News and Notes for January 20, 2017

J. R. Caldwell will send out multiple stakes-winner Country Candy (Intimidator – Trifolium) to take on 6 foes in the $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs at Oaklawn Park.  The filly was bred by Keith Asmussen, and purchased by Keene Thoroughbreds LLC (Danny Keene) for $65,000 from the Texas April 2-Year-Old Sale.

She has amassed $119,780 in earnings with a record of 6-3-2-1, including wins in the $65,000 Darby’s Daughter division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park in November and the $60,000 Evangeline Downs Princess S. in August.  She finished second in the $65,000 Prairie Gold Lassie S. in July and the $50,000 E. L. Gaylord Memorial S. in October.  Her only third-place finish was in the $100,000 Debutante S. at Churchill in July. 

Whiskey Eyes (Special Rate – Hay Costa) is entered in the $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies & mares, 4-years-old and up, going a mile and 1/16 on the turf at Fair Grounds.  Bred by the late H. L. Southard, the multiple stakes-placed 6-year-old runs for his daughter, Lisa Macalik and is trained by Bernie Flint.

Supermason (Grasshopper – Folksy) will run in the $70,000 Fremont Stakes for 4-year-olds and up going a mile at Delta Downs.  Bred in partnership by W. S. Farish, the 5-year-old multiple stakes winner is now owned by Brad Grady and trained by Bret Calhoun.  Given 9/2 odds, Supermason currently has a career record of 22-7-3-2 with $243,200 in earnings.

Sam E. Stevens and Sammy L. Stevens’ homebred multiple stakeswinner Ol Winedrinker Who (Sligo Bay (IRE) – Silverup) is in the field of 8 going a mile in the $65,000 Winsham Lad Handicap Stakes at Sunland Park.  The tenacious 8-year-old gelding is coming off a 3rd place finish in the $150,000 Zia Park Championship Handicap on November 23 and boasts $763,394 in earnings.

Effective January 23, 2017 and until further notice, Sam Houston Race Park will implement the following policy, which supersedes any previous policies regarding EHV-1: 

Horses NOT from Louisiana
• Horses not from Louisiana seeking admission to Sam Houston Race Park must have a current health certificate issued within 72 hours prior to arrival.

Louisiana horses NOT from the Fair Grounds
• SHRP will allow horses from Louisiana (other than Fair Grounds horses) admission onto SHRP property effective Monday 1/23/17 at 12:01am. These horses are eligible to enter into our racing card for Friday 1/27/17, (which is carded on Friday 1/20/17).
• SHRP will require a health certificate issued within the past 24 hours for any Louisiana horses to enter SHRP property until further notice.

Horses from the Fair Grounds
• Fair Grounds has announced that horses in unaffected barns will be allowed to leave their property beginning Saturday, 1/21/17.
• Therefore, SHRP will allow Fair Grounds horses to enter into our races starting on Saturday 1/28/17, (which is carded on Saturday 1/21/17). Fair Grounds horses from these unaffected barns will be allowed admission onto SHRP property starting Wednesday 1/25/17 at 12:01am
• SHRP will require a health certificate issued within the past 24 hours for any Louisiana horses to enter SHRP property until further notice.

Health Certificates
• The health certificate must include evidence of vaccination with a USDA approved modified live or killed virus vaccine for EHV-1, administered not less than 14 days and not more than 90 days prior to the date of entry. The certificate must include the date of vaccination, brand, serial number and expiration date for the vaccine.
The health certificate must also contain a statement by the issuing veterinarian that:
• the veterinarian has physically examined each horse within 72 hours (or within 24 hours for Louisiana horses) of issuing the health certificate, and the horse does not exhibit any clinical signs of the virus
• the temperature of the horse was normal at the time of the examination
• the veterinarian verified with the owner or trainer that the horse has not been exposed to a suspected EHV-1 positive horse

All trainers and horse haulers are urged to take extreme caution when transporting horses to properly disinfect and sanitize their trailers if there is any chance they may have transported an exposed horse.

Tonight marks opening night of the 2017 Thoroughbred meet and the men and women who serve our country will be entitled to Free Admission for Military (with valid ID). 

The draw for opening night took place on Friday, January 13 and nine races will be run, including three on the highly regarded Connally Turf Course. The racing office, now under the direction of racing secretary Matt Crawford, reports that over 950 horses are currently stabled on the backside.

“We had a good entry day and have welcomed a group of very loyal supporters of Texas racing as well as several new conditioners” said Crawford. “Horsemen have been pleased with the track surface during training hours and are eager to begin the 2017 live racing season.”

Sam Houston Race Park will welcome back a solid core of horsemen including Steve Asmussen, Karl Broberg, Danny Pish, Kari Craddock, Mindy Willis, Bret Calhoun and Jerenesto Torrez.

Native Texan Pish was honored at Sam Houston as leading trainer four times, and has won the title at Retama Park 17 years in a row. With horses running in each of the Texas tracks as well as Fair Grounds and Delta Downs in Louisiana, Pish had an excellent year, finishing 14th in wins for all North American Thoroughbred trainers.

