Emotional Farewell Stakes Win by 2019 TTA Horse of the Year Mr Money Bags in the $75,000 Spirit of Texas

HOUSTON, TX- Texas Champions Day has been one of the most memorable days of the annual Thoroughbred season since Sam Houston Race Park opened in 1994. This year’s edition on Saturday, March 23 took place on a gorgeous sunny afternoon with exceptional efforts from each of the stakes winners.  

Miss Code West Effortless Winner of $106,500 Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks

The first stakes of the Texas Day Card pitted two accomplished fillies with Miss Code West living up to her morning-line and making her Sam Houston debut a winning one in the $106,500 Texas Thoroughbred Association Oaks with ease.

Miss Code West, piloted by her usual rider Floyd Wethey, Jr., gained an early lead in the one mile and 70 yards race on the main track and controlled the pace with an easy :24.24 opening

quarter. She repelled an attack from Too Much Kiki, who briefly pulled alongside Miss Code West at the top of the stretch. The win snapped a four-race win streak for Too Much Kiki, who finished second at 2-1.

With lifetime earnings of $209,994, Miss Code West has provided a nice return as a $12,000 purchase at the 2022 TTA Yearling Sale by owners Jeffry and Julie Puryear. Bryan Hawk bred the filly in Oklahoma out of Inca Miss, by Kipling. 

“We went up to the sale at Lone Star Park to buy this filly; I’ve had several Okie-breds before,” said Jeffry Puryear.

“We love to watch her run and appreciate how well Floyd rides her; she’s all his!” Julie Puryear added.

Kevin Scholl trains the typically front-running daughter of Code West. “I didn’t realize she was going to be the morning line, but she deserved it,” said Scholl. “She was settled and ran a great race.”

Miss Code West finished her 2-year-old season undefeated in four starts, including three stakes wins at Remington Park. She has been training at Sam Houston and made her 2024 racing debut

at the Fair Grounds as the fourth-place finisher in the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, her only career loss to date.

Miss Code West ($4.20), the post-time favorite, won by two and one-half lengths with a final time of 1:42.60. Scholl is considering stake at Will Rogers Downs for his five-time winner,

Too Much Kiki and jockey Fernando Jara settled for second place in the TTA Oaks.

“No excuses; the winner is a really nice horse and the one we had to beat,” said Jara. “Kiki tried, but Miss Code West ran her race.”

The Too Much Bling filly broke last from the gate and ran wide to get into position at the top of the stretch.

“She didn’t get away as sharp as usual and then got shuffled back,” trainer Bret Calhoun said from Fair Grounds.


“That is a quality filly; we will send Kiki to Lone Star and look for a spot.”

Owner Mansfield Racing purchased Too Much Kikiat the TTA Yearling Sale in 2022 for $100,000. She  was bred by Danele Durham, out of Soft Music, by Action This Day. She has

won five of her seven career starts, including four stakes, and prepped for the Oaks with a win in the $75,000 Two Altazano Stakes on Texas Champions Preview Day in February. Her earnings now total $231,700.

Magnolia Avenue held on for third under jockey Ernesto Valdez-Jimenez. Trained by Jaylan Clary, the daughter of Tapiture is multiple stakes placed from eight lifetime starts. Respect the Valleys, LLC bred the filly in Louisiana, out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Quicaria.

She was a $45,000 purchase from the TTA Two-Year-Old Sale in 2023 after passing through the TTA Yearling Sale for $15,000. Magnolia Avenue is owned by Pat Heinsen, Kevin Knuckley, Michael Lynn Clary and Kaden Michael Clary. Contourfinished fourth, followed by Texas Moon andKentucky Angel; Cajun Doll was scratched.

Victory for Vets Impresses in $111,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby

In second $100,000 feature race of Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park, Victory for Vets rated patiently before unleashing a tremendous closing kick to win the $111,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby by nearly five lengths.

Victory for Vets ($18.80) sprung a mild upset at 8-1and covered the one mile and 70 yards in 1:42.96 under jockey David Cabrera.

Bret Calhoun trains the Tapiture colt for owner James Stodola, a Vietnam War veteran, who honors each of his Texas-breds to commemorate his service in Vietnam. 

“He ran a great race, but we had a tough path to get him ready for this,” explained Calhoun. “I had to run him on a heavy track as preparation for the Jim’s Orbit and his next race was two turns on the turf, which was not ideal. He’s a playful horse and he is still learning. He was on the wrong lead down the stretch. We’ll take him to Lone Star next.”

