Defending Champions Sunlit Song, Imaluckycharm and Gold Pilot Return

HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park is proudly celebrating its 30th anniversary season of live racing. Each year, the northwest Houston racetrack hosts Texas Champions Day, a celebration of the finest Texas-breds, with seven championships to be decided on Saturday, March 23.

The ten-race program will get underway at 1:00 pm (CT) with temperatures in the 70’s and less than a 10% chance of rain! The fields for the $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks and Derby were previously announcedand can be viewed on Here is a preview of the five additional Texas Champions Day features:

Defending Champion Gold Pilot Faces Five Rivals in the  $75,000 Star of Texas

The $75,000 Star of Texas Stakes boasts a compact, but potent field of six colts and geldings at the distance of one mile on the main track. Their cumulative purse earnings are in excess of $1.6 million!

Gold  Pilot captured both the 2022 and 2023 editions of this stakes for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch. Jose Alvarez rides for conditioner Bret Calhoun who is always a force on Texas Champions Day. This will be just the second start of the year for the 7 year-old gelding sired by My Golden Song, who ran second in the David E. Hooper Stakes here on February 17.

“He has had some foot problems, so we gave him the necessary time off,” explained Calhoun. “I felt he ran a great race off the layoff.”

Too Much Action, owned by owned by Jeff Scott, Penny Scott, Bradley Thoroughbreds LLC, Danielle Ferguson and Parker Ferguson, captured the seven furlong David E. Hooper Stakes in impressive fashion for trainer J.R. Caldwell. The versatile son of Too Much Bling won the 2023 Spirit of Texas at six furlongs, but after seeing him draw off by four lengths last month, Caldwell opted to stretch the 5-year-old gelding to a mile on Saturday. Rene Diaz, who has been very successful for the Caldwell barn this year, has the mount.

“He handled seven furlongs so well, I felt he could get the mile,” said Caldwell. “I’m blessed to have these owners; they buy me great horses and it makes my job pretty easy!”

Dust Em is a multiple stakes winner owned by Carl Moore Management, LLC and trained by Karen Jacks. The 6-year-old gelding by Too Much Bling has won 11 of his 35 starts; defeating Too Much Action here on January14 prior to running fourth in the $75,000 David E. Hooper. Floyd Wethey, Jr. will be in the saddle.

Erma Cobb’s Mr Money Bags is another respected runner in the field. Bred by Mrs. Cobb’s late husband, Roy Wayne Cobb, the 8-year-old Silver City gelding was named 2019 TTA Horse of the Year and will make his 32nd career start Saturday. The striking gray has been prominent on Texas Champions Day, beginning with the 2019 Jim’s Orbit and Groovy Stakes here and has won 10 stakes with career earnings of $739,831. Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez rides for trainer Jaylan Clary.

The Star of Texas runs as race 5 (3:05 pm) with a very special winner’s circle presentation to follow. The trophy for the Star of Texas will be presented by a representative from Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, a national organization raising awareness and garnering support for accredited aftercare. The winning connections will be given a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance blanket and gift bag with branded merchandise.

As a supporter of Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Sam Houston Race Park will showcase and raise awareness for accredited aftercare throughout the entirety of the race day and race meet, including a two-day LOPE-TX event this weekend (flyer attached). As part of the TAA promotion, Sam Houston provided an “Off to the Races” VIP Experience on Texas Champions Day, where the winners will enjoy premium dining, access to the paddock and winner’s circle for the Star of Texas Stakes. 

“We are very excited to extend a warm welcome to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for our Texas Champions Day,” said Bryan Pettigrew, Vice President and General Manager of Texas Racing Operations, Sam Houston Park. “As advocates for accredited Thoroughbred aftercare, we hope that with their presence we can continue to spread their mission.”

Zavala Looking to Remain Undefeated this Year in the $75,000 Spirit of Texas

Seven accredited Texas-bred colts and geldings will take to the main track in the six furlong $75,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes.

Zavala, bred and owned by Simmons & Associates, is on a roll in 2024 with two wins at Sam Houston Race Park for trainer Jayde Gelner. The 4-year-old son of Hamazing Destiny has impressed his connections with a newfound maturity as he goes for his third consecutive win after back-to back allowance scores.

“We gave him some time off last year and brought him back as a gelding for his 4-year-old campaign,” explained Gelner. “As a young horse, he expended too much energy; this year he has shown improvement in each start. The way he pulled away at the eighth-pole (on March 9) showed how far he has come.”

Jockey Floyd Wethey, Jr. retains the mount and drew post two as the 2-1 favorite. Gelner, 22, is a third generation horseman, and is appreciative of the support from J.B. Simmons.

“Mr. Simmons is a great owner,” added Gelner. “Both my grandfather and dad trained horses for him.”  

Southwestern Racing LLC’s Chief Brady, winner of the 2022 Jim’s Orbit at Sam Houston Race Park, is a solid contender in the Spirit of Texas. The chestnut son of Bradester will make his 18th career start for trainer Shawn H. Davis, under rider David Cabrera.

“This horse runs well at the distance and loves to battle,” said Davis. “We tried to get him to come from off the pace and he did not like that!”

Bobby Brinkley is also capable of making a mark in this feature. The 6-year-old son of Shanhai Bobby is trained by 14-time leading Sam Houston trainer Steve Asmussen. Stewart Elliott has the call.

