If variety is the spice of life, then Saturday’s Texas Champions Day card at Sam Houston Race Park will undoubtedly prove delightful. In addition to the customary stakes races for older horses, the inaugural $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby and $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks will be part of a nine-race card.
GOLD PILOT BIDS FOR SECOND STRAIGHT STAR OF TEXAS
The heaviest favorite on the program figures to be Gold Pilot, who was installed as the 2/5 morning line choice in the Star of Texas, which goes as Race 3. A two-time winner at the meet, Gold Pilot enters off a victory in the H-Town where he put on his customary late running gambit to take command in deep stretch and power clear. His trainer, Bret Calhoun, enters the final three weeks of the 2023 stand third in the standings and has an impressive 32% strike rate.
KAREN JACKS PAIR OF SIBLINGS STAND OUT IN SAN JACINTO
When they met up on Texas Preview Day five weeks ago, Imaluckycharm scored an upset win in the Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes, turning back stablemate, and older sister, No Mas Tequila. The latter was bidding for a second straight score in that affair, and each were making their respective 2023 debuts. Trainer Karen Jacks conditions both and described watching her two star mares as a “unique experience.”
“It’s good and bad! It’s more of a nail biter than a situation where you scream and holler,” Jacks said.
Despite having been bested by Imaluckycharm last time out, No Mas Tequila is the 7/5 morningline favorite. Jacks described the elder daughter of Foxy Boss as “mean as a junkyard dog.” Perhaps that toughness will help her turn the tables.
MR MONEY BAGS BIDS FOR 6TH SAM HOUSTON STAKES WIN
A defeat in the 2022 Stonerside Sprint to eventual graded stake winner Greeley and Ben is the only blemish on Mr. Money Bags’ record at Sam Houston Race Park (6: 5-1-0). He bids for a second straight Spirit of Texas triumph against a field that includes Algebra, who was victorious when the two met in a match race last April at Lone Star Park. Mr. Money Bags has been sidelined since then, but sports an active worktab dating back to early February.
WIN MACHINE LADY AVE LOOKS TO EXTEND 5-RACE STREAK
Two years to the day since she was claimed by Caden Dean Arthur, Lady Ave will bid for her first stakes win in the Yellow Rose. Claims rarely work out this well, especially when they come for $5,000, as Arthur’s daughter of Bind has blown past $200,000 in earnings in the last 24 months. She enters on a five-race winning streak, with the two most recent scores coming at Fair Grounds. Her runner-up effort in this event a year ago was very strong, as she was forced to change running styles given the plethora of pace in that bunch. Her current form indicates that she will be very tough to beat.
Boerne is a daughter of Fed Biz who has banked over 300k in earnings, including a win in the Valor Farm in her most recent outing. A versatile race mare, she sports stakes wins against Texas breds on turf and dirt, sprinting and around two turns.
BEAT GOES ON FOR “TITAN OF THE TEXAS TURF” SUNLIT SONG
The 2/5 morning line favorite in the Richard King Stakes, Sunlit Song has won his first two starts of the 2023 Sam Houston thoroughbred meet with devastating ease, including a score in last month’s Houston Turf. After an abbreviated 2022 campaign that included two surprising defeats at SHRP, the gray son of My Golden Song is arguably better than ever.
“He had some foot issues last year so we gave hm some time off to recuperate,” trainer Mindy Willis said. “He’s my big horse and I’ve never trained one better than him. I’m excited every time that horse runs.”
Willis will also saddle Sunlit Song’s little brother, Houston Turf runner-up Truly Danzig. That son of Etesaal looks like an accomplished runner in his own right, even if he falls short of his accomplished older brother.
INAUGURAL TTA DERBY, OAKS DRAW COMPETITIVE FIELDS
The Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks goes as Race 4 on Saturday’s 9-race program and will be headedby 6/5 morning line favorite Santa Fe Gold. She hails from the high percentage barn of Bret Calhoun and enters off a win going six furlongs at Sam Houston Race Park. The runner-up from that event, Appropriated Funds, turned heads in a handy score at Sam Houston on Saturday afternoon.
Santa Fe Gold was purchased at the TTA 2021 Texas Yearling Sale for $50,000 and is a daughter of Fast Anna.
The Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby will end the 9-race program and brings together a competitive bunch of 3 year-olds. The headliner is also from the Calhoun barn, #5 RELEASE MCCRAKEN. That son of McCraken was made the 5/2 morning line favorite and enters off a win in a N1X at Fair Grounds early in December. He meets a solid group that includes stablemate Vietnam Victory, who has not been seen since winning the Groovy here at Sam Houston Race Park during the Houston Racing Festival. #4 FUNNY UNCLE has been competitive against tougher and now joins the care of Austin Gustafson for his first try in Texas.
WORLD SERIES TROPHY, ASTRONAUT RUN AT SHRP ON SATURDAY
The World Series trophy will be at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday from 12:00 PM-2:00 PMon the south apron. There will also be an astronaut run. Additional information available at shrp.com
TUNNELS TO TOWERS FUNDRAISER SATURDAY
Sam Houston Race Park is proud to host a fundraiser for the Tunnel-Towers Foundation this weekend. The foundation honors the legacy of Stephen Siller, a FDNY firefighter who lost his life after September 11, 2001. The organization supports the heroes who continue to risk life and limb in the line of duty and has recently launched a program aimed at eradicating homelessness in the veteran community.
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 the Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com