(From SHRP PRESS RELEASE)
HOUSTON, TX- Sam Houston Race Park kicked off its 2024 Thoroughbred season on Friday, January 5 and ran the first two stakes of the meet under sunny skies this afternoon. Two offspring of top Texas stallion Too Much Bling took home the trophies as favored Too Much Kiki captured the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter and Bandera Bling survived an inquiry to earn his first stakes win in the $75,000 My Dandy.
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.
Too Much Kiki Dominant in the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter
Seven fillies entered the starting gate in the first stakes of the season, the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter at a distance of five and one-half furlongs on the main track.
It was an impressive performance from 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.
“I had never ridden her before, but talked to Bret this morning and knew she was one of the better fillies in the race,” said Jara. “She did it easily; I was just the passenger!”
Longtime assistant Hernan Zamudio, known as “Pancho,” saddled the striking gray filly for Calhoun, who
was at Fair Grounds today, but was reached on the phone following the race.
“That’s her, every time,” Calhoun commented on her performance. “Her class enables her to overcome the shorter distances and I intend to run her back in the six furlong Bara Lass at Sam Houston (on January 27). “She is a big filly and we are looking forward to stretching her out later this year.”
Landon Jordan of Mansfield Racing was on hand with his daughter Kiki, for the trophy presentation.
“She’s a really good filly and we were able to purchase her at the TTA sale,” said Jordan. “I named Free Drop Maddy (winner of the 2022 Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity) for my oldest daughter, so figured I’d get I trouble if I didn’t name this one after my other daughter, Kiki!”
The victory by Too Much Kiki was the third of four starts, beginning with a three-length score in the $75,000 Texas Stallion Stakes- Pan Zareta Division last June at Lone Star Park. Sent off as the favorite, she returned $3.80 for the win, earning $44,550, to increase her lifetime bankroll to $123,900.
Highlander Training Center’s High Tone Woman, trained by Jayde Gelner rallied for second under three-time leading Sam Houston jockey Stewart Elliott. The daughter of Bradester was bred by Douglas Scharbauer.
Calhoun’s other entrant, Successfulpath, ran third, followed by Divertida, Too Much Dreaming and Special Note. Flying First Class was an early scratch.
The stakes is named in honor of Darby’s Daughterwho 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.
Determined Stretch Duel By Bandera Bling in the $75,000 My Dandy Earns His First Stakes
A very excited trio of ladies had to wait on a steward’s inquiry to see if their 3-year-old gelding had become a stakes winner. Following the review, Bandera Bling was declared the winner of the $75,000 My Dandy, also at 5 ½ furlongs on the main track.
Rider Iram Diego had the call aboard the son of Too Much Bling out of the Intimidator mare Precious Play. Folllowing his debut at Lone Star Park, the dark bay gelding made two starts at Louisiana Downs.
“He was green in his debut at Lone Star (on July 3)”, explained Diego. “Today, he was ready and ran his race.”
Bandera Bling dueled neck and neck with Hezakoolcat piloted by Fernando Jara down the lane. There was some bumping as they neared the wire, but no action was taken. The final time was 1:07.14.
Trainer Karen Jacks, who has saddled a number of stakes winners at Sam Houston Race Park, felt her charge was up for the challenge.
“He amazed me,” admitted Jacks. “There were a lot of good horses and plenty of speed. “He’s just a little “string bean” and got by them. Nothing seems to bother him; he’s maturing at the right time and blossomed today!”
The winner was bred by Julie Smoak and Desra Schlansky in Bandera, Texas, and both women were overcome with emotion when their homebred broke his maiden and became a stakes winner!
“The dam of this horse was the first one that Desi and I got together,” said Smoak. “It was a total whim to go into partnership. She got injured early, so we decided to breed her and for Bandera Bling to go out and do this today is just amazing!”
Foo Flighter completed the trifecta for trainer Carlos Padilla with Ozzies Wings YG running fourth. Silent Bling, Unbridled Bling and Marfa Sky completed the order of finish.
Bandera Bling rewarded his supporters with a win payout of $24. His record now stands at 4-1-0- $46,510. His connections are considering the $75,000 Gexa Groovy on January 27 as his next start.
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.
Jockey Erik Asmussen Tabs First Career Win on January 5 at Sam Houston Race Park
On Friday’s opening night card, jockey Erik Asmussen won his first career race aboard Cleat,owned and trained by his father, Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen. The 6-year-old gelded son of War Front was bred by Claiborne Farm. An apprentice for one month, he also won the seventh race on Saturday’s card aboard Jalen Journey, also owned and trained by his dad. Both Steve and Julie were on hand Friday evening to support Erik, whose older brother Keith is currently riding at Oaklawn Park.
“It was awesome,” said Erik. “We love the game and to share it with the people I love, meant so much!”
He spoke to his grandparents Keith and Marilyn, and, as expected, they were elated.
“They are so supportive,” he stated. “They know how much it takes to win races! It’s been great and I am learning as much as I can!”
Nominations for the Houston Racing Festival Close on Saturday, January 13
The Houston Racing Festival, with five stakes races offering over $700,000 in purses, will take place onSaturday, January 27- 1:00 pm (Central) post time. The Grade 3, $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic, now in its twelfth 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, $75,000 Bara Lass and $75,000 Gexa Groovy Stakes. Contact stakes coordinator Greg Thompson at 469-394-6330, to nominate to the Houston Racing Festival.
(ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF COADY PHOTOGRAPHY)