News and Notes for February 28, 2014


The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park has had a rich tradition since its first running in 1994. Past champions of the mile and one-eighth main track feature include Sir Cherokee, Valhol, Student Council and Alumni Hall. This year’s edition drew a competitive field of six with entrants from nationally prominent trainers Michael Maker, Kenneth McPeek and Todd Pletcher; who will send his first starter ever to Sam Houston Race Park.

Last year, McPeek saddled the winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup, Unstoppable U and is hoping Frac Daddy will get his first stakes win to clinch back-to-back titles. The colt will break from post position two under rider Shane Laviolette.

Leadem in Ken is another talented 4-year-old seeking his first stakes win for trainer Michael Maker and Eclipse Award owners and breeders Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey. The son of Sky Mesa has made three starts at Fair Grounds, with his most recent race a four-length allowance romp under Rosie Napravnik on February 7, who again has the mount.

This will be the first time in the history of Sam Houston Race Park that trainer Todd Pletcher has run a horse here. The six-time Eclipse Award Champion Trainer will ship in Red Rifle for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stable.  The 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway broke his maiden in his debut last March at Gulfstream Park, and will be making just his sixth career start on Saturday evening. Robby Albarado has the mount, and the veteran jockey will be seeking his fourth Maxxam Gold Cup victory, with previous wins aboard Valhol (2003); Alumni Hall (2005) and Student Council (2007).

Another Maxxam entrant is Texas-bred Texas Air, a convincing winner in the $50,000 Star of Texas Stakes here on January 18 who will break from post five under rider Dakota Wood. Allen Milligan conditions the 6-year-old gelding for owner/breeder Paul Rigali Jr. The remainder of the field includes local allowance winners, Magnum Force, trained by Dallas Keen with Glen Murphy up and Real Appeal Deal, trained by Tim Williams, with Fabio Arguello aboard.

Always Kitten, a 4-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy, has been installed as the 7-2 morning line choice in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes. Trained by Maker for the Ramseys, the bay filly will be seeking her first victory since capturing the $65,000 TaWee at Indiana Downs on October 5. Napravnik has the mount in the mile and one-sixteenth stakes, which will be run on the Connally Turf Course.

Trainer Michael Stidham will saddle Brown Eyes Blue and Every Way. Local stakes winners Smiles Golden Song and Vilao, both Texas-breds, are also entered in the Jersey Lilly. Smiles Golden Song won the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes on opening night and placed second in the $50,000 Tomball Stakes for trainer Larry Stroope.

Rounding out the field are Harpers Princess, Shezararebird, Custody, Bluegrass Sapphire and Miss Addison.

The $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for 3-year-olds going a mile sees the return of Ibaka, seeking his third consecutive win after a stellar performance in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit division of the Texas Stallion Stakes. Trained by Bret Calhoun, he will break from post position one under jockey Lindey Wade.

Ibaka will take on six rivals including morning line favorite Kowboy Boots, who ran second in the $50,000 Allen’s Landing Stakes under Rosie Napravnik. Paris Pike, Check Ride, Ring Necked, Dusty Ryder and Sea View Chico complete the field.

The Maxxam Gold cup will run as the eighth race of the Saturday evening card, which gets underway at 7:00 pm (CT). The $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for 3-year-olds at the distance of one mile is set as race 6 and the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf will run as the seventh race.

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation will fund a slate of 19 research projects worth $1,003,580 in 2014. The list includes 11 new projects and five that are in their second year, as well as three Storm Cat Career Development Awards, which are stipends of $15,000 each to young scientists.

Projects being funded include infectious disease, musculoskeletal soundness, laminitis, and respiratory (non-infectious) disease.

The 2014 allocation brings the foundation’s total impact since 1983 to $20.9 million in funding for 310 projects at 41 universities.

Florida lawmakers are poised to consider sweeping new legislation proposed on Monday by the Senate’s Gaming Committee. Three bills are proposed that would: 1) permit one destination casino each in Miami-Dade and Broward counties; 2) permit slot machine parlors at existing pari-mutuel facilities in six additional counties; 3) allow the number of Greyhound races to be reduced and create an injury reporting system for Greyhounds; 4) require that any future gambling legislation be approved by voters statewide; and 5) create a new five-member Department of Gaming Control to oversee all gambling activity in the state, effectively moving the Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the new department.

NOTES: The Texas Racing Commission’s Medication Working Group met yesterday at Sam Houston Race Park to discuss issues and hear presentations by  representatives of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) and Mindy Coleman of The Jockeys’ Guild…Hip # 8, who worked in 10 3/5 yesterday for the Barrett’s March 3rd 2YO sale is a KY-Bred Super Saver filly out of Lilly Ladue; Lilly Ladue is an Accredited Texas-bred by Chief Three Sox who  won the Texas Stallion Stakes race for 3YO fillies at Lone Star Park in 2007… Two Internet poker bills have been introduced in the California Legislature for consideration this year, but neither includes the racing industry on the short list of entities eligible for licensing…Keeneland has cataloged 125 juveniles for its April 7th 2-year-olds in training sale… NBC Sports Group and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) have reached a 10-year agreement extending NBCSG’s exclusive rights to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks through 2025…If and when legislation is approved for expanded gambling in Kentucky, Churchill Downs Inc. officials have indicated they would prefer to build a casino downtown, rather than at the racetrack itself…Another good article on Instant Racing can be found at… California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Aug. 17 that changes the requirement for a negative Coggins test for horses coming into the state from six months to one year… Remington Park closed their Thoroughbred meet with a 14% jump in handle…Congrats to Accredited Texas-bred Fiftyshadesofgold being included in the Kentucky Oaks future wager pool… Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!