Texas Champions Day at SHRP to Include Auction of Retired Racehorse, Lightening Ball

Texas Champions Day is one of the biggest days of racing each year at Sam Houston Race Park. This year’s signature event will take place on Saturday, November 19. The Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) and Sam Houston Race Park present eight stakes races for Texas-bred Thoroughbreds with $500,000 in purses.

In addition to the excitement of the live racing program, there will be another very special racing story. Lightening Ball, winner of the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes in the 1999 edition of Texas Champions Day, was recently retired by his owner Bob Orth of Houston. The 9-year-old son of Marked Tree made his racing debut in 1999 and competed in 59 career starts. Orth and his wife, Pat, wanted to make sure his post-racing days were as special as his racing career in which he won nine races and set a track record at Lone Star Park in the 2000 Assault Stakes. Orth approached Lynn Rorke Reardon of LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE) and a decision was made to retire Lightening Ball in style on Texas Champions Day. The chestnut gelding will lead the post parade for the first Texas Champions Day stakes and headline the silent auction and fundraiser for LOPE.

Orth has been a Thoroughbred owner since 1997 and many of his horses were in partnership with Greg Hoffman, a fellow oil and gas business associate. Lightening Ball was bred in Texas and purchased in Ocala and has been one of the best horses Orth has ever owned.

“We were told by our trainer, Mike McEachern, that Lightening Ball’s heart was no longer in it,” said Orth. “He has been so good to us and we wanted to make sure he had a good retirement. We approached Lynn and she was excited and we hope to raise valuable funds for LOPE and more importantly, a good home for Lightening Ball. My wife and I feel that with his distinctive personality, he would make a great pleasure horse.”

In addition to the tribute and auction of Lightening Ball to qualified bidders, there will be silent auction on Texas Champions Day with an array of items to raise funds for LOPE. They include:

  • A private tour and wine tasting for 25 people at Haak Vineyards
  • Stallion season to Tinners Way, Special Rate, Marked Tree and That's Our Buck, El Amante and El Leopardo
  • One month dressage training with a top notch instructor near Dallas
  • One month board or layup at new facility near Dallas
  • Houston Polo Club VIP seating tickets for a party of 8 at a Sunday high goal match
  • One pair season ballet tickets at One World Theatre near Austin
  • Lunch for two at a chic restaurant in Fredericksburg plus kitchen tour and autographed cookbook by chef/owner
  • Package of riding lessons at the LOPE Ranch on a Texas TB
  • Photo of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo, courtesy of Coady Photograpy
  • A set of notecards and 4 prints by local equine artist

“Texas Champions Day is one the biggest events at Sam Houston Race Park,” said Eric Johnston, Sam Houston Race Park racing secretary. “We look forward to presenting an excellent racing card with eight stakes and supporting LOPE, which has done a tremendous job in finding quality owners for retired racehorses.”

LOPE is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit devoted to providing new careers for retiring racehorses of all breeds in Texas. Through its online services and ranch adoption center, LOPE has transitioned over 325 Texas ex-racehorses into new homes since 2003. To learn more about LOPE, visit their website, www.lopetx.org.

For more information on Texas Champions Day activities, call (281) 807-8760 or visit the Sam Houston Race Park website, www.shrp.com.

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