Cassatt defends title in Houston Ladies Classic; 12 in Connally

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

January 25th, 2016

The biggest night of racing at Sam Houston takes place Saturday, and the meet's two signature features have undergone moderate but welcome changes since last year.

The richest event of the meet, the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, will be run as a Grade 3 event for the first time. The $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3), previously the only graded event held at the track, has had its distance increased from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles.

The Ladies Classic, contested at 1 1/16 miles, has attracted a field of seven fillies and mares. Cassatt, who held on to win the race last year by a neck as an odds-on favorite, seeks a successful title defense. Trained by Larry Jones, Cassatt raced just three more times after winning the 2015 Ladies Classic.

Last of six in the Santa Margarita (G1) in March, she wasn't seen again until October when fifth of seven in a Keeneland allowance sprint. Cassatt concluded her four-year-old campaign with a neck victory in the $102,000 She's All In at Remington Park.

Likely to attract more play is Forever Unbridled, who gutted out a victory in the nine-furlong Comely (G3) at Aqueduct in her three-year-old finale November 28. It was the first stakes win for the Dallas Stewart trainee, who was multiple graded-placed at Fair Grounds last winter.

Cali Star is two-for-two since joining the Marty Wolfson barn, including a three-length decision in the December 12 Rampart (G3) over a mile at Gulfstream. That victory followed a five-length allowance win at Gulfstream Park West around a two-turn mile.

Theogony, a stakes winner on Polytrack at Woodbine last season, has proven capable on dirt with seconds in the Falls City H. (G2) and $100,000 Pippin at Oaklawn in her past two starts. Welcome Aboard, a stakes winner on grass at Evangeline last summer, is similarly proficient on dirt with a 4-2-2-0 mark on fast tracks.

Diva's Diamond was well beaten in the She's All In last time, but is capable of much better. A dual stakes winner at Prairie Meadows, she was an upset second to champion Untapable in last year's Apple Blossom H. (G1).

A dozen older horses were entered in the Connally Turf Cup. Leading contenders include multiple Grade 2 winner Kaigun, three times Grade 1-placed and runner-up in the Red Smith H. (G3) and W.L. McKnight H. (G3) in his last two; Da Big Hoss, hero of the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) and most recently third in the McKnight; Big John B, a two-time winner of the Del Mar H. (G2); and Going Somewhere, who placed in the Charles Whittingham (G2) and San Juan Capistrano (G3) in his two U.S. outings last year for Neil Drysdale.

There are two other stakes on the program. The $75,000 Turf Sprint at five furlongs features multiple Grade 3 veteran Marchman, while the $50,000 Space City has attracted a field of nine three-year-olds to go six furlongs.

(Cassatt photo: Coady Photography)

Sam Houston Ladies Classic Pick 4: The $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3), the richest event of the meet, headlines an exceptional night of racing this Saturday at Sam Houston.

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