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My Miss Aurelia tops Houston Ladies Classic nominees

Sam Houston Race Park has received exceptional interest from some of the top racing leaders in the country for its newly created $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on January 26.

Twenty fillies and mares were nominated for the 1 1/16-mile Houston Ladies. The majority of nominees are graded stakes winners with collective earnings of $8.5 million.

My Miss Aurelia, the champion two-year-old filly of 2011, leads the list of nominees. Owned by Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton, the daughter of Smart Strike has won six of her eight career starts, earning $2.4 million to date. Trained by Steve Asmussen, My Miss Aurelia made her debut at Saratoga on July 22, 2011. She reeled off an impressive streak of six in a row, including three Grade 1 stakes before finishing second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic last November at Santa Anita.

Asmussen has an esteemed legacy at Sam Houston, winning five training titles as well as three leading owner honors. He has also nominated Glinda the Good, a Stonestreet Stable homebred, who captured the $100,000 Instant Racing at Oaklawn Park last April.

Book Review, bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West, is another top-caliber nominee for the Houston Ladies. She scored an impressive victory on December 26 at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 La Brea, where she defeated My Miss Aurelia. The daughter of Giant's Causeway was making her first start for Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert in the seven-furlong La Brea. Book Review has a career record of five wins from 10 starts and earnings of $594,955; the La Brea victory was her first graded stakes victory. The January 26 race date would mark Baffert's first trip to Sam Houston Race Park.

Trainer Larry Jones has nominated Joyful Victory, an Ontario-bred daughter of Tapit owned by Fox Hill Farms. She won the Grade 3 Honeybee and Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park before running fourth in the 2011 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Her four-year-old campaign was highly respectable with second and third-place finishes in five graded stakes.

Summer Applause, who made her last start in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks, is on the comeback trail for conditioner Bret Calhoun. He has targeted the Houston Ladies for the well-bred daughter of Harlan's Holiday.

Potential New York shippers include Dance Card, who has won her last four starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, and My Wandy's Girl, who won 13 races in Puerto Rico before joining Michael Hushion's barn at Aqueduct. Bill Mott, another Hall of Fame trainer, has nominated Arena Elvira who was a comeback winner in the $75,000 Ladies Handicap run on January 1 at Aqueduct. Owned by Carolyn Wilson, the Ghostzapper mare won the 2011 Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs and is closing in on the half-million earnings mark.

She's All In has earned $766,605 for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. The six-year-old mare, owned and bred by Oklahoman Robert Zoellner, has stamped her name in the Remington Park history books, winning nine races there including the last three runnings of the Oklahoma Classics Distaff.

The January 26 card will also include three additional stakes: the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, the $75,000 Champion Energy Services, and the $50,000 Allen's Landing.

"We are extremely gratified that so many prominent horsemen have taken notice of the Houston Ladies Classic," said Eric Johnston, Sam Houston Race Park's vice-president of racing. "This promises to be a highly competitive and entertaining race and we also look forward to showcasing some of the nation's top turf specialists in the Grade 3 Connally Turf Cup."

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