December 1, 2021

Sam Houston boasts handle and attendance gains

Last updated: 3/21/13 7:37 PM

Joyful Victory was named Horse of the Meet at Sam Houston’s recently concluded stand

(Ethel Castineda/Coady Photography)

Sam Houston Race Park concluded its 20th annual live
Thoroughbred meet on Monday, and the 33-day racing season was highlighted by a
series of high profile stakes races and notable gains in both attendance and handle.

The revamped
2013 stakes schedule was anchored by the
richest Thoroughbred race in Texas and Sam Houston history. The
inaugural $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on January 26 featured
winner Joyful Victory giving a
dominating performance that garnered national attention. That was a memorable
night for trainer Larry Jones, as both Joyful Victory and Icon Ike set new track
records in their stakes victories, with the latter closing powerfully to capture the
Champion Energy Services Stakes.

Joyful Victory was named Sam Houston’s 2013 Horse of the Meet off that score. The
five-year-old daughter of Tapit drew off by 4 1/4 lengths in
winning the Houston Ladies Classic while setting a new track record of 1:42.30
for the 1 1/16-mile feature.

Swift Warrior topped a stellar
field in the Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup on the same evening for trainer
John Terranova II while Al Stall Jr.’s unbeaten Departing stamped his ticket to the
Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby with a victory in the Texas Heritage
Stakes on March 2. Sam Houston also welcomed back trainer Kenny McPeek, who
shipped in the very game Unstoppable U to win the March 2 Maxxam Gold Cup.

Daily purses rose 5 percent to $170,000 per day, compared to $162,000 in
2012. For the third consecutive year Sam Houston was able to offer the highest
purse structure since opening in 1994. In total, the meet featured 23 stakes
races with purses of $1.7 million including four new stakes for Texas-breds.

Sam Houston officials also noted increases in both on-track and total handle.
Total handle was up 2 percent, with $43,917,000 wagered compared to $43,071,000
last year. Total on-track handle from Houston fans increased 9 percent.

Monday afternoon racing continued to be well-received by racing fans. On both
February 11 and March 18, the track led the nation in handle for the live cards.
Live attendance was up 10 percent from 2012 with sizeable crowds for several of
the racing festival events. One such event, which occurred on March 9 when the
track hosted the second annual Camel and Ostrich Races, attracted a crowd of
14,818 to top the record-setting attendance of 12,389 in 2012.

Texas horseman Danny Pish had another strong showing,
winning his fourth Sam Houston training title with 27 wins. He
showcased some promising rising stars, including Platinum Song, who captured the Bara Lass on Texas Champions Weekend.

“It was a great meet,” Pish stated. “We started with
a bang, with the filly in the Bara Lass, and all in all, we kept winning races.
I was very pleased that two of my horses, Pharme’s Phire and Temparnillo, were
undefeated this meet.”

Pish, who operates a training center in Cibolo, Texas,
gave credit to his Sam Houston team, led by assistant Jasmine Daniels, for their hard
work over the last three months.

“I have to give a huge thanks to the team,” Pish said. “I
always say the owner comes first, the horse is second and everyone from my
assistant to the jockeys to the hot walkers all play big roles. Jasmine did an
outstanding job and I am proud of both Roman (Chapa) and Gerardo (Mora).”

Steve Asmussen was second in the trainer standings with 17 wins; Jack Bruner saddled 16
winners and Brent Davidson finished the meet with 11 victories.

Last year as an apprentice rider, jockey Mora impressed
horsemen and fans with his talent and finished the meet in second place to
veteran Glen Murphy. This year, Mora started strong, dueling midmeet with
Murphy, before drawing off to win his first Sam Houston leading rider
title with 47 victories.

Mora won two stakes this season, taking the Bara
Lass for Pish before going on to capture the
Auto Nation Spring on March 16 with Legal Mind for Bruner.

“I want to thank all the people that have supported me in
Houston,” Mora said. “My agent (Toby Cathey) and so many trainers named me on
great horses. I am very happy to be leading rider.”

Born in Palestine, Texas, the 20-year-old Mora had family
ties to racing as his uncle, Adrian Ramos, has ridden in Texas, Louisiana and
New Mexico since 2001. Mora began working horses in Louisiana three years ago,
and rode as an apprentice at Retama Park near San Antonio in 2011. He was the
leading rider at Retama Park in their 2012 Thoroughbred meeting and will head to
Lone Star Park to see if he can win the rare Texas triple.

Murphy was second in the standings with 38 wins. Chapa had a strong season with 26 victories and Chris Landeros finished the meet
well with a total of 22 wins.

Prominent Dallas businessman Tom Durant won his second Sam
Houston leading owner title with 16 wins. He shipped in 36 starters,
all trained by Bruner, with a mix of maidens, allowance runners and stakes
horses. Rising star Legal Mind, a three-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road, ably
stepped up to stakes company to win the Auto Nation Spring.

Durant, whose previous owner title came in 2011, was
pleased with the meet and the success of their runners.

“All of our horses were coming off lay-offs,” Durant remarked.
“We started slow, but then really took off. The meet turned out very well for

“She showed us she can do it,” he added about Legal Mind.
“Several others look they have potential to be quality stakes horses.”

Durant is the owner of Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine,
Texas, and summed up the key to his long term association with Bruner.

“I let Jack choose where to run the horses; my job is to
sell enough cars to pay for them!”

End Zone Athletics Inc. was second in the standings with
six wins. Jose Luis Espinoza, Ralls and Foster LLC and Pharme Racing Ltd. were
tied with five victories each.

Live racing will continue at Sam Houston when the 2013 live American Quarter
Horse season commences on March 28. For more information on upcoming shows,
events and tickets, please visit

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