The pride of Texas breeders, owners, trainers and several Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Champions will be on full display Saturday, March 26, when Sam Houston Race Park hosts Texas Champions Day. The 10-race card will get underway at 5:55 pm (CT) with several special events planned for horseplayers and fans considering owning a Texas Thoroughbred.
Here is a link to the previously released advance on the $100,00 Richard King Turf Stakes, $100,000 Spirit of Texas and $100,000 Groovy Stakes. Below please find previews for the four remaining Texas Champions Day features.
Discreet Smile and No Mas Tequila Renew Their Rivalry in the $100,000 San Jacinto Stakes
One year ago, the $100,000 San Jacinto Stakes quickly became a two-horse race as Discreet Smile and No Mas Tequila hooked up at the top of the stretch and dueled down to the wire in one of the most exciting races of the Texas Champions Day program.
Sylvia Baird’s homebred Discreet Smile was declared the winner in the photo finish as the daughter of Discreet Cat defeated post-time favorite No Mas Tequila by a head in the mile and one-sixteenth feature over the Connally Turf Course.
Discreet Smile will return with Iram Diego in the saddle as last year’s pilot, Sophie Doyle is expecting her first child. Johnny Johnston, Jr. has taken over the training duties as the highly respected conditioner Larry Stroope suffered a heart attack and passed away on Jan. 7, 2022. Johnston and Stroope were close friends for six decades and the Texas horseman admitted that saddling Discreet Smile will be very emotional.
“It’s going to be very different without Larry,” acknowledged Johnston. “We have been working together for a long time; I handled the Texas horses while Larry ran some in Oklahoma. Many people do not know that Larry’s father, James, was one of the forces in bringing pari-mutuel racing to Texas. Larry cast a big shadow in our industry, literally and figuratively. It would mean a lot for Discreet Smile to win this for Larry.”
The multiple stakes winning 6-year-old mare will face her stiffest challenge from No Mas Tequila, who defeated ten fillies and mares here last month in the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes
The 5-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet was bred by Ronald Ellerbee and his wife, Margaret Ellerbee. Owned by James Sills and the estate of Ronald Ellerbe, she came off the layoff in top form for trainer Karen Jacks. She drew the rail and will reunite with jockey Leandro Goncalves.
“We didn’t have a prep race for her, but she was fine,” said Jacks. “Leandro has been working her and she fired fresh and ready in the Bluebonnet.”
Longshot Tahitian Breeze who rallied for second Zarelda who completed the trifecta in the Miss Bluebonnet Turf, are also entered.
The San Jacinto Stakes will run as the fifth race on the program with an approximate post time of 7:55 pm.
Defending Champion Ima Discreet Lady Returns in the $100,000 Yellow Rose Stakes
A very competitive field of fillies and mares will compete in the $100,000 Yellow Rose Stakes.
In last year’s edition, Ima Discreet Lady edged out Shes Our Fastest in a photo finish and both mares will be back in action Saturday night in the six-furlong main track feature.
Ima Discreet Lady has won 10 of her 33 career starts for owners Raymond Todd White and Duane Coker with stakes victories in the 2019 Bara Lass and 2021 Miss Bluebonnet Turf as well as last year’s victory in the Yellow Rose. The 7-year-old Discreet Cat mare was bred by Larry Huntsinger, out of the Too Much Bling mare Ima Three Blinger. Ry Eikleberry has the return call for trainer Karl Broberg and will break from the rail as the 2-1 second choice. Boerne who returns to the main track off a fourth-place finish last month on the turf, is the 8-5 morning line favorite for trainer Robertino Diodoro and jockey Lane Luzzi.
“We’ve had this mare since day one and couldn’t be happier to have her in the barn,” said Broberg. “She’s doing great and loves Sam Houston. I’m not crazy about drawing the rail, but she beat Boerne sprinting last year.”
White, who picked her out of the TTA 2-year-old in Training Sale with Broberg, credits Broberg for the success of the gray mare who has earned $414,228.
“Karl has been a blessing for us,” stated White. “He’s campaigned this filly like no other. Everything he has done with her has been perfect!”
Mark Norman and Norman Racing Stables LLC’s Shes Our Fastest will be ridden by Richard Eramia and was honored last weekend by the Texas Thoroughbred Association as 2021 TTA Champion older mare. The 7-year-old daughter of Oratory is trained by Jayde Gelner, son of conditioner Scott Gelner. A top placing would vault the accomplished mare over the $500,000 earnings mark, which would be the first for the Gelner barn.
“Shes Our Fastest is a family member for us,” said Jayde, known as JJ. “My dad and the Normans purchased her for $50,000, so to see her so close to the half-million dollar mark is really special.”
