News and Notes for March 17, 2017

Partly Mocha, owned by Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey and trained by Mike Maker was named 2017 Horse of the Meet for the Thoroughbred racing season at Sam Houston Race Park.

The 8-year-old son of Half Ours out of the Maria’s Mon mare Chocolate Mon, trained by Mike Maker, won two stakes here this season. His first score came in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint on January 29 with a rail-skimming ride by Jose Ortiz. He returned one month later in the $50,000 Bucharest Turf Sprint showing his versatility by coming off the pace and rallying off the pace for a neck victory under Colby Hernandez.

The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were also presented on the final day of the meeting. Steve Asmussen, won his ninth training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, finishing the meet with 29 wins. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Asmussen started 86 horses, finishing with a record of 29 wins, 19 seconds, 12 thirds and earnings of $377,222. He had a variety of runners, from first-time starters, turf specialists to aged veterans. His stakes winners this season included Iron Fist for the partnership of Stonestreet Stables LLC and Regis Racing in the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup; Union Jackson, also owned by Stonestreet Stables LLC, the blazing fast $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup champion and Magna Breeze, who he claimed last summer for $5,000. The 7-year-old took the $50,000 Houston Turf on February 11 in gate to wire fashion under jockey Iram Diego. 

Asmussen continues to be a loyal supporter of Texas racing. Inducted last August into the National Museum Racing Hall of Fame. He and his family reside in Arlington, Texas and his parents Keith and Marilyn operate a training center in Laredo.

“We had a really great meet; we really did,” said Asmussen. “I don’t know if people know what incredible track surfaces there are at Sam Houston. Year after year, I am able to run considerably older horses here. They come out of their races sound, with fresh legs and do well for the remainder of the year.”

The two-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner relied on his longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, to oversee the Houston barn.

“He does a tremendous job,” said Asmussen of Ocampo, who will head next to Lone Star Park. “He is the longest continuous employee I have ever had! Without a doubt, Pablo has played an important role in each of the Houston titles.”

Mindy Willis had an outstanding season, finishing second in the standings with 17 wins. Karl Broberg was third with 16 victories followed by Bret Calhoun, who won six stakes to finish with 15 wins and the second-highest earnings of $315,876. Conditioner Danny Pish rounded out the top five, saddling 14 winners.

Jockey Iram Vargas Diego repeated as leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park; the second title of his career. Diego rode 172 horses, winning the title with a record of 49 wins, 32 seconds and 22 third-place finishes. His mounts earned $597,468.

David Cabrera won 35 races to finish second in the standings for the third year in a row. DeShawn Parker was third with 27 victories and Sasha Risenhoover finished fourth with 26 winning mounts.

Texas businessman Jose Luis Espinoza won his first Sam Houston Race Park leading owner title with 11 wins. Espinoza’s horses made 30 starts this meet; his winners were a mix of maidens and allowance runners with stable star Atlantico Norte winning three of his four starts. Jernesto Torrez trains for Espinoza and they have had a long and successful association.

The title went down to the wire as Steve Asmussen was in striking distance, but finished in a tie for second with End Zone Athletics. Each had ten wins for the season.

The Texas Thoroughbred Association and Texas Horsemen’s Partnership are excited to report that five bills have been filed with the Texas Legislature this week that could benefit the Texas racing industry. 

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) filed three bills in the Senate:

SB #1971 (Co-authored by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R)) – Would create a purse matching fund from the state’s general revenue fund that is expected to increase purses by $25 million. Committee substitute language is expected to clarify specifics.

SB #1972 – Would shift Accredited Texas-Bred funds from the Texas Racing Commission’s budget and establish an escrow account for the money.

SB #1973 – Would utilize existing state tax revenue on simulcast wagers that currently goes to the Texas general revenue fund in order to help pay the costs of operating the Texas Racing Commission. Presently, all of the costs of operating the Commission are borne by the racing industry through track and occupational license fees.

