Success Noted on All Levels for the Inaugural Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park

(Houston, Texas - Wednesday, January 30, 2013) - Saturday, January 26 was a night for the Sam Houston Race Park history books with riveting finishes in each of the four stakes, impressive handle numbers and a rewarding relationship with one of the most respected charities in the country.

It was a super showing for trainer Larry Jones who won the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic with Joyful Victory as well as the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes with Ikon Ike. Conditioner John Terranova shipped Swift Warrior in for the Grade III, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup and Bret Calhoun racked up his fourth stakes win of the meet with Tour Guide in the $50,000 Allen's Landing Stakes.

Joyful Victory, with riding ace Rosie Napravnik in the irons, covered the mile and one-sixteenth feature, over a fast track, in a final time of 1:42.30. The previous track record of 1:42.74 was set on February 13, 1999 by Desert Air.

Jones reports that both Joyful Victory and Ikon Ike came out of their stakes in good order.

"Ikon Ike had cleaned his feed bucket before Joyful Victory went to the starting gate," said Jones.

Both left Sam Houston at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday morning and arrived safely back to Jones' Fair Grounds barn that afternoon. Joyful Victory is under consideration for the Grade 1, Santa Margarita at Santa Anita, and Ikon Ike will likely make one more turf start at Fair Grounds.

"It was a very good comeback race for Joyful Victory," stated Jones. "I give a lot of credit to the folks at Sam Houston for creating the Houston Ladies Classic and getting the word out early. We were pointing to it right after she ran in the Chilukki (at Churchill Downs on November 3)."

It's not every day that a trainer can not only win, but break two track records.

"Both of my horses were very comfortable at Sam Houston Race Park," added Jones. "I was proud to run on two very good track surfaces."

While Joyful Victory is impressive with her graded stakes results and career earnings nearing the $1 million mark, racing fans may not have seen the best of Ikon Ike, who edged the noted turf sprint specialist Chamberlain Bridge in a final time of :56.48 seconds. Again with Napravnik aboard, the time set a new record for five furlongs on the turf; the previous record of :56.81 was set by Charming Socialite in 2006.

"He's just starting to mature and has been a nice surprise for our barn," said Jones. "He'll go to Kentucky after Fair Grounds, but our long-term plan is to send him to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. He is nearing the top level and as a four-year-old, should continue to improve."

Yet another winner for the evening was the Houston chapter of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure. The local charity served as the beneficiary for the inaugural Houston Ladies Classic and the end result was a donation of $10,335 for the Houston chapter.

The handle numbers were also very solid with a total of $2,292,000 wagered on track and at racetracks and simulcast centers across the country. Fans wagered $312,000 on the Houston Ladies Classic and $358,000 on the Connally Turf Cup. Sam Houston officials were especially pleased with the ten-horse field Connally, which was awarded graded stakes status in 2006. The 2013 Connally handle was the highest since 2006.

"It was a great evening on all fronts and we could not be more pleased," said Sam Houston Race Park president, Andréa Young. "We were proud hosts of the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas and hope that fans will return for more enjoyable racing and special events this meet."

$50,000 Bucharest Stakes Set for Saturday, February 2

Saturday's feature at Sam Houston Race Park is the $50,000 Bucharest Stakes, for accredited Texas-breds at five-furlongs over the Connally Turf Course. The field includes Cowgirl N Up, the winner of the $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes on Texas Champions weekend. The four-year-old filly, owned by Caroline Dodwell, will take on seven male rivals, including Solar Charge, who exits a second-place finish in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes. Deliverer, a nine-year-old gelding from the barn of Karl Broberg, will make his 50th career start in the Bucharest. He is three-for-three at Sam Houston, and makes his turf debut on Saturday evening.

The Bucharest Stakes is named for the late Thoroughbred sprinter Bucharest, owned by Israel Flores and trained by Amos Laborde, who set three track records at Sam Houston Race Park, including the lightening fast six furlong time of 1:08.88 on May 11, 1994, which remains the current track record.

The $50,000 Bucharest Stakes will run as the ninth race of the Saturday evening card, with a post time of 10:07 p.m. (CT).

Jockey and Trainer Standings

Glen Murphy is off to a flying start in defending his leading rider title at Sam Houston Race Park. The 44-year-old jockey has won 15 races through the first two weeks of the meet. Gerardo Mora, who was top rider in the Retama Park fall Thoroughbred racing season, is second with 8 trips to the winner's circle and Alfredo Sigala has 5 wins to date.

Steve Asmussen, who has won five leading trainer titles at Sam Houston, and Danny Pish, who has topped the standings in three meets, are tied with six wins since the meet began on January 18. Bret Calhoun as won four stakes and a total of five races to tie for second in the standings with Brent Davidson.

No live racing on Sunday

There will be no live racing on Sunday, February 3, but Sam Houston Race Park will be open for simulcasting. The 2013 Thoroughbred meet continues through Monday, March 17, with post times set for Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (6 p.m.), Sunday and Monday (1 p.m.).

Sam Houston Race Park will feature a variety of special events including:

  • 50 Cent Beer Fridays with ESPN’s Fred Faour and A.J. Hoffman featuring 50 Cent Draft Beer and $1.50 Wine Specials every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Sunday Brunch Special featuring $2 Mimosas & Bloody Marys and a $19.95 special brunch buffet in the Winner’s Circle Restaurant every Sunday. (First post 1:00 p.m.)
  • Monday Live Racing featuring FREE Admission. (First post 1:00 p.m.)
  • Food Trucks Night featuring a variety of Houston’s best food trucks on the paddock apron (February 2).
  • Dollar Day at The Park featuring $1 admission, live racing programs, hot dogs, ice cream, soda and draft beer. Free Petting Zoo. (February 16 & April 20)
  • Wiener Dog Races highlighting the fastest Wiener dogs in Houston (February 9)
  • Ladies Night where ladies get in free and enjoy $2.00 wine specials (February 23)
  • Camel & Ostrich Races featuring the wildest entertainment of the meet (March 9).
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