Texas Champions Weekend Kicks Off Friday at Sam Houston

shrplogoSam Houston Race Park will host its 20th Annual Live Racing Season with Thoroughbreds returning to action on Friday, January 18. Texas-breds will be featured in Texas Champions Weekend, with seven stakes set for Friday and Saturday evening.

Friday’s opening ten-race card will be highlighted by three stakes: the $50,000 Bara Lass for 3-year-old fillies; the six-furlong $50,000 Yellow Rose and the 50,000 San Jacinto Stakes with fillies and mares competing on the Connally Turf Course.

$50,000 Bara Lass Stakes

The first stakes of the evening is the $50,000 Bara Lass for 3-year-old fillies at a distance of seven furlongs, which will run as the seventh race of the card (9:36 p.m.). Trainer Steve Asmussen has entered Esscalator, owned and bred by Connie Scherr. The bay daughter of Intimadator broke her maiden at Remington Park and was a four-length winner in the $75,000 Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park on December 8.

Glen Murphy, who was the leading rider at Sam Houston last year, retains the mount aboard Esscalator, and feels that a second stakes win is well within her realm.

“She is a beautiful filly and drew a perfect post for the Bara Lass,” said Murphy. “In her last two races, she has finished with plenty in reserve, so I feel she will love the added distance. She breaks well and is all business.”

Murphy is pleased to be back in Houston and hopes to replicate hisstrong showing from the 2012 Texas Champions Weekend. He drew off to win his second leading rider title here last year, finishing the meet with 46 wins and $724,563 in purses.

“I love the city of Houston and the great racing surfaces at Sam Houston,” said the 44-year-old veteran.

The field for the Bara Lass, from the rail out is: Ide Be Special, Jeremy Collier; Molly’s Honour, Chris Landeros; Putonurpajamasnow, Rohan Singh; Esscalator, Glen Murphy; Flerte, Dakota Wood; Tastefullyxcessive, Colby

Hernandez; Platinum Song, Gerardo Mora and Early Fantasy, Alfredo Contreras.

$50,000 San Jacinto Stakes

Fillies and mares will take to the Connally Turf Course for the mile and one-sixteenth San Jacinto Stakes. Smiles Golden Song is a perfect three-for-three on the grass and makes her Sam Houston Race Park debut for trainer Larry Stroope. The 4-year-old filly was bred by her owner, Sylvia Baird and ships in off a victory in the $50,000 Fiesta Mile at Retama Park last month. Regular rider Weldon Cloninger, Jr. will guide the gray filly, who will break from the far outside post.

Green Briar Kitty with Ivan Arellano in the irons drew the rail, followed by Shezararebird, Gerardo Mora; Ataka’s Special, Jeremy Collier; Patty’s Pride, Glen Murphy; Cowgirl Cool, Dakota Wood; Im a Bear, Chris Landeros; Sera’s Tunnel, Jose Medina; Vilao, Ramon Luna; Zippy Wager, Colby Hernandez and Smiles Golden Song, Weldon Cloninger, Jr.

$50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes

Defending champion Joy’s Paradise leads the field of 12 fillies and mares in the six-furlong $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes. The 6-year-old mare is trained by Karl Broberg  and has won seven of her nine starts at Sam Houston Race Park.

Joy’s Paradise is a daughter of Taste of Paradise, out of the Dixieland Band mare, Coastalota, a multiple stakes winner for her owner and breeder, Hubert Southard. Coastalota was a Texas Champions stakes winner in 2001. Southard proudly accepted the trophy for Joy’s Paradise last year and congratulated rider Glen Murphy, who will have the return call on Friday evening.

“As an owner and breeder, Texas Champions Weekend means everything,” said Southard.

The field for the Yellow Rose, from the rail out is: Circustown Rose, Colby Hernandez; Joy’s Paradise, Glen Murphy; Ruby’s Big Band, Rohan Singh; Shewantsaprenup, Erik McNeil; Queenland, Jeremy Collier; Contucky Dirt, Gerardo Mora; Texas Country Doll, Alfredo Contreras; Color Code, Roman Chapa; Perfect Meadow, Chris Landeros and Cowgirl N Up, Larry Taylor.

The draw for the Saturday Texas Champions Weekend stakes will take place on Wednesday, January 16. The card will include the $50,000 Groovy Stakes, $50,000 Richard King Stakes, $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes and the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes.

Retired Trainer Hal Wiggins Will Take the Book of Jockey Paul Nolan

Hal Wiggins who retired as a trainer in 2009, and lives just minutes away from Sam Houston Race Park, has struck an agreement to serve as agent to jockey Paul Nolan for the 2013 Thoroughbred meet.

The extremely accomplished Wiggins enjoyed a 35-year career in which he won 840 races at racetracks including Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Ellis Park.  He was the first trainer of 2009 Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra and won the Connally Turf Cup with Chorwon in 1998 and 1999 and Rapid Proof in 2005.

Nolan was the leading rider at Sam Houston Race Park in the 2009/2010 meet and spent last year at Fair Grounds working for trainer Mike Stidham. Last summer, he won the riding title at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Canada.

“Hal and I talked about this last year,” said Nolan.  “We go way back; my wife, Sherry, worked as a groom for him at Hot Springs and Ellis Park. He’s a great guy and I am lucky that he wanted to give this a try.”

Excitement Building for the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic

Sam Houston Race Park officials are looking forward to a stellar night of racing on Saturday, January 26. The $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas will anchor an exceptional card, which will also include three additional stakes: the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup, the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes, and the $50,000 Allen’s Landing Stakes. The marquee racing event will be broadcast on HRTV, “The Network for Horse Sports”and FOX Sports Southwest.

Advance wagering for the January 26 card will be offered on Friday, January 25 and Sam Houston will offer a new wager, “The All-Stakes Pick-4”.

The Park will donate $1 for each patron to benefit the Houston affiliate of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure®.  Patrons can also show their support for the fight against breast cancer by entering the “Think Pink Hat Contest”, presented by Cadence Bank. The winner will receive $500.