Rep. John Kuempel (R) of Seguin filed two bills in the House of Representatives. Kuempel, Chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, is a longtime friend of the Texas racing industry, and his continued support is greatly appreciated. The House bills are:

HB # 3925 – Would legalize account wagering on Texas racing and create mechanisms for the Texas Racing Commission to license and regulate account wagering operators.

HB # 3926 – Would authorize purpose-driven pari-mutuel wagering at the 10 Texas facilities currently licensed to conduct live or simulcast racing. Purpose-driven pari-mutuel wagering would provide funding for enhanced bulletproof vests and body armor for all peace officers in Texas, funding to increase death benefits for the spouses and families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, and donor-directed funding for 501(c)(3) charitable organizations operating in Texas. It would also increase purse money available for racing in Texas.

It can be a long and arduous process to get a bill passed by the Texas Legislative. However, this is the first time in many years that so many beneficial bills have been filed on behalf of the Texas racing industry. We have every reason to hope some or all of the bills will be successful if we all work together. And that means we will be periodically asking for your help – starting today.

Please take a few minutes to write a letter to Sen. Lois Kolkhorst thanking her for filing SBs 1971, 1972 and 1973 and for her interest in and support for the future of the Texas Racing industry. Her contact information is below:

The Honorable Lois Kolkhorst, P. O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711

Please also write a letter to Sen. Dawn Buckingham thanking her for co-authoring SB 1971 and for her interest in and support for the future of the Texas Racing industry. Her contact information is below:

The Honorable Dawn Buckingham, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711

Finally, please also write a letter to Rep. John Kuempel thanking him for filing HBs 3925 and 3926 and for his longtime and continued support for the Texas racing industry. His contact information is below:

Rep. John Kuempel, P. O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768

It is important for our industry to let Sen. Kolkhorst, Sen. Buckingham, and Rep. Kuempel know how much we appreciate their support of a better future for the Texas racing industry. We will continue to keep you informed of any progress regarding the bills.

We are pleased to announce a supplement of six horses to the Texas 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale to be held April 4 at the Texas Thoroughbred Sales Pavilion at Lone Star Park. The supplement includes five Louisiana-breds and a Texas-bred with sires Uncle Mo, Custom for Carlos, Half Ours, Astrology, Langfuhr and Take of Ekati represented.

View the online catalog at

National lead instructor and Groom Elite Executive Director, C. Reid McLellan, PhD.will conduct his popular Trainers’ Exam Prep Class at Lone Star Park for a 17th time on April 5-7.

The Lone Star Park Trainers Exam Prep Class will be held in the chaplain’s classroom in the Lone Star Park racing office for three days immediately after the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s two-year-old in training sale on April 4. Tuition is $350, and participants that register early and pay tuition before March 24th pay a discounted rate of $299.

For more information and online registration, visit: or

Adding to the already significant list of stallions coming into Texas for the 2017 breeding season, a new farm has entered the Thoroughbred domain as Ivy Rose Equestrian Center in Cameron will stand race-bred stallions for the first time. 

The headliner of the 2017 stallion roster at Ivy Rose is multiple graded stakes winner Spellbinder, who comes to Texas from Florida. The 16-year-old stallion’s leading progeny includes Well Spelled, an earner of $364,160 who won the $100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park and the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx Racing. Spellbinder, by Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed Tale of the Cat, earned $499,057 while winning six of 29 starts. Racing almost exclusively in California, Spellbinder won the San Antonio Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita Park and the Berkeley Handicap (G3) at Golden Gate Fields. He also placed in three other graded events. Spellbinder is out of the Quiet American mare Thorough Fair, who also produced Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and sire Whywhywhy.

Ivy Rose’s remaining stallion roster features some strong pedigrees. Class Warfare is by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy out of millionaire and Grade 1 winner Take D’ Tour; Real Quiet Cat is a son of Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Real Quiet out of a winning Storm Cat daughter; and Bug a Boo Ben is a son of Awesome Again out of the Grade 1-winning Dynaformer mare Collect the Cash.

Spellbinder will stand for an introductory fee of $1,200, and Bug a Boo Ben will stand for $750. Class Warfare and Real Quiet Cat will both stand for a private treaty.