Two experienced sprinters from the barn of J. R. Caldwell are also entered. Farmers Fillies Racing’s Algebra, who completed the exacta in last year’s edition of the race, will be ridden by Fernando Jara. The 7-year-old son of Algorithms has banked $364,554 in 41 starts.

Rene Diaz will pilot Will the Thrill, who makes his stakes debut for owner Blackjack Racing. The 5-year-old Speightstown gelding has finished well in each of his three allowance races this season at Sam Houston Race Park.  

The Spirit of Texas is carded as the sixth race of the afternoon with an approximate post time of 3:35 pm

Turf Champions No Mas Tequila, Imaluckycharm and Tudela Return in the $75,000 San Jacinto  

The first of two turf stakes is next with ten experienced fillies and mares entered in the $75,000 San Jacinto at the distance of one mile on the Connally Turf  Course. 

Four of the entrants from last year’s San Jacinto return including defending champion Imaluckycharm.  Karen Jacks conditions the 5-year-old My Golden Song mare for owner Carl Moore Management, LLC. The dark bay has been prominent at the stakes level for the past three years and drew the far outside post as the 2-1 choice. With nine wins from 13 turf starts, Imaluckycharm has already earned $324,555.Regular rider  Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez will be in the saddle

Jacks also trains the very accomplished No Mas Tequila for owner James Sills. The 7-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet has made ten starts of her 31 starts at Sam Houston Race Park, winning the 2022 San Jacinto and Miss Bluebonnet. She will break from the rail under jockey Erik Asmussen.

“We were thinking it was time for No Mas (Tequila) to become a mama, but she’s not ready yet,” said Jacks. “Both mares are so talented; one is big and strong and the other is small and good. When they run in the same race, I just close my eyes and hope for the best!”

Last year longshot Tahitian Breeze, trained by Tina Hurley, rallied for second and fans can certainly not overlook Darrell Bravenec’s Tudela, winner of the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet last month on Texas Preview Day. The 6-year-old mare by Holiday Promise is trained by Jaime Castellanos and will reunite with jockey Rene Diaz. Prominent turf conditioner Mike Maker will run Gracie’s Kitten, who was bumped at the start in the Miss Bluebonnet, finishing fifth. The 4-year-old filly sired by Big Blue Kitten will be ridden by Fernando Jara and has every right to move forward in her second turf start of the season.

Eight Mares to Vie in the $75,000 Yellow Rose

Older fillies and mares will vie in the $75,000 Yellow Rose with Charriere installed as the 4-5 favorite in the six furlong main track feature.

Papillion Stables Charierre,  a 4-year-old  daughter of Congrats is trained by Andrew McKeever and will ship in from his Fair Grounds base. Sold for $34,000 in the 2021 TTA Yearling Sale, the dark bay filly has made 12 starts and will be in search of her fourth career victory.

“We gave her a break at the end of the year and turned her out,” explained McKeever. “This looked like a good spot for her and see what happens. Fernando (Jara) has options as she can take the lead or able to come off the pace.”

Breaking to the inside of Charierre will be Happy Sailor, a 5-year-old Midshipman mare, owned by  Diamond

W Racing Stable. This will be the tenth time she has run at Sam Houston, beginning with a victory in the 2021 Bara Lass Stakes. Trainer Karen Jacks will give a leg up to David Cabrera.

Other notable contenders include Billy Clevenger’s homebred Izatiz, winner of the 2023 Bara Lass here and Diamonds N Aces, who won an allowance here in January for conditioner George Bryant.

Sunlit Song and Singapore Flash Battle Once Again in the $75,000 Richard King

The second turf feature of the Texas Champions Day card is the $75,000 Richard King Stakes for 4-year-olds and upward ata mile and one-eighth on the Connally Turf Course.  Always a very exciting race, this year’s edition features many of the top turf males in Texas, including 2023 Horse of the Year Sunlit Song.

Defending champion Sunlit Song headlines the nine-horse field. The 9-year-old son of My Golden Song, bred in Texas by Carolyn Barnett is owned by Barnett and Becky Harding. The intrepid gray gelding will make his 44th lifetime start on Saturday for trainer Mindy Willis. His 2023 record was impressive with five wins and a second in 6 starts, including four stakes victories. Stewart Elliot has been one of Sunlit Song’s top riders and will break from post position seven at odds of 8-5.

“He got shuffled back in his last race and did not kick in down the lane like he usually does,” said Willis, who will also saddle Truly Danzig. “He’s been training well and all I can hope for is a good, safe trip.”

Triple V Racing LLC’s Singapore Flash, who was the runner-up in the 2023 Richard King, has rocketed into prominence this season on the Sam Houston turf. The 6-year-old gelded son of Shanghai Bobby began the year with a solid allowance victory on January 20 for trainer J.R. Caldwell and jockey Lane Luzzi. He returned in the $75,000 Houston Turf here on February 19, defeating Sunlit Song by a neck.

Claimed for $40,000 last July at Colonial Downs, Singapore Flash has only finished off the board at Sam Houston Race Park once, and with his recent win in the $75,000  Houston Turf,, has now won nine of his 32 starts and $369,506.

“Two years ago this horse underwent ankle surgery,” explained Caldwell, “He recovered well and began his 8-year-old campaign  sound and ready early in the meet. This horse really loves the Houston turf course is on top of his game!”

Their rivals include Iberian Runner owned by L and G Racing Stables, who completed the exacta in the Houston Turf for trainer Cesar Govea and Witt’s Taquito, who will break from the rail under Adrian Morales.