Pish celebrated a career milestone of 2,000 wins on Memorial Day at Lone Star Park with U S Officer, a Kentucky-bred colt owned by Jerry Durant and Bill Jordan. The talented juvenile continued to progress throughout the year, winning the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park and placing third in the $300,000 Remington Springboard  Mile on December 11.

“I had 26 2-year-olds in training last year and honestly thought he was my second best of the crop,” said Pish. “But he has exceeded our expectations and looks like he will be a nice 3-year-old.”

U S Officer is currently training at Sam Houston Race Park with Pish pointing the handsome chestnut colt to the $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes on February 25.

The very solid jockey colony includes last year’s leading rider Iram Diego, David Cabrera, Lindey Wade, Sasha Risenhoover and Ernesto Valdez-Jimenez.

They will be joined by several returning veterans, notably Quincy Hamilton, who was leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park in 2005 and 2006 as well as 2010 title holder, Paul Nolan.  Also, DeShawn Parker, leading rider here in 2015, is recovering from a heel injury last month at Fair Grounds. He is considering returning to Houston, pending medical clearance.

One of the most inspiring comeback stories belongs to jockey Ted Gondron, who competed in every Thoroughbred meet at Sam Houston from its opening in 1994 through 2006. He celebrated his 2,000th career win on August 25, 2006 aboard Silver Wind at Retama Park. Just months later, On Friday, October 13, his fortunes changed when he broke his back in a racing spill.  Gondron, who resides in Dripping Springs, Texas, hung up his tack and did not ride for ten years, serving as an assistant trainer to Pish and working as a farrier.

It was Pish who convinced Gondron, 47, to return to the saddle last summer, which proved to be a great move for both men. His first victory came on July 22 aboard the Pish-trained Ty’s Agenda at Gillespie County Fairgrounds. Additional wins followed at Lone Star Park and Gondron tied for leading rider (with Sasha Risenhoover) at Retama Park. He completed 2016 with a record of 40 wins from 173 starts, with 28 seconds and 22 third-place finishes.

Gondron won three races on opening night at Retama Park and eight in the first weekend. Horsemen took notice and he was back in business with additional mounts at Remington Park and Delta Downs at the end of 2016.

So, after a ten-year hiatus from race riding, could the 1997 Sam Houston Race Park leading rider emerge on top in the 2017 Thoroughbred meet?

“You’ve got to have the stock,” admitted Gondron. “But I have confidence and believe I am the all-time leading rider at Sam Houston. I would love to win races this meet and pick up my 11th (leading rider) title.”

First post tonight is 7 pm and live racing gets underway on Saturday, January 21 at 6 pm. Sam Houston Race Park also presents lunch-time racing every Monday and Tuesday afternoon with a new starting post time of Noon.  Admission is free each Monday and Tuesday.

The Houston Racing Festival will return for its fifth running with a new date and post time this year. The traditional Saturday night was adjusted this year as several of the riders expected to compete will be in Florida on Saturday, January 28 for the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park.  The Houston Racing Festival will take place this year on Sunday, January 29 at 12:00 pm (Central).

The Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic is the marquee event on the richest day in Texas Thoroughbred racing. Turf specialists will compete in the Grade 3, $250,000 John B. Connally Turf Cupand the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint, $50,000 Space City Stakes and the $50,000 Houston Distaff will also be contested.

Nominations for the Houston Racing Festival will close on Wednesday, January 18 and once again, Sam Houston Race Park is proud to announce that proceeds from the Houston Racing Festival will benefit the American Heart Association.

Bradester, a Grade 1-winning millionaire, has been retired from racing and will stand his first year at stud at Valor Farm in Pilot Point, Texas. The son of Lion Heart will become the first Grade 1 winner to stand his initial season in the Lone Star State.

Bradester won 10 of 26 career starts and placed in nine others while running mostly against graded stakes company. He broke his maiden in his second career start as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, and as a 3-year-old he finished second in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby. He then earned two graded stakes win each year at ages 4, 5 and 6 with wins in the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds, Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill and Salvator Mile Stakes (G3) and twice in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2) at Monmouth Park. His Grade 1 victory came in the Stephen Foster Handicap as a 6-year-old at Churchill. He retired with a bankroll of nearly $1.2 million.

Bradester’s fee has been set at $3,500.

Mexikoma, a Grade 1-placed stakes winner by Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Birdstone, has been retired to stud and will stand his first season at Dallas and Donna Keen’s Keen Farms in Burleson, Texas. He will stand for a $1,000 fee as property of the Keens.

Mexikoma hit the board in eight of 12 starts with four victories and earnings of $339,054. His biggest victory came in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park, and he followed up that effort with a third-place run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Donn Handicap.

The 6-year-old stallion is out of the Toccet mare Toccet Over.

NOTES: Congrats to trainer Steve Asmussen won achieved his 500th career win at Oaklawn Park last Monday…The 46th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony will be televised live on TVG2 this Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. ET from Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida. In addition, live video coverage will be provided on  the following websites::; and