The David E. Hooper Stakes Has Been Added to the 2024 Thoroughbred Stakes Schedule
HOUSTON, TX –Sam Houston Race will kick off its 2024 live racing season on Friday, January 5 and is in final preparations for the 43-day Thoroughbred meet, which will continue through Sunday, April 7.
One of the five Texas Preview Stakes on Saturday, February 17 has been renamed to honor Hooper, who passed away on May 29, 2023, following a courageous battle with cancer. The 88-year-old had an extensive career in the horse racing industry, which included serving as executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association from 1997-2012.
He held many regulatory positions, including executive secretary of the Illinois Racing Board, and served as a steward at the state and racetrack levels in eight states. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Pete Pedersen Award from the Racing Officials Accreditation Program, which recognizes professional excellence, integrity, and benevolent consideration in the performance of their duties. Often referred to respectfully as “Judge,” Hooper was regarded widely as being fair in his stewardship and interactions with fellow horsemen, while prioritizing the ethics of the game and safety of the jockeys. He retired in 2020; his final position was at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where Hooper served as a steward.
He also served as coordinator and lecturer at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP), specializing in racing laws and enforcement, covering all aspects of regulatory oversight. Hooper was a mentor to many who came through the program. His knowledge of the industry was only surpassed by his outgoing personality and unsurpassed communication skills with racetrack administrators, breeders, trainers and jockeys in Texas and across the country.
Mary Ruyle, who assumed the position as TTA’s executive director following Hooper’s departure, is pleased that his legacy will be recognized on Texas Preview Day.
“Dave did an incredible job for our association and working with him was a pleasure,” said Ruyle. “He always looked forward to Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park and celebrating the growth and excellence of Texas racing.”
Hooper is survived by his wife of 25 years, Martha. Sam Houston Race Park officials are hopeful that Martha and his daughters, Jennifer Kash, Cindy Slachta and Suzy Hooper, will be on hand for the trophy presentation on February 17.
Retired Rider Guy Smith Takes on a New Role at Sam Houston Race Park
As we celebrate the 30th season of live racing at Sam Houston Race Park, it is always interesting to catch up with past owners, trainers and jockeys who have made an impact since the northwest Houston racetrack opened on April 24, 1994.
Jockey Guy Smith was a very solid member of the jockey colony in the early years at Sam Houston Pace Park. Last year, Smith returned as a member of the racing department, serving as stall superintendent and will have a very busy schedule for the next six months.
Injuries forced his retirement from riding in 2006, winning 1,386 races in Texas and Louisiana, with top mounts including Zarb’s Luck, Indigo Girl, Britt’s Jewell and Speakofmadness, winner of the 1997 Star of Texas, one of the annual Texas Champions Day stakes.
He has many fond memories of his wins at Sam Houston Race Park and friendships with fellow riders Ted Gondron, Paul Nolan, Larry Taylor, Don Simington, Glen Murphy, Casey Lambert and Corey Lanerie, who was Sam Houston Race Park’s leading jockey in 1995 and 1996.
“I stay in touch with almost all of the guys on Facebook,” said Smith. “It was so cool to see Corey get his 5,000th win (on October 18, 2023). I saw him recently in Kentucky. We both agreed that time has gone by so fast, but there are so many great memories of our time riding in Texas.”
Smith, 54, was born and raised in Houston, and also trained Thoroughbreds from 2007 to 2022. His experience as a jockey and trainer has prepared him well for this chapter of his career.
“It’s nice to be back home,” he acknowledged. “ We are all looking forward to an exciting meet at Sam Houston Race Park. I am very happy to be a member of this great team!”
Karen Jacks is the First Trainer to Arrive for the 2024 Sam Houston Race Park Season
The stable area is officially open for the upcoming live racing season with multiple stakes winning horsewoman Karen Jacks the first trainer to arrive. Jacks finished fourth in the 2023 trainer standings, saddling 16 winners including Imaluckycharm, winner of the Bluebonnet Turf and San Jacinto Turf Stakes; No Mas Tequila, who ran second in both turf stakes, topping the $300,000 earnings mark; Happy Sailor, who won the 2021 Bara Lass Stakes as well as 2022 Two Altazano Stakes champion Texas Thunder.
So far, 65 conditioners have shipped with a big surge expected to arrive once the Remington Park meet concludes on Friday, December 15.
Sam Houston Race Park Promotions Schedule
In addition to an exciting live Thoroughbred racing season, which will run through April 7, Sam Houston Race Park will host a 25-day Quarter Horse meet from Friday, April 19 through Saturday, June 15.
Plenty of events, promotions and food and beverage specials will be offered, with a complete list available on the Sam Houston Race Park website. Here are some of the promotions and key race dates:
BOGO Hotdogs: Every Thursday During Live Racing
Happy Hour: Every Thursday During Live Racing
Prime Fridays: Every Friday During Live Racing
Sunday Brunch: Every Sunday During Live Racing
Opening Weekend: January 5th– 7th
Houston Racing Festival: January 27th
Wiener Dog Racing: February 10th
Texas Preview Day: February 17th
Family Fun Days: March 3rd, 10th, 17th, & 24th
Camel & Ostrich Racing: March 8th & 9th
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration: March 17th
Texas Champion’s Day: March 23rd
Kentucky Derby: May 3rd & 4th
Corgi Dog Racing: May 11th
Preakness Day: May 18th
Belmont Day: June 8th
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles northwest of downtown Houston. Owned by Penn Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ – PENN), the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions for businesses, group outings and families during racing and the off-season. The track is best known for its award-winning dining and features multiple areas for fans looking for casual to upscale dining options including its Winner’s Circle Restaurant, Jockey Club, Luxury Suites and Pavilion Centre. For more information or tickets to upcoming live racing, shows and events, please visit www.shrp.com or follow on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube.