Exciting Promotions Set for Houston Racing Festival on January 30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      (From SHRP)                                                            
January 18, 2022

HOUSTON, TX-  The first two stakes of the 2022 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred season will take place Thursday, January 20. The $75,000 My Dandy and $75,000 Darby’s Daughter will be run at the distance of five and one-half furlongs on the main track. Post time for Thursday’s card is 4:00 pm (Central) with the My Dandy running as the opener and the Darby’s Daughter to follow.

The Texas Thoroughbred Association sponsors the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS), a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. The series features three sets of races, each split into two divisions (colts/geldings and fillies) for a purse of $75,000 per division. The races honor notable Texas horses of the past.

Pinky Ring Bling Seeking His First Stakes Win in in the $75,000 My Dandy

The Thursday afternoon card begins with 3-year-old colts and geldings in the $75,000 My Dandy. Trainer Ronnie Cravens will saddle the 2-5 morning-line choice, Pinky Ring Bling, who will be ridden by Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, who piloted Carbon Stryker to victory in last year’s edition of the stakes.

The son of Too Much Bling will be making his sixth career start for Lone Star Racing Club. He ran third in the Texas Avenger at Lone Star Park and most recently, in the Kip Deville at Remington Park. Cravens is optimistic that the colt will win his first stakes on Thursday.

“He’s just starting to mature,” said Cravens. “ We are seeing more of a professional look to him.”

Cravens and his wife, Melodie, set up an ownership group four years ago. Jerry Cate and Big E are among the Lone Star Racing Club members and several other individuals are proud owners of Pinky Ring Bling, who was a modest $5,000 sale purchase and has already won $36,860.

“We have a nice mix of individuals in our group; some owned Quarter Horses and were interested in getting involved in Thoroughbred racing as well,” added Cravens.

Mary Rampellini, who covers racing in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico for the Daily Racing Form, reported that this would be the first stakes win for Cravens, who won his first career race in 2003.

One other note of interest is that two jockeys riding in the My Dandy share a unique status in Thoroughbred racing; both have fathers who are also active riders. Lane Luzzi, who will pilot Sam Sherman’s Bodymoor Heath, is the son of New York veteran rider Mike Luzzi.  Jansen Melancon, who will break from the rail aboard Moro Code is the son of Louisiana-based Gerard Melancon.

The field for the My Dandy, from the rail, with riders and morning-line odds:

Moro Code, Jansen Melancon, 10-1; Regal Prize, Stewart Elliott,15-1; Pinky Ring Bling, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, 2-5; Bodymoor Heath, Lane Luzzi, 9-2,and Grami’s Boy, Alfredo Triana Jr, 7-2.

My Dandy was a 1925 Texas-bred foal who boasted a lifetime record of 191 starts with 47 wins and earnings of $137,923.  A true “iron horse”, he ran from 1927 to 1935 and in 1930 made 43 starts in a single year.

Eagle Express Leads the Field in the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter

Five fillies will enter the starting gate in the second feature of the day, the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter with Eagle Express in pursuit of her second stakes victory.

Eagle Express (Dustin Orona Photography)

Bred and owned by W.S. Farish, the daughter of Eagle is trained by Steve Asmussen. The bay filly made two starts last year at Lone Star Park, winning the Texas Stallion Stakes on June 13 before running sixth in the Grade 3, Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga. She has earned $65,260 in five starts.

“She a nice filly and already a stakes winner,” said Asmussen, who has been dividing his time between Oaklawn Park and Fair Grounds. “We expect a good effort from her.”

Valor Farm in Pilot Point Texas, is well-represented in both features. Too Much Bling has topped the standings from 2013 -2019, and their stallion roster also includes Braedster, My Golden Song, Competitive Edge and first crop sire, Eagle.

“Eagle is a son of Candy Ride and we have always respected the quality of horses bred by Mr. Farish,” added Asmussen, who has won 13 Sam Houston Race Park training titles.

Trainer Danny Pish has two starters in the Darby’s Daughter.  Its a Gee Thing, sired by Early Flyer, who he owns along with GFB Racing LLC  and Mike Renfro. Pish will also saddle Kim’s Texas Bling, a filly by Texas Bling, bred and owned by Halls Family Trust.

Last year’s winner, Michael Grossman’s Star of the North also captured the $75,000 Two Altazano Stakes at Sam Houston before returning to Canterbury Park. The filly by The Hunk added three more victories and a runner-up finish in the $110,00 Minnesota Oaks.  She completed her 2022 campaign with seven wins from ten starts and earnings of $299,850.

The Darby’s Daughter will run as race two. The field from the rail, , with riders and morning-line odds:

Its a Gee Thing, Danny Sorenson, 6-1; Amazonian Queen, Gerardo Mora, 4-1; Texas Thunder, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, 15-1; Eagle Express, Stewart  Elliott, 6-5,andKim’s Texas Bling, Jose Alvarez, 8-5.

Darby’s Daughter made her racing debut in 1988, winning two stakes at Louisiana Downs, the Grade 2, Miss Grillo at Aqueduct and the San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar. She retired with an impressive record of five wins from 15 starts and earnings of $435,104. 

Nominations for the Houston Racing Festival Close on Wednesday, January 19

The Houston Racing Festival with six stakes races offering over $1 million in purses, will take place on Sunday, January 30 with a 1:45 pm (Central) post time.  The Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, now in its tenth running, anchors the Houston Racing Festival,which also includes the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup,  $200,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile, $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint, $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf Stakes and $75,000 Stonerside Sprint.

The draw for the 2022 Houston Racing Festival card will take place on Sunday, January 23.

Houston Racing Festival Promotions Announced

In addition to a stellar afternoon of racing, Sam Houston Race Park will offer a number of promotions for the Houston Racing Festival. The gates will open at 10:30 am (Central) with FREE admission.

The popular $5,000 Giveaway returns with all fans eligible to register for a drawing to win $5,000. Finalists will be drawn prior to the running of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic and will each wear the saddle cloth vest of one of the fillies entered in the prestigious race. Last year, David Sanders of Tomball, Texas, was fortunate in drawing the #7 Letruska, who went on to national fame in Grade 1 competition throughout 2021.

Ladies and gentlemen in their most festive “H-Town” attire will be able to pose for pictures under the Red Carpet Houston Racing Festival backdrop with prizes to be awarded to the standouts. 

There will be a pre-race handicapping show with track announcer Nick Tammaro and racing analyst Jessica Paquette offered on the live feed beginning at 12:25 pm. Also, Scott Hazelton of TVG will be onsite, broadcasting each of the six stakes live.

Susan Hickman will perform the National Anthem live at 1:15 pm and a Barber Shop Quartet will roam the grandstand between 3:00 – 5:00 pm.

Sam Houston Race Park will also offer a special Sunday Brunch in the Winner’s Circle Restaurant. Reservations are required by calling: 281-807-8760.

 About Sam Houston Race Park

Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston.  Owned by Penn National Gaming. Inc., the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Jockey Club.  For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit