Opening Day for the 2023 Thoroughbred Meet is Friday, January 6

HOUSTON, TX-  The first two stakes of the 2023 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred season will take place Saturday, January 7. The $75,000 Darby’s Daughter and $75,000 My Dandy, at 5 ½ furlongs on the main track, are part of the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. Texas Stallion Stakes Series (TSSS), a set of races for progeny of nominated Texas-based stallions. The series, run at Sam Houston Race Park and Lone Star Park, honors notable Texas Thoroughbred fillies and colts and geldings.  Post time for Saturday’s program is 1:00 pm (Central). Admission is just $5.00.

Izatiz  and Come to the Party Headline the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter

Six fillies will enter the starting gate in the first stakes of the season, the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter. 

The morning-line favorite is Izatiz, a daughter of My Golden Song out of the Tiznow mare, Tiz Tiz. Bred by Billy Clevenger, she has made four starts for trainer David Gomez, beginning with a runner-up finish in the $84,000 Texas Stallion Stakes- Pan Zareta Division Last June at Lone Star Park. Jockey Maria Baca, the younger sister of Louisiana-based top rider Tim Thornton, has the return call.

“After Remington Park (where she finished seventh in the $50,000 E.L.Gaylord Memorial), we gave her a little time off to regroup,” said Gomez. “She was solid in her allowance last month at Delta Downs, which we thought would be a good prep for this. Maria fits here well and we feel that if she gets a good break, she will be right there”

Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen sends in Come to the Party, a filly by Bradester for longtime Houston-based owners Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt. She has made three previous starts, winning the $84,000 Texas Stallion Stakes- Pan Zareta Stakes on June 17 at Lone Star Park  prior to running sixth in the $150,000 Texas Stallion Futurity, also at Lone Star one month later. She will break from post position two under 2022 Sam Houston leading rider Stewart Elliott.

“We were fortunate to win the Pan Zareta,” said Asmussen. “She is a very headstrong filly and needed a break. Each of these 2-year-olds are different in their development and maturity. We are looking forward to her return to the racetrack.”  

Michael Grossman’s Waving Bye will also return off  the layoff following her maiden breaking score on July 10 at Lone Star Park. Jockey Jansen Melancon also rode the dark bay daughter of The Hunk in the Pan Zareta, where she finished fifth. 

Grossman and trainer Francisco Bravo had success at Sam Houston Race Park two years ago with another Hunk filly, Star of the North who won the 2021 Darby’s Daughter as well as the $75,000 Two Altazano Stakes. 

Two first-time starters will also run in the Darby’s Daughter: Desra Schlansky and Julie Smoak’s homebred The Next Big Bling and Stelliot’s Legacy for owners John A. Monday, Rodney Fleenor and Lynn Haverkamp.

The Darby’s Daughter will run as race four, with an approximate post time of 2:21 pm. The field from the rail, with riders and morning-line odds: Izatiz, Maria Baca, 8-5; Come to the Party, Stewart  Elliott, 3-1; The Next Big Bling, Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, 6-1; Stelliot’s Legacy, Gerardo Mora, 10-1; Waving Bye, Jansen Melancon (2-1) andBlingonmercury, Alfredo Contreras, 30-1.

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.  

Wide Open Field Entered in in the $75,000 My Dandy

An excellent group of 3-year-old colts and geldings will compete in the $75,000 My Dandy, also at 5 ½ furlongs on the main track.

Asmussen has two quality Texas-breds in the field, both owned by the Heiligbrdts.  Bling Bling Bling, a son of Too Much Bling out of the Golden Song mare Swifterthantaylor, was a six-length winner in the $81,000 TTA Stallion Series -Staunch Avenger on June 19 at Lone Star Park. Bred by Douglas Scharbauer, Bling Bling Bling  then finished fifth in the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity one month later. Asmussen reports that the colt is doing well after his freshening.

