News and Notes for March 14, 2014


Total handle for the 32-day meet increased despite one fewer race day in 2014. Overall, total handle grew from $43,917,043 in 2013 to $ 44,493,991 in 2014. Average daily handle was up 4% to $1,390,437. Monday and Tuesday afternoon racing continued to be well-received by racing fans. The strong stakes schedule drew nationally acclaimed trainers to the track, including six-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner Todd Pletcher and the Maxxam Gold Cup Racing Festival on March 1 produced a record-setting handle of $1,960,452.

Racing fans in Houston and across the country lauded the track for its industry-low 12% take-out of multi-race wagers including the Pick 3 and Pick 4. This marked the second year in a row with increases in handle of these wagers. An average of $159,655 per day was wagered in multi-race wagers, an increase of 56%.

Daily purses were up 3% from 2013 to $174,000 per day, compared to $170,000 in 2013.

Live attendance for Friday and Saturday was up with a daily average of 6,182, 20% over the 5,051 daily average from 2013. On March 7 & 8, the track hosted the third annual Camel and Ostrich Races and the highly entertaining weekend attracted a crowd of 23,685, topping the record-setting attendance of 18,231 in 2013.

Texas-bred Triumph and Song, winner of three stakes during the 2014 Thoroughbred racing season, was named Horse of the Meet.

Trainer Karl Broberg claimed Triumph and Song for $40,000 at Fair Grounds for owners H and H Ranch in December. The striking gray made his first appearance in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes for Texas-breds here on January 18, never relinquishing the lead in the six-furlong sprint. Just three weeks later, he made his turf debut in the $50,000 Bucharest Stakes, again against Texas-breds, scoring an impressive victory in gate-to-wire fashion. On February 22, the talented gelding won his third stakes of the meet, blazing to the wire of the six furlong $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup Stakes against open company in 1:09.39.

Triumph and Song will ship to Lone Star Park to defend his title in the Premiere Stakes. Bred by Victoria Ashford and Dr. Troy Carmichael, he has now won 9 of 16 career starts with earnings of $250,556.

The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were also presented on the final day of the meeting.  Jockey Gerardo Mora notched his second SHRP leading rider title. Defending his record was no easy feat, with a very competitive jockey colony with many returning riders and the first appearance of top Mountaineer Park rider Deshawn Parker.

Mora and Parker battled to the wire for leading rider honors, entering into the final two days of the meet tied with 34 wins each. Mora was able to win his second SHRP riding title with 38 trips to the winner’s circle, edging Parker by just one win. He has also claimed the 2012 and 2013 leading Thoroughbred rider titles at Retama Park and will head to Lone Star Park next.

Texas businessman and TTA member Danny Keene won his first SHRP leading owner title with 17 wins. He shipped in 36 starters, with the majority trained by Joseph Smith.  Keene’s winners were a mix of maidens, allowance runners and stakes horses.

Keene, who owns a plumbing contractor company in McKinney, Texas, has been involved in Thoroughbred racing for less than four years. He was honored as owner of the meet last summer at Lone Star Park, and was very pleased with his success this year in Houston.

“My goal was to come here and win the title, but I had a goal of 25% wins and 60% in the money,” said Keene. “I have a good crew and a great trainer. We get a kick out of racing. We love horses; doesn’t matter if they are claimers or stakes horses. I have some good 2-year-olds coming up.”

Steve Asmussen won his sixth training title, finishing the meet with 29 wins. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. The two-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner gave credit to his longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, who has worked for him since 1993.

“He is my longest continuous employee,” said Asmussen of Ocampo, who ran the Houston string and will head next to Lone Star Park.

“Running in Texas is important to me and my family,” added Asmussen. “I am also grateful to Mr. (Will S.) Farish for continuing to breed in Texas and keeping some quality stallions in the state.”

Asmussen was one of 10 finalists recently announced on the National Museum of Racing’s 2014 Hall of Fame ballot. The inductees will be notified on April 25 and the induction ceremony will be held at Saratoga Springs on August 8.

He will send out Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture in the Grade 2, $600,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn. Tapiture is regarded as one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby, and he’s already proven at Churchill Downs, having won the Kentucky Jockey Club S. last fall in his final start at age 2.

The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association has released a call to action for the state’s horsemen against Louisiana House Bill 550, which would reduce the minimum number of dates at Louisiana Downs.

Current regulations state that Louisiana Downs must run 80 days, but under the proposed legislation, the track would only have to run 30. The bill also reduces the percentage of slots revenue that goes to horsemen and breeders awards.  Currently, 15 percent of slot machine proceeds to go the purse fund, and 3 percent go to breeders awards. House Bill 550 will reduce the percentage to 8 and 1, respectively.

Additionally, House Bills 493 and 714 threaten to eliminate slots proceeds to the track or breeders altogether.

NOTES: Passing legislation to tax Instant Racing Machines in Kentucky may not be as easy as it appeared; for details, check out…Believing it would not help the state’s efforts to punish cheaters and clean up racing, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed Senate Bill 252, which she felt  would weaken the authority of the New Mexico Racing Commission by giving new powers instead to a hearing officer, with “less accountability”… Hip No. 343 in the recent OBS 2YO sale, a son of Giant’s Causeway consigned by Northwest Stud, was sold to Stonestreet Stables LLC for $1.6 million. The chestnut colt, who worked an eighth in :10 1/5 at Friday’s Under Tack Session, is out of stakes winner Rebridled Dreams, who was bred by TTA Lifetime Member Jim Helzer and sold in the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Texas Summer Yearling Sale…Congratulations to Remember Me Rescue, who recently hosted the second annual Battle of the X’s, a competition showcasing off-track Thoroughbreds who have undergone 120 days of training in a new discipline…Our condolences go out to the family of TTA Lifetime Member Hugh B. Robeson of Beeville, who passed away earlier this week.