonestreet Stables LLC homebred is a daughter of Tapit out of the Dixie Union mare Hot Dixie Chick. She followed her Houston Ladies Classic score with a win in the Grade 1, $750,000 La Troienne at Churchill Downs and has earned $1,695,200 in 15 career efforts.

Pauline’s Pearl (Coady Photography)

Asmussen, who has won 14 Sam Houston Race Park leading trainer titles, will be seeking his fourth win in the Houston Ladies Classic. In addition to winning last year’s edition, he won in 2019 with Midnight Bisou and 2020 with Lady Apple.

Another longtime supporter of Sam Houston Race Park is trainer Bret Calhoun who has nominated Hidden Connection to the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic. The Kentucky-bred filly, sired by Connect, won the 2021 Pocahontas Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, before finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) for owners Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds.

Nominations were strong for the Grade 3$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, at the distance of one and one-half miles with 46 nominations received by the Sam Houston Race Park racing office. Prominent mention goes to two past champions, who are still outstanding turf specialists. Team Block’s homebred Another Mystery won last year’s Connally in a thrilling dead heat with Fantasioso.  Trained by Chris Block, the 7-year-old son of Temple City has tested the waters against some of the top grass routers, finishing third in the Grade 2, Kentucky Turf Cup last September. In 32 starts, he has earned $562,650. 2021 Connally champion, NBS Stable’s Spooky Channel exits a victory last month at Fair Grounds in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial for trainer Jason Barkley. Sired by English Channel, the 8-year-old gelding has banked $661,722. Trainer Mike Maker, who has won the Connally a record seven times, has nominated 11 turf specialists. 

The John B. Connally Turf was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid roster of past winners including Chorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff as well as three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture.   

Also, there were 24 nominations received for the $100,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile for three-year-olds.  Previously titled the Texas Turf Mile, it has drawn highly competitive fields for the past three years. The stakes was renamed in honor of Sam Houston Race Park’s former General Manager and respected industry leader, Robert Bork, who passed away on June 11, 2021.

The draw for the Houston Racing Festival will take place on Saturday, January 21. Two Texas-bred stakes, the $100,000 Bara Lass and $100,000 Groovy, will also be contested.

The nominations for each feature can be viewed on Press releases on each of the Houston Racing Festival Stakes will be forthcoming.

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 visit