Two Texas-Bred Features Will Kick Off the Houston Racing Festival Stakes

HOUSTON, TX-  HOUSTON, TX-  Sam Houston Race Park will host its annual Houston Racing Festival program on Saturday, January 27. The 11-race program begins at 1:00 pm (Central) and will be highlighted by the Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup. Prior to the running of the graded stakes, fans will have an opportunity to see two features for accredited Texas-breds. Fillies will compete in the $75,000 Bara Lass and their male counterparts in the $75,000 Gexa Groovy. Both will be run at the distance of six furlongs on the main track.

Wide-Open Field Set Entered in the $75,000 Gexa Groovy

Stakes action on Saturday afternoon kicks off with the running of the $75,000 Gexa Groovy with seven Texas-bred colts and geldings entering the gate in the seventh race of the program. 

The morning line favorite is Michael and Linda Mazoch’s Tiz Considered who dazzled in his debut here on January 5, much to the delight of trainer Austin Gustafson. The son by Jimmy Creed took on a full field in a six furlong maiden special weight. The uniquely marked dark brown colt with a white face and tail, angled three-wide at the half-mile pole under Freddy Manrrique to win by a margin of 1 ¾ lengths.

“He kind of surprised me with the win as he didn’t show too much in his works,” said Gustafson. “We were impressed, and he came back great. I feel the experience from that race will help him.

Foo Flighter, owned by Kenneth E. Sykes andtrained by Carlos Padilla, finished third in the $75,000 My Dandy, run here on January 6. Under rider Isaiah Wiseman, the gelded son of Sky Flight was rallying well in the 5 ½ furlong stakes, which Padilla sees as a positive heading into his second start of the year.

“We liked his effort in the My Dandy and feel like the added distance will suit him,” explained Padilla. “If no one tries to test Tiz Considered, it could be all over, but my owners and I are pleased at the way our horse is progressing.”

Other notables include James Stodola’s Victory For Vets who is trained by Bret Calhoun. The colt by Tapiture ran third to Strong Promise in the Texas Sale Futurity last July at Lone Star Park before trying the turf at Fair Grounds last month. Calhoun and Stodola teamed up last year in the Gexa Groovy with Vietnam Victory. Stodola proudly names his horses in tribute to his service in Vietnam.  He was honored with the distinguished flying cross and inducted into the Texas Veterans Hall of Fame last year. Jose Alvarez will ride . 

Danny Pish will saddle My Buddy Mel, who ran second in the Clever Trevor and fifth in the very tough Springboard Mile at Remington Park. Rene Diaz has the call aboard the Tonalist gelding, who is the high earner in the field.

The stakes is named after one of the top Texas-bred Thoroughbreds who earned over $1.3 million in his career.  Groovy was the son of Norcliffe and owned by Prestonwood Farm. He was honored with the Eclipse Award in 1987 as champion sprinter inducted into the Texas Thoroughbred Association Hall of Fame in 2001

Darby’s Daughter Winner Too Much Kiki Takes on Nine Fillies  in the $75,000 Bara Lass

A full field of Texas-bred fillies will run in the eighth race, the $75,000 Bata Lass. It was an impressive performance three weeks ago by Too Much Kiki, who notched her third career victory for owner Mansfield Racing and trainer Bret Calhoun. The daughter of Too Much Bling out of the Action This Day mare, Soft Music was bred by Danele Durham and was the sales topper at the 2022 Texas Summer Yearling Sale.

Ridden confidently by Fernando Jara,  she sat off the pace set by Special Note, gaining momentum at the quarter pole and drawing off by a margin of 3 ½ lengths. Her final time, over the fast main track, was 1:07.22.

“She is a big filly and we never saw her as a sprinter,” said Calhoun. “Her class has enabled her to overcome the shorter distances, but  this will be a good test and then we will look at two-turn stakes.”

Landon Jordan of Mansfield Racing has had success naming fillies after his daughters. He named Free Drop Maddy after his older daughter and Too Much Kiki after younger sister, Kiki.

Too Much Kiki has won two of her three starts, and heads into Saturday with lifetime earnings of $123,900.

Calhoun’s other starters are Successfulpath, who ranthird in the Darby’s Daughter for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch and  Speak Softly, a four-length debut winner here on opening night. The filly by Mr Speaker is owned by Collinsworth Thoroughbred Racing LLC.

Trainer H.B. Johnson notched his 1,000th career victory on November 5 with Russell Welch’s homebred  City Ghost. The filly by Shaman Ghost broke her maiden on May 30 at Louisiana Downs prior to running fourth in the $225,000 Debutante at Ellis Park. She will be ridden by Rene Diaz as the 3-1 second choice.

This feature honors Bara Lass, a daughter of Barachois, who was bred in Texas by Sam E. Stevens. She won 17 of her 60 starts in her career, including the 1984 Santa Monica Handicap(G3) and Barbara Fritchie Handicap(G3) before retiring with career earnings of $542,362. Throughout most of her career, the talented Texas-bred mare was trained by legendary Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

Houston Racing Festival News and Notes

Clear Skies Expected on Saturday

Rain has plagued Houston and its surrounding areas since Monday, but the forecast is promising for Saturday. There is less than a 10% chance of showers, with temperatures expected to reach 63 degrees in the afternoon.

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.

Four Seats Up for Grabs in the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Contest 

The Houston Racing Festival National Horseplayers Championship will take place Saturday, January 27 at Sam Houston Race Park. Registration is open for the contest with a $1,000 Bankroll Live Moneyformat on the January 27 Sam Houston card and Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. Four seats to the prestigious National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas will be awarded, with the winner’s choice to compete in the 2024 NHC Contest, March 15-17 or the 2025 final.  For rules and additional information, click here.

Texas Style Hat Contest

Houston Racing Festivals first annual Texas Style Hat contest on January 27th with a first-place prize of $500. The second-place prize will be a Winner’s Circle Restaurant certificate for four and third place will be a Winner’s Circle restaurant certificate for two.

Special 30th Anniversary Drink “On the Bridle” 

Enjoy our Delicious Sam Houston 30th Anniversary cocktail which consists of Vodka, Sauvignon Blanc, watermelon juice, simple syrup, lemon juice, raspberry, mint, and champagne. There will also be limited edition SHRP 30th anniversary glasses.