Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse Meet
The 2016 American Quarter Horse racing season gets underway at Sam Houston Race Park on Friday, March 25. The 24-day season will continue through Saturday, May 14 with post times set for Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Monday at 1:00 p.m.
Friday night's ten-race program features three trials for the Bank of America Challenge Championship and several highly regarded stakes winners entered in each of the 440-yard trials.
The first trial, to be run as race seven, drew seven runners, with Rc Me Leaving You installed at odds of 5-2. Conditioned by Judd Kearl, who has won six leading trainer titles at Sam Houston, the 4-year-old Rc Me Leaving You ran third in the $416,000 Texas Classic Derby last November at Lone Star Park, and placed in two stakes earlier this year at Hialeah Park. Rodrigo Vallejo. will ride for owners Bennie and Terri Jeter.
The second trial features a very competitive field including D &S Racing's Exquisite Stride. The son of Carters Cartel ran fourth in the $2.6 million All American Futurity in 2014 at Ruidoso Downs and captured the Evangeline Derby last November. Trainer Michael Taylor gave the mount to the resurgent Joe Badilla, Jr. He will face several key rivals including Ted G. Abrams homebred Jessies First Down, runner-up in last year's Bank of America Texas Challenge. Trained by Kearl, Jessies First Down ships here off a victory in the $300,000 Miami Dade Stakes at Hialeah on February 28.
This trial also marks the comeback for Stimulus, bred by Jerry Windham, winner of the 2014 Bank of America Challenge Championship. The winner of six races and $305,455 in purse, had surgery last year and did not compete in 2015. New owner Jose Hernandez sent the son of Mr Jess Perry to Bobby Martinez earlier this year.
Friday's final trial features the return of 2014 AQHA world champion, Jrc Callas First for Dana and Brian Stroud. The Texas-bred son of Winners Award is the pride and joy of the Strouds with 15 wins from 25 starts and earnings of $549,931. Last year he won four consecutive stakes, capping his campaign with a second-place finisih in the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park.
He's had a short rest and has been training well for his return to Sam Houston Race Park.
"He had a little break and is doing well," said Stroud. "Our plan is to get him qualified for the Bank of America Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos, and hopefully get a shot in the Champion of Champions. We're ready to see how he runs Friday."
Ricardo Aguirre will ride Jrc Callas First, who is the 9-5 choice in the final trial.
The ten fastest qualifiers will return for the final on April 16 and the winner will represent Sam Houston Race Park in the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), which will take place in October at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Sam Houston Race Park The meet will feature 17 stakes races, commencing with the $20,000 Harris County Stakes on opening night. Other features include the $95,000 Bank of America Texas Challenge Championship (G2) on April 16; the $100,000-added Sam Houston Futurity (G2) on April 23; the $50,000 Sam Houston Classic (G2) on May 7 and the $35,000-added John Deere Juvenile Challenge (G3) and $35,000-added Adequan Texas Derby Challenge on Saturday, May 14, the final day of the racing season.
A complete listing of stakes and trial dates is available at.shrp.com.