“He has a tremendous amount of talent,” stated Asmussen. “There was too much pressure early in the Futurity; he’s training well and we look forward to seeing him back on the racetrack.”

Stewart Elliott will pilot Bling Bling Bling with Rudy Guerra to ride Take My Money. Also sired by Too Much Bling, Take My Money made his debut at Lone Star Park in July, prior to making his next two starts at Remington Park. He exits a win in a $33,000 maiden special weight on September 15.

“This colt has earned the opportunity to compete at the stakes level,” added Asmussen. “Obviously, he will have to step up, but we look forward to seeing him run.”

With several entrants coming off the layoff, I’m a Cowboy certainly rates consideration for his breeder/owner GFB Racing LLC. The son of Bradester broke his maiden at first asking on June 5before finishing second to Bling Bling Bling in the Staunch Avenger. Trainer Danny Pish entered I’m a Cowboy in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer at Delta Downs on December 14 and the bay gelding rallied for third.

“We thought that the Delta race would be a good prep for the My Dandy,” said Pish. “He’s in good shape and we like our (far outside) draw, but it’s no secret that his is a very competitive race.”

J. R. Caldwell will saddle Let’s Tie One On, a son of Too Much Bling, owned by Indigo Racing. The gray gelding, bred by Brant Schafer, is one of five juveniles who competed in the Staunch Avenger last June at Lone Star Park. He broke his maiden on July 17 under rider Lane Luzzi, who has the return call this Saturday.

“That was a good effort,” explained Caldwell. “He came off the pace and Lane may have to go that route as there is a lot of speed in this stakes.”

The Idaho native, who finished third in the 2022 Sam Houston trainer standings, has plenty of entries for opening weekend as he did last year.

“I’ve changed things up over the last couple of years,” added Caldwell. “I’m blessed to have good owners who support me buying some nice Texas-breds. We load up at the TTA Sale and prepare for the Houston meet. Everything has gone smoothly since we arrived; the turf course looks great and our horses are training well on the main track.”

The field for the My Dandy, from the rail, with riders and morning-line odds: Take My Money, Rudy Guerra, 4-1; Bling Bling Bling, Stewart Elliott,3-1; Streetster, Jose Alvarez, 5-1; Let’s Tie One On, Lane Luzzi, 8-1; My Favorite Song, Weston Hamilton, 15-1; Just Whiskey, Gerardo Mora, 30-1; Little Jony, Iram Diego, 20-1; Moro Mafia, Charle Oliveros, 12-1 and I’m  A Cowboy, Alfredo Contreras, 5-2.

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.

Racehorse Ownership Seminar Set for Saturday, January 7

The Texas Thoroughbred Association is continuing its campaign to educate and recruit new racehorse owners and breeders in Texas during the Sam Houston Race Park race meet. In 2022, the TTA campaign brought 42 new Texas racehorse owners into the game. The first new owner preview event will be held during Sam Houston’s opening weekend races on Saturday, January 7, 1 pm post time. Learn all about owning and racing a Texas Thoroughbred during the event from a special guest, horse racing author and screenwriter John Perrotta. His books and novels include the Thoroughbred Investor’s Bible, Racetracker and Half A Chance. Be a guest in a suite during the races on January 7.Event hospitality includes complimentary admission, suite seating, hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks, racing program and in-suite wagering. A cash bar is available.  Attendance is limited and available first come. Advance registration is required at

Nominations for the Houston Racing Festival Close on Saturday, January 14

The Houston Racing Festival, with five stakes races offering over $800,000 in purses, will take place onSaturday, January 28 with a 1:00 pm (Central) post time.  The Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic, now in its eleventh running, anchors the Houston Racing Festival, which also includes the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup,  $100,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile, $100,000 Bara Lass and $100,000 Groovy Stakes.  Contact the Sam Houston Race Park racing office at (281) 807-8889 to nominate to the Houston Racing Festival.

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 Entertainment 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 theJockey Club.  For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit