by Shelby Downs
Texas-breds will take the spotlight at Sam Houston Race Park Dec. 1 for the track’s annual Texas Champion Day program, which features eight restricted stakes worth more than $500,000.
Multiple stakes winners Wrenice and Mystery Classic return to action alongside several defending race winners from last year. Undoubtedly, several stakes on the Texas Champions Day card will play a pivotal role in settling the year-end divisional championships for Texas-breds.
“It’s a great card,” said Eric Johnston, Sam Houston’s racing secretary. “You’ve got a lot of nice horses like Mystery Classic and Wrenice, and you’ve got some great match-ups in the 2-year-old races. There are just all kinds of little interesting sidebars all through that card. We’re just looking forward to a great weekend.”
The field for the feature race, the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes for older horses, includes three earners of more than $300,000. Sandburr, an 8-year-old Sandpit gelding trained by Michael Stidham for Feel the Thunder Stable, returns to his home state to defend his win in last year’s Star of Texas and faces proven stakes horses in Goosey Moose and Dreamsandvisions. The Star of Texas is contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Much of the wagering action will likely focus on two of the state’s top runners, Mystery Classic and Wrenice. In the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes, Mystery Classic figures to be an overwhelming favorite at six furlongs. While winning his last effort at that distance, the 4-year-old gelding recorded a high speed figure. The homebred Mystery Storm runner for John L. Pierce II could get some competition in Carl Moore’s Snuck By, a winner of five of his last six starts.
The 2006 Texas champion 2-year-old filly Wrenice returns to the main track in the $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes at six furlongs after a disappointing try on the turf in her last out. The Uncle Abbie filly has earned $389,046 for her owner and breeder, Stewart Hamblen, with eight wins and three seconds in 13 starts. With seven stakes victories to her credit, Wrenice has built a loyal following in Texas.
Valid Lil, from the barn of Bret Calhoun, should be her main competition. The 4-year-old Valid Expectationsfilly has won seven of her first eight starts and is a perfect three-for-three at the distance. The Yellow Rose will be their first time meeting and the first time Wrenice takes on older rivals.
Stonerside Stable’s homebred General Charley could push his earnings past the $300,000 mark with a strong effort in the $50,000 Richard King Stakes. The Truluckhorse enters off a turf course record-setting win in the $100,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Retama Park, and previously finished third in Sam Houston’s John B. Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf Handicap (gr. III). The 1 1/8-mile turf event also drew last year’s winner, Northern Scene.
Full fields are on tap for both of the card’s seven-furlong juvenile stakes. Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Valid Lilly could bag her third career stakes in the $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes. The Valid Expectations filly and Steve Asmussen trainee has captured two races in the Texas Stallion Stakes Series.
Shedoesrock, who is campaigned by Agave Racing Stable and B/L Racing, returns after a layoff following her victory in July’s Princess Stakes at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.
In his last out, Ferdinand’s Flyer dominated the $125,000 My Dandy division of the Texas Stallion Stakes by an eye-catching 8 ¼ lengths at Retama. The son of Texas’ leading freshman sire, Early Flyer , lays his undefeated record on the line in the $50,000 Groovy Stakes for owners Markpoint Stables and Agave Racing Stable.
W.S. Farish’s Namesake, a past Texas Stallion Stakes winner, is in the Groovy field.
The card also includes the $75,000 Martanza Stakes for the older fillies and mares and the $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes for turf distaffers. First post time is 7 p.m. CST.