(Houston, TX) –Sam Houston Race Park closed the curtain on its 30th anniversary Thoroughbred live racing season on Sunday, April 7. Highly competitive racing and excellent weather prevailed for the majority of the 43-day meet, which began on Friday, January 5.

In addition to very successful editions of the Houston Racing Festival on January 27 and Texas Champions Day on March 23,  Sam Houston Race Park celebrated its 30th anniversary season with video tributes to many of the historical events and revered champions since the first Class 1 race track opened in 1994.  Sam Houston Race Park hosted the 2024 Texas Racing Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony last month, with many prominent Texas racing connections in attendance and a special visit from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Bryan Pettigrew, Sam Houston Race Park’s Vice President and General Managerwas pleased with the season and looks forward to continuing the momentum into the annual Quarter Horse meet.

“In addition to our quality racing and marquee stakes days, we were pleased with the response from Houston sports fans on our events and promotions,” said Pettigrew. “We brought back Friday Night live bands and stepped up our handicapping contests, which were both favorably received. Of course, we hosted an amazing crowd for our Houston Racing Festival and look forward to welcoming them back for the each of the Triple Crown races coming up in our Quarter Horse live racing season!”

Steve Asmussen Notches His 16th Leading Trainer Title at Sam Houston Race Park

The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were presented on the final day of the meeting. Steve Asmussen won his 16th training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, furthering his respected legacy in Houston. He was honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005; 2014 -2024. 

Asmussen started 249 runners, finishing with a record of 48 wins, 36 seconds, 31 thirds and earnings of $1,260,342 He added a record-setting fifth victory in the Grade 3, $300, Houston Ladies Classic with Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Bellamore

The 6-year-old mare by Empire Maker, out of the Smart Strike mare Smart N Soft, joined the barn the Hall of Fame conditioner last November at Churchill Downs, and he cited her third-place finish in the Grade 1, Spinster as a solid prospect for the Houston Ladies Classic. Asmussen won previous editions of the Houston Ladies Classic with Midnight Bisou, Lady Apple and back-to-back victories by Pauline’s Pearl.

Bellamore was ridden to victory by Stewart Elliott, one of the top jockeys in North America. For the past four years, Asmussen and Elliott have won titles together here, Lone Star Park and Remington Park.

“Stewart brings professionalism and consistency in every race he rides,” stated Asmussen. 

But there was another rider who won races for Asmussen this season; his son Erik, beginning with his first career victory on January 5 aboard Cleat, owned and trained by his dad!

“His riding here for me made this meet very special,” he added. “We are very proud of him!”

Asmussen once again thanked his longtime assistant, Pablo Ocampo, for overseeing the day-to-day operation in Houston.

“Pablo is the longest continuous employee for me and continues to do a wonderful job,” said Asmussen of Ocampo, who will head next to Lone Star Park. 

J. R. Caldwell was second in the standings with 28 victories, including back-to-back turf stakes victories by Singapore Flash. Trainer Ronnie Cravens won 22 races and Sarah Davidson rounded out the top four conditioners with 19 winners.

Stewart Elliott Locks Up His Fourth Sam Houston Race Park Leading Rider Title 

Jockey Stewart Elliott held off a stiff bid from several talented jockeys to claim his fourth title at Sam Houston Race Park. The nationally respected veteran rode 339 winners from 215 mounts, earning $1,123,500 and finishing in the money at 41%.  

“It’s been a good meet; everything has gone well,” commented the experienced journeyman. “Rene Diaz, Fernando Jara, Floyd Wethey and Jose Alvarez have won their share of races. It’s been competitive and keeps me on my toes.”

Elliott also acknowledged the support of his wife, Lilibeth and agent Scott Hare. Eliott’s teenage son Christopher is an aspiring jockey and is on track to begin riding at the upcoming Lone Star Park meet.

In addition to his top stakes score this season aboard Bellamore, Elliott had success for other conditioners this season, including Mindy Willis, J. R. Caldwell and Sara Davidson.

Elliott, 59, will ride next at Lone Star Park. He began riding in 1981 and has a remarkable 5,665 career wins, including the victory aboard 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. Retirement talk will have to wait for now, as Elliott is truly enjoying this stage of his exceptional career. 

“It’s been great,” he acknowledged. “I’m looking forward to Lone Star and hope to keep things going.”

Floyd Wethey, Jr. had an outstanding meet, winning32 races for trainers including Scott Young, Sarah Davidson and Karen Jacks, to finish second in the standings. Fernando Jara, the regular pilot on three-time stakes winner Too Much Kiki, was a solid addition to the jockey colony with 31 firsts. Rene Diaz who rode first call for J. R. Caldwell, finished fourth with 30 trips to the winner’s circle 

L and G Racing Stables Repeats as Leading Owner

For the second year in a row, L and G Racing Stables wrapped up owner of the meet honors. The ownership group, with principal owner Genesis Castillo, races in Texas as well as Louisiana, taking leading owner honors at Fair Grounds in 2023. L and G finished with a record of 17 winners from 195 starts and purses of  $376,723.  Cesar Govea is their primary trainer. Their top earner this season at Sam Houston Race Park was Iberian Runner. The Texas-bred fared well at the stakes level, running second in the $75,000 Houston Turf and completing the trifecta in the very contentious $75,000 Richard King Turf on Texas Champions Day. L and G Racing Stables Houston  meet winners included Rumpus, Too Much Guitar and Roya.

Steve Asmussen finished second in the standings with 14 wins, followed by Henry Witt, Jr. (13) and Carl Moore Management, LLC (11).