Mr. Pursuit has been installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park.
The Gold Cup will be contested at the distance of 1 1/8 miles on the main track. A field of 10 is entered.
This will be the first start at Sam Houston for Mr. Pursuit, who ships into Houston on a three-race win streak at Remington Park last fall for owner Ilona Wetstone and trainer Joe Petalino. He won back-to-back stakes in Oklahoma, including the $250,000 Oklahoma Derby and the $75,000 Governor’s Cup on Nov. 28, his last race of the year. Jockey Cliff Berry, who rode Mr. Pursuit in his last three races, will fly in for Saturday’s stakes. Mr. Pursuit has been drilling steadily at Lone Star Park and worked a bullet of :47 1/5 over a fast track on Tuesday.
Steve Asmussen, who has won the Sam Houston Race Park training title a record five times, will be looking for his first Gold Cup victory with More Than Regal, 7-2 on the morning line. The 4-year-old colt owned by Vinery Stables has won five of his 12 lifetime starts, bankrolling $543,091. He will enter Saturday’s stakes off a win in the $150,000 Zia Park Derby on Dec. 9.
“This will be his first foray with older horses,” said Asmussen. “He ran against Mr. Pursuit in the Oklahoma Derby (finishing third). It was a fairly roughly run race and he did not have as smooth of a trip as we would have liked. I think the Maxxam will be a good race for him and hope he will run well. ”
Roman Chapa rode More Than Regal at Zia Park and will be aboard the bay colt Saturday.
Another interesting prospect for the Gold Cup is Student Council, a 5-year-old son of Kingmambo bred and owned by prominent horseman Will S. Farish. Student Council, at 5-1, has allowance wins at Turfway Park and Keeneland and scored his most recent victory on Jan. 4 at Fair Grounds. Robby Albarado will make the trip from Fair Grounds to ride for trainer Neil Howard. Two years ago, Alumni Hall, another Howard trainee captured the Gold Cup.
Trainer Bobby Barnett will ship in Golden Glen. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred will be making his 34th lifetime start and made his last trip to the winner’s circle on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Barnett has won the Gold Cup a record four times; twice with Meena (1994 and 1996), with Lost Soldier in 1997 and in 1999 with Western Trader.
Art Stall Jr. saddles defending champion Middleweight, a 7-year-old son of Grand Slam who came off the pace in last year’s Maxxam Gold Cup. He will be making his second start off a layoff and Stall is optimistic about his chances.
“He tailed off on us a little bit last year,” said Stall. “Our vets found nothing wrong, so we turned him out (last June) and he made his first start back in the Louisiana Breeders’ Cup Handicap (finishing sixth on Jan. 6). It was actually a better race than it appeared on paper. He got pinned on the rail and he is a big, free wheeling horse that prefers to be alone on the outside.”
The $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff will be run as the sixth race of the evening.
$100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup Handicap (Race 8, 10:02 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Andanight (TX), Benito Tovar Morales, 111
2. Middleweight (KY), Jesse M. Campbell, 114
3. Golden Glen (KY), Shane P. Romero, 114
4. Charming Socialite (TX), Larry Taylor, 114
5. Mr. Pursuit (KY), M. Clifton Berry, 121
6. Student Council (KY), Robby Albarado, 114
7. Real Echo (OH), Diego Saenz, 111
8. Goosey Moose (TX), Donald E. Simington, 113
9. More Than Regal (KY), Roman Chapa, 120
10. Laura's Choice (TX), Salvador Perez, 109