David Cabrera credited Calhoun for having the horse ready for this race.

“I give a lot of credit to Bret Calhoun and his team. I’ve been watching this horse since he broke his maiden last year at Lone Star Park. I felt like today he ran like an older horse, and I knew if I could get him to relax, he would run well.”

Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, presented the trophy to jockey David Cabrera on behalf of the connections.

Victory for Vets sold for $70,000 at the TTA Two-Year-Old Sale last April after passing through the ring of the TTA Yearling sale for $57,000. He was bred in Texas by AsmussenEquine.com out of the Smart Strike mare Diamondinthestream.

Victory for Vets broke his maiden at first asking at Lone Star last summer. As he searched for his second career win, he placed third in the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity at Lone Star and was second in the $75,000 Gexa Groovy Stakes at Sam Houston in January.

The colt is now two for six lifetime with $113,846 in earnings.

Runner-up Strong Promise entered the field as the high money earner after winning the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity at Lone Star. Floyd Wethey, Jr. rode the Broken Vow colt for trainer Jayde Gelner.

“He’s finally coming back to form,” said Gelner. 

The Derby was the colt’s first race since December, and his first time hitting the board since October. Strong Promise began his career with a four-race win streak across four different track and has earned $240,600 in eight starts. Strong Promise is owned by Norman Stables, LLC. He was bred in Louisiana by J. Adcock and Hume Wornall, out of the Macho Uno mare St. Jean. He sold at the TTA Two-Year-Old Sale in April for $125,000.

Mischievous M made his racing debut in the Derby for trainer Austin Gustafson, who co-owns the Runhappy colt with Linda Mazoch and Michael J. Mazoch. Leandro Goncalves was in the irons. He was bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, out of Forever Loyal, by Malibu Moon.

Classic Rick, Coastal Brink, Third Street, Sharp Lorenzo, Foo Flighter, Shakin Loose and Deacon Jones completed the field. Tiz Considered and Take Charge JJ were scratched.

Mr Money Bags Victorious in $75,000 Star of Texas Swan Song

A true Texas Champion, Mr Money Bags went out a winner in Saturday’s $75,000 Star of Texas Stakes, presented by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

The 8-year-old Silver City gelding has been a prominent feature in Texas racing with 12 career stakes wins and $784,831 earned. He will retire having finished in the top three in 28 of his 32 career starts.

The 2019 Texas Thoroughbred Association’s Horse of the Year is trained by Jaylan Clary, who took over training duties following the death of her father, Mike Neatherlin.

“It’s very emotional,” Clary said. “Mr Money Bags has meant so much to all of us, but it’s time. We are very happy to see him go out a winner!”

Mr Money Bags ran third in the $38,500 GCFA Texas Bred Stakes at Lone Star last August before enjoying a layoff. He returned to the track for the $75,000 David E. Hooper Stakes in February on Texas Champions Preview Day.

“I felt he needed his last race, but today he could do whatever he wanted,” said jockey ErnestoValdez-Jiminez. “This horse has a lot of heart. This is my best Thoroughbred, and I thank his owners for giving me such a great horse in my career!”

Mr Money Bags is owned by Erma Cobb and was bred in Texas by her late husband, Roy Wayne Cobb. He is out of the multiple stakes winning mare Miss Photogenic, by You and I.

Mr Money Bags rewarded loyal bettors with a $12.00 win payout.

Post-time favorite Too Much Action was second for trainer J.R. Caldwell and owners Jeff Scott, Penny Scott, Bradley Thoroughbreds LLC, Danielle Ferguson and Parker Ferguson.

Fernando Jara had the riding call on the 5-year-old gelded son of Too Much Bling, who prepped for Saturday’s race with a win in the David E. Hooper Stakes last month.

Too Much Action was bred in Texas by Mike Rutherford out of Quatre Rose, by Candy Ride.Quarterback Dak finished third; Dust Em and Pickingupstrangers completed the field.

Defending champion Gold Pilot was scratched.

Houston Betting Championship Set for Saturday, April 6
Sam Houston Race Park will host the inaugural Houston Betting Championship on Saturday, April 6. Two seats to the 2025 National Handicapping Championship and one entry to the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge will be awarded. This is a $2000 bankroll live money contest. There is no entry fee.  Players must wager at least $1000 on the Sam Houston Race Park live races and at least another $1000 on approximately 35 simulcast races   from Aqueduct, Keeneland, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita. Limit of 2 entries per contestant.  Contest rules and entry forms are available on shrp.com. For further information, contact mike.steindler@pennentertainment.com.