Coalport wins the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes.

Coalport wins the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes.

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Coalport Convincing Winner of Connally Cup

Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred led from start at Sam Houston for first graded win.

Odds-on choice Coalport, shipping from Florida for Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker, dominated the $200,000 John Connally Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) from start to finish the night of Jan. 24 at Sam Houston Race Park to record his first graded stakes victory.

The Illinois homebred 6-year-old son by the Ramseys' top sire Kitten's Joy  tallied by 3 1/4 lengths in the field of nine turf specialists. Maker won the Connally for the third time in four years following Papaw Bodie in 2012 and the Ramseys' Admiral Kitten  last year.

With Miguel Mena in the irons in place of Javier Castellano, who could not secure transportation from Florida in time, Coalport completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49 flat over firm going for his third straight win.

Maker, currently based at Gulfstream Park, watched the race from Florida. He said he was pleased with the third win a row from Coalport, who was coming off a neck victory in the Buck's Boy Handicap at Hawthorne Racecourse Nov. 15.

"I thought he would be forwardly placed," said Maker by phone. "With Javier staying here, I knew I had a top rider in Miguel."

The victory gave the Ramseys more to cheer about after winning Eclipse Awards a week earlier as North America's leading owner and breeder.

Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, 9-10 pick Coalport went directly to the front over Trace Creek while well-rated by Mena through moderate fractions of :25.19, :49, and 1:13. Leading comfortably heading into the stretch, Coalport's margin dwindled to two lengths as Trace Creek rallied, but the winner drew off again in the final furlong.

Trace Creek, ridden by Chris Landeros, held second by 3 1/4 lengths over Daddy's Kid and Forest Boyce. Dreams Cut Short, Benwill, Fleet Mitchy, Michael's Gabriel, Devon's Iron Giant, and Bim Bam followed.

Coalport, returning $3.80, $2.80, and $2.20, won for the ninth time in 23 races and boosted his earnings to $540,383. Trace Creek paid $3.80 and $3 while rounding out a $16.20 exacta. Second choice Daddy's Kid paid $3 to show.

Maker said he had not yet decided on the next start for Coalport, a chestnut horse out of Ballade's Girl, by Saint Ballado.

Earlier on the card, front-running Heitai rolled to a one-length victory in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint. Ridden by James Graham for trainer Tom Amoss and owner/breeder Rowell Enterprises, the 1-2 favorite completed five furlongs in :56.76.

A pair of longshots, 40-1 Hammer the Bay and 43-1 Brilliant Interest, finished second and third, respectively.