Bigger Picture is one of three from the barn of Mike Maker scheduled to try the 1 1/2-mile turf test

Bigger Picture is one of three from the barn of Mike Maker scheduled to try the 1 1/2-mile turf test

Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

Maker Seeks Fourth Straight Connally Turf Cup Win

Trainer has three entered in the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

Trainer Mike Maker has won the past three editions of the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3T) at Same Houston Race Park and he's coming with a loaded hand in seeking a fourth straight score Jan. 29.

Not only does Maker have a trio of horses in the field of eight entered for Sunday's1 1/2-mile grass event, but the three graded winners are the top favorites on the morning line.

If you toss his most recent race, which was on dirt, Three Diamonds' Farm's Bigger Picture is in the best form of the trio. The 6-year-old Badge of Silver gelding won the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith Handicap (G3T) at Aqueduct Racetrack in his previous grass start Nov. 12, and before that was only a nose back in the Oct. 20 1 1/2-mile Sycamore (G3T) at Keeneland.

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Last year's Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3T) winner Greengrassofyoming is entered for owner Michael Hui off a closing, nose second last time out in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. A $62,500 claim by Maker out of a June race at Churchill Downs, the Quest gelding won the Stars and Stripes at Arlington International Racecourse in his first start for Maker.

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The youngest of the Maker group is Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Oscar Nominated, who will make his 4-year-old debut and first start against older horses. Another deft claim by Maker out of his 4 3/4-length debut win at Belmont Park in October 2015, the Kitten's Joy  ridgling has earned $654,195 during his 14-race career, which includes last year's Spiral Stakes (G3).

"He's got to face older horses now and this type of distance is what I've always thought he'd excel at," Maker said.

Maker won the 2016 Connally Turf Cup with Da Big Hoss , took the 2015 edition with Coalport, and won in 2014 with Admiral Kitten. He also won the race in 2012 with Papaw Bodie.

"We like the race and we've had success in this race. All three (this year) are at the top of their game," Maker said. "I have an abundance of 1 1/2-mile horses and there aren't many opportunities this time of year to go that long."

Jockey Florent Geroux, who won last year aboard Da Big Hoss, will ride Oscar Nominated.

The only other graded winner in the field—and the only other horse that isn't double-digit odds on the morning line—is Alice Mettler's Hay Dakota. The Joel Berndt-trained Haynesfield gelding earned his first stakes win Nov. 12 in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3T) at Churchill Downs then ran seventh in the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds last time out.

Entries: John B. Connally Turf Cup S. (G3T)

Sam Houston Race Park, Sunday, January 29, 2017, Race 8

  • Grade IIIT
  • 1 1/2m
  • Turf
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 3:40 PM (local)
11Domikate (IA)Rohan R. Singh115Paul M. Pearson20/1
22West Road (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduatePaul M. Nolan115M. Brent Davidson20/1
33Hay Dakota (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDenny Velazquez121Joel Berndt8/1
44Bigger Picture (KY)Jose L. Ortiz124Michael J. Maker9/5
55Greengrassofyoming (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado121Michael J. Maker5/2
66Phantom Trip (OK)David Cabrera124Clinton C. Stuart15/1
77Fall of Troy (KY)Jacob Radosevich115Darrell Brian Bravenec30/1
88Oscar Nominated (KY)Florent Geroux124Michael J. Maker2/1