Stakes Named in Honor of Former Sam Houston Race Park President Robert L. Bork

HOUSTON, TX- The Houston Racing Festival is set for Saturday, January 27 at Sam Houston Race Park with eleven races beginning at 1:00 pm (CT). Five stakes will  be contested, highlighted by the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic  and the Grade 3$200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup.

The second turf stakes, the $100,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile is named in honor of Robert L. Bork, former Sam Houston Race Park president. The one-mile turf feature for 3 year-olds honors the heralded  president and general manager who made a tremendous impact on the racing industry, nationally and in Houston. Bork passed away on June 11, 2021 at the age of 83.

Quite a few contenders will make this a very interesting feature with Neat tabbed as the 2-1 favorite, Owned by Red White and Blue Racing LLC, the son of Constitution was bred in Kentucky by  Hidden Brook Farm & Spruce Lane Farm.  After making his debut last September at Kentucky Downs, he reeled off back-to-back wins at Fair Grounds before stepping up in the $100,000 Gun Runner. This will be the first Houton starter for trainer Rob Atras, former assistant to Robertino Diodoro, now on his own on the New York circuit.

“We didn’t have a race for him, so he tested the waters in a very tough edition of the Gun Runner (on December 23 at Fair Grounds won by the super talented Track Phantom,” said Atras.  “He ran sixth, but came out of the race very well.”

Popular rider Reylu Gutierrez has the call and will break for the far outside post.

“He can be pretty keen early,” added Atras. “Hopefully he gets a clean break and Rey can take it from there.”

Breaking to the inside of Neat will be Pink Polkadots who was an impressive debut winner on December 31 at Fair Grounds for owner Carl Moore Management LLC and trainer Joe Sharp. The filly sired by Candy Ride out of the Dynaformer mare Tafaneen, won her turf debut in gate-to-wire fashion, finishing by a margin of 

3 ½ lengths in a field of twelve.

“She’s taking on the boys after exceeding our expectations in her debut,” commented Sharp. “We thought this would be a good opportunity to get her black type and we have always respected the Houston turf course.”

Sharp has given the mount to Fernando Jara, who has already piloted a stakes winner this meet in Houston.

Hall of Fame conditioner and current Sam Houston leading trainer Steve Asmussen won Bob Bork Turf Mile in 2022 with Red Run and has two entrants in this year’s stakes: J. Kirk and Judy Robison’sCommittee of One, the high earner in the field and Card Trick, owned by Jackpot Farm, who ran two solid races at Fair Grounds in December.

“Committee of One has been training nicely for his first start as a 3-year-old,” said Asmussen. “Card Trick is coming off solid two-turn runs; he has recency on his side.”

Asmussen spoke of his admiration for Bork’s leadership at the northwest Houston racetrack.

“Mr. Bork was so instrumental here when Sam Houston opened as the first pari-mutuel racetrack in Texas,” stated Asmussen. “It absolutely would be an honor to win this race again.”

The Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile will run as the ninth race, with an approximate post time of  5:10 pm.

The field, from the rail, with riders and morning-line odds: Judge McBee, Sofia Barandela, (30-1); Malibu Rain, Freddy Manrrique, (20-1); Committee of One, Stewart Elliott (7-2); Third Street (Jose Alvarez, (30-1); Street Ready, Jose Alvarez, (20-1); Macho Grande, Lindey Wade (50-1); Illustrator,  Elvin Gonzalez, (8-1)  Card Trick, Erik Asmussen (6-1); Ruddy Buddy, Mario Fuentes (15-1);  Pink Polkadots. Fernando Jara (3-1)and Neat, Reylu Gutierrez (2-1).

Fields Set for Houston Ladies Classic and Connally Turf Cup

As previously announced, two graded stakes will be contested on the Houston Racing Festival Card, which gets underway at 1:00 pm (Central)

The twelfth renewal of the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic will run as the tenth race, with an approximate post time of 5:40 pm (CT). Last year’s runner-up Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds’ Hidden Connection returns for trainer Bret Calhoun. The field, from the rail, with jockeys and morning line odds: 

Corningstone, Fernando Jara (6-1); Appropriated Funds, Iram Diego (20-1); Dear Lady, David Cohen (9-2); Bellamore, Stewart Elliott (7-2); Perfect Wish, Floyd Wethey, Jr. (20-1); Free Like a Girl, Freddy Mannrique (3-1) and Hidden Connection, Reylu Gutierrez (9-5).

The John B. Connally Turf will close out the Houston Racing Festival card, with an approximate post time of  6:15 pm (CT).

From the rail, the entrants, with riders and morning-line odds: Catch That Party, David Cohen, (3-1);  Sword Zorro(IRE), Iram Diego, (20-1); Seductive USA, Leandro Goncalves, (30-1); Summer Lover, Richard Bracho, (50-1); Palazzi,  Freddy Manrrique, (7-2); Street Ready, Jose Alvarez, (20-1); Singapore Flash, Rene Diaz, (8-1); Dynadrive, Reylu Gutierrez (10-1), Paluxy, Floyd Wethey, Jr. (15-1); Sunlit Song, Stewart Elliott (6-1); Ocelot,  Elvin Hernandez, (12-1) and Red Run, Fernando Jara (9-2).

Jockey Meet and Greet and Silent Auction Benefitting the PDJF

Meet the jockeys riding in the Houston Racing Festival in an autograph session at Noon. Fans can bid on silent auction collector’s items such as a Secretariat Triple Crown Half Dollar, autographed pictures of Triple Crown Winners Secretariat, Justified, and American Pharoah, a Ron Turcotte signed $2 bill, lithograph prints of historical horse racing signed by George Finch Mason, and much more! The event will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) which provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.