Texas Thunder Goes for her Third Stakes of the Meet in the $100,000 Bara Lass Stakes
The seventh race on the Texas Champions Day card will showcase 3-year-old Texas accredited-bred fillies in the $100,000 Bara Lass Stakes. A field of eight will compete at six furlongs on the main track.
Texas Thunder, owned by Carl Moore Management LLC has topped her rivals in both the $75,000 Darby’s Daughter on January 20 and one month later in the $75,000 Two Altazano at Sam Houston Race Park.
Bred in Texas by Robert Francis, the daughter of Bradester, will reunite with jockey Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez as she attempts to win her third stakes of the meet for trainer Karen Jacks.
“She digs in and really shows her grit, ” said Jacks. “She’s built like a Quarter Horse and runs like one. They gave her a run for the money in the Bara Lass. We are all very proud of her.”
Eagle Express, bred and owned by W.S. Farish, was named 2021 Champion 2-year-old filly by the Texas Thoroughbred Association. The daughter of Eagle broke her maiden last June at Lone Star Park and then tested very tough company in the Grade 3, Schuylerville at Saratoga. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, 13-time leading Sam Houston Race Park trainer. The bay filly exits two runner-up finishes this season, but Asmussen feels she is capable with Stewart Elliott aboard.
“She needs a better start,” said Asmussen. “If she is able to run a little cleaner, she has a good chance.”
David L. Davis’ Tolanda is another capable entrant. Sired by Bind, she has won two of her four starts and ran third in the $50,000 Zia Princess last November at Zia Park for trainer Austin Gustafson.
Defending Champion Direct Dial Faces Eight in the $100,000 Star of Texas
The final Texas Champions Day feature, the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes features another prominent Texas Champion honoree Direct Dial, who will take on eight rivals in the one-mile main track stakes.
Owner and bred by W.S. Farish, the 7-year-old by Too Much Bling and out of the Mineshaft mare Fast Find, has won 11 of his 36 career starts, banking $545,931 to date. The noted Texas-bred is a stakes winner dating back to 2018 and was honored as the Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Horse of the Year.
“He won this race last year and I believe he can recreate with positive circumstances,” stated Asmussen. “He is a gorgeous animal and one that our entire team admires and respects.”
Jockey Stewart Elliott, who won the Sam Houston riding title last year and is locked in a close battle this meet with Ry Eikleberry, looks forward to riding Direct Dial.
“He’s such a cool horse,” said Elliott. ” Nothing bothers him, and I know he can handle a mile. Last year, I asked him to settle, and he did his job. Steve puts me on great horses and makes my job easy.”
Algebra owned by Farmer Fillies Racing will break beside Direct Dial with Lane Luzzi aboard. The 5-year-old Algorithms gelding won a mile allowance here on opening weekend before finishing second to Mr Money Bags in the seven-furlong H-Town on Feb. 19.
“He ran a big race in the H-Town,” said trainer J.R. Caldwell. “We claimed him and he’s rolling along well this meet. We’re glad to be in the mile and not sprinting against Mr Money Bags!”
Kenai Bob, who was the runner-up to Direct Dial last year, is also in the field along with 2020 Jim’s Orbit champion Gold Pilot.
The Star of Texas runs as race nine with an approximate post time of 9:55 pm.
In addition to the exciting live racing card, the following promotions and special events will take place throughout the evening.
Racehorse Ownership Seminar Set for Texas Champions Day
If you have ever thought about owning a racehorse, consider attending an owner preview event at Sam Houston Race Park on Texas Champions Day. The event has been scheduled by the Texas Thoroughbred Association in conjunction with the Own & Race a Texas Thoroughbred group on Saturday, March 26, at 5:30 pm. Learn all about owning and racing a Texas Thoroughbred with insights from Fred Faour, Corey Johnsen and trainers Danny Pish and Austin Gustafson. There is no charge to attend the event, which is held on the Sam Houston Race Park suite level, but attendees must register in advance at TXRaceHorse.com.
Sam Houston Race Park to Host a NHC Contest on Saturday, March 26
Racing fans are invited to enter the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) on Texas Champions Day, Saturday, March 26. The $1,000 live money contest on the Sam Houston Race Park Texas Champions Day is open to all horseplayers who are NHC members.
The top two players with the highest accumulated bankroll will receive a berth into the 2023 NHC Championship in Las Vegas in January, 2023. Further information and an entry form is available on the NHC Handicapping Contest link the Sam Houston Race Park website: shrp.com.
Texas Champions Day Wagers and Mandatory Payouts
There will be plenty of wagering opportunities for horseplayers on the Texas Champions card. Two Pick 4 wagers will be offered, and mandatory payouts will be in effect for the early Pick 5, late Pick 5 and Space City Pick 6, which begins in race five.