It’s been a long and interesting journey for Sam Houston Race Park. The track opened in 1994 to huge fanfare and big time racing. But an overreaching business plan led to bankruptcy and starting over.
Now, nearly 20 years later, the big-time racing envisioned for the track has arrived. Sam Houston will host the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on Saturday, in addition to the Grade III Connally Cup and two other stakes.
The Connally features a Grade I winner in King David and Grade I placed Wilcox Inn. The Champion Energy Stakes will include old-timer Chamberlain Bridge, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2010 and is still going strong at age 9.
And of course there is the Ladies Classic, which should be one of the most competitive races of the night. (Scroll down for a breakdown of the field).
It is a testament to the management and staff at Sam Houston that they have built such a successful operation. Every other surrounding state has casino dollars to supplement the purses (money that goes to the owners of the horses). It enables them to attract higher quality horses and build more successful racing operations.
Since the Texas Legislature feels it is more productive to send Texas gambling dollars to New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana, the race tracks in Texas have been forced to go into a nuke fight wielding a baseball bat.
So Sam Houston got creative, went with shorter meets and different promotions, and the result is a night like Saturday, where the eyes of the racing world will be on Houston. C.E.O. Andrea Young, VP of racing Eric Johnston and the staff deserve a lot of credit.
Some big time trainers and jockeys will be in tonight, including the highly popular rider Rose Napravnik, one of the best in the country.
It promises to be an awesome night of racing, and a portion of all ticket sales go to the Susan G. Komen foundation. So if you are looking for something to do on Saturday night, swing by Sam Houston and see big-time racing. Enjoy the adult beverages, and help support a good cause.
You will also get to see a big time sporting event and world class horse racing, something we have waited a long time for.
Breakdown of the field:
For full card selections, click HERE.
1 JOYFUL VICTORY
Career record: 15 races, 4 wins, 5 seconds, 3 thirds.
Trainer: Larry Jones
Jockey: Rosie Napravnik
The rundown: Remarkably consistent horse who has faced some of the best in America. She has finished second in Grade I races twice, and her biggest win was the Fantasy at Oaklawn last year. She will be very tough in this spot.
2 BRUSHED BY A STAR
Career record: 20-6-6-2
Trainer: Eddie Kennealy
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
The rundown: She has beaten Joyful Victory twice at Churchill Downs, and her wins include the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth as well as the G 2 Chilukki, where she bested Joyful Victory by a head. Corey Lanerie, who won ridiing titles here in the past, is in to ride. A versatile horse who can race on the lead or come from behind. Serious contender.
3 SUMMER APPLAUSE
Career record: 7-3-2-0
Trainer: Bret Calhoun
Jockey: Miguel Mena
The rundown: She was on her way to stardom last season, but hasn’t been seen since running fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. She lost by a head to the eventual Kentucky Oaks winner in the Fair Grounds Oaks and won the Grade III Rachael Alexandra in New Orleans. Calhoun is a terrific trainer and should have her ready to run.
4 SISTERLY LOVE
Career record: 3-3-0-0
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Luis Saez
The rundown: Unbeaten in three starts, this will be her toughest test by far, but she has been brilliant from the get-go and Casse is one of the best trainers in North America. She should be prominent early and will be very tough to catch. Huge chance at an upset and she will be a square price.
5 SHE’S ALL IN
Career record: 29-14-6-2
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel
Jockey: Luis Quinonez
The rundown: Oklahoma-bred has been a win machine throughout her career. Her best efforts came last year, when she was second in the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn, then romped in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne. Has won her last two in impressive fashion against Okie-bred company and the 6-year-old clearly has something left in the tank.
Career record: 19-5-3-3
Trainer: Tim Williams
Jockey: Rohan Singh
The rundown: Looking for her first stakes win, but she does have an impressive win over this surface. She will face her toughest test here, but she usually fires a good shot. If you take away that 0-for-6 mark on the turf, she has hit the board in 10 of 13 starts on the main track and won five of them.