Native Annie Voted Horse of the Meeting for the 2004/2005 Thoroughbred Season at Sam Houston Race Park

Native Annie, winner of three stakes at Sam Houston Race Park for Houston Texans owner, Robert McNair, was voted Horse of the Meeting for the 2004/ 2005 Thoroughbred meeting.

Bred in Texas by McNair's Stonerside Stable, Native Annie was the only Thoroughbred to win three stakes this season and in doing so, improved her stellar Sam Houston Race Park record to five wins from six starts.

The 4-year-old filly is trained by Michael Stidham and captured the $75,000 Martanza Stakes on Texas Champions Day, the $40,000 Tomball Stakes on February 12 and the $40,000 Double Your Flavor Stakes on March 26. Her only career loss at Sam Houston was in the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff on January 22, where she lost by a nose to Academic Angel.

Native Annie's accomplishments in Texas earned her the Champion Filly/Mare honors last year at Sam Houston Race Park as well as the title of Texas Thoroughbred Association's 2004 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly. She has won on both turf and dirt and has earned $328,450 to date.

In addition to Horse of the Meet honors, Native Annie was voted Champion Filly/Mare of the Meeting as well as Champion Texas-Bred.

Leaving On My Mind, owned by George A. Wolff and trained by Danny Pish, was the winner Kentucky was voted Champion Colt/ Gelding of the Meeting. He two stakes this meeting, the $40,000 Fort Bend Stakes on April 2 as well as the $40,000 Texas Heritage Stakes on March 5. He also had two third place showings in the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile on Texas Champions Day and the $125,000 Jim's Orbit on February 19.

Rapid Proof was voted Turf Champion of the Meeting for his riveting performance in the $216,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf on April 9. Bred and owned by Dolphus Morrison of Birmingham, Alabama, Rapid Proof shipped in for the Connally off his win in the $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds last month and rallied brilliantly in the final furlong to capture the richest race of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting. Trainer Hal Wiggins picked up his third Connally Breeders' Cup Turf victory as he also conditioned Chorwon, who won the 1998 and 1999 editions of the Connally Breeders' Cup Turf.

Claimer of the Meet honors went to Stella Come Back, a 4-year-old filly, bred by John Franks in Florida. Trainer John Barger made one of the best decisions in his career last July when he claimed Stella Come Back for $5,000 at Evangeline Downs. She ran five times this meet and won each of her five consecutive races at Sam Houston Race Park for owner Len Z. Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Stella Come Back won her first race on November 19 under rider Filemon Rodriguez and subsequent four starts with Bobby Walker, Jr. aboard.

The leading owner, trainer and jockey awards were also presented on the final day of the meeting. Steve Asmussen, won his fifth training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, finishing the meet with 56 wins. He has been honored as top trainer here in 2000, 2002, 2003 as well as 2004.

Asmussen entered the final day of the meeting trailing Danny Pish by two wins, but rider Glen Murphy was able to pilot three winners, including Don't Be Cruel, who clinched the title in Sunday's tenth and final race.

"I'm lucky that Sunday was a good day for us," said Asmussen. "It was a real battle with Pish and exciting that it came down to the final race. My family is committed to breeding and running our horses here and we are proud of our record at Sam Houston Race Park."

Asmussen won six stakes this meeting, including two with Two Down Automatic. His most memorable day of the meet was on Texas Champions Day when he tied the record for wins set by Jack Van Berg in 1976. Expect Will, owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable captured the $50,000 Groovy Stakes to tie Van Berg's record. Coronado Rose was victorious at Delta Downs later than evening to give Asmussen his 497th win.

Asmussen was also honored as Leading Owner of the Meeting. His horses won 15 races and he and co-owner, Jack Grunwald picked up another ten wins.

Quincy Hamilton, who got his start in 2003 as an apprentice at Sam Houston Race Park, won 88 races and earned the Leading rider title. The son of top Quarter Horse jockey and Houston resident, John Hamilton, is making a name for himself. This is the second riding title in five months for Hamilton won 94 races at Remington Park last November and was top rider at the Oklahoma track. Hamilton won four stakes this meeting and had an amazing final two weeks, winning 20 races and two stakes on the Connally card. He piloted Peace Symbol in the $50,000 Jersey Lilly for Pish and the $50,000 Turf Sprint aboard the venerable 11-year-old Proven Cure for John Locke.

Hamilton arrived in Houston three weeks into the 2004/2005 Thoroughbred meeting with agent Monty Penny and commitments from Oklahoma trainers, Joe Offolter, Kenneth Nolan and Rick Engel. Within a very short time, he began picking up mounts for Steve Asmussen, John Locke, Danny Pish and Bret Calhoun. He won the first graded stake of his career on April 2 guiding the Arabian filly, Dixies Delight to victory in the $50,000 Sapphire Sprint.

"I never dreamed that I would win two riding titles this early in my career," admitted Hamilton. "Last fall at Remington, I thought there was no way I could beat Cliff (Berry, who had won the riding title for the past eight years). My agent kept working and getting me great mounts and we did it. I came to Houston three weeks into the meet and had no expectations. I figured that Larry Taylor and Filemon Rodriguez would be the leaders. But Monty worked really hard and things just took off for us. I couldn't have done it without him; he's the best."

2004/2005 Thoroughbred Award Recipients

Horse of the Meeting Native Annie
Turf Champion Rapid Proof
Champion Filly/Mare Native Annie
Champion Colt/Gelding Leaving On My Mind
Champion Texas-Bred Native Annie
Champion Claimer Stella Come Back
Leading Jockey Quincy Hamilton; 88 wins
Leading Trainer Steve Asmussen; 56 wins
Leading Owner Steve Asmussen; 15 wins

2004/2005 Thoroughbred Meeting End of the Meeting Figures

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