For the fourth year in a row, trainer Mike Maker saddled the winner of the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3T) at Sam Houston Race Park. But in this year's edition, Maker not only trained the winner Bigger Picture, but had the trifecta as Oscar Nominated and Greengrassofyoming finished second and third, respectively.
In the 1 1/2 mile test Jan. 29 over firm turf, longshot Fall of Troy jumped out for the early lead, with Oscar Nominated tracking close in second and favorite Bigger Picture another length back in third. Fall of Troy set a leisurely pace of :25.23 and :51.49 through the first half mile.
Around the second of three turns, jockey Jose Ortiz asked Bigger Picture to move up through an opening on the rail to take control on the backstretch. With six furlongs going in 1:17.90 and a mile in 1:43.35, the 6-year-old gelding maintained his narrow lead but Fall of Troy and Oscar Nominated did not let him get more than a half-length away.
As the field moved into final turn, Bigger Picture used his inside spot to his advantage and took off down the stretch as Oscar Nominated and Greengrassofyoming chased gamely but were no match. Bigger Picture stopped the clock in 2:32.24, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Oscar Nominated in second, with Greengrassofyoming another three-quarters of a length back.
Bigger Picture returned $4.20, $2.40, and $2.10 across the board. Oscar Nominated paid $2.40 and $2.10, and Greengrassofyoming returned $2.40.
Bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the son of Badge of Silver was claimed by his current owner Three Diamonds Farm in November 2015 at Aqueduct Racetrack for $40,000. This is his second graded stakes win, following his 1 1/4-length score in the Nov. 12 Red Smith Handicap (G3T) at Aqueduct. He now boasts a record of 9-4-1 from 22 starts.
Last year, Maker won this race with Da Big Hoss, who won by 4 1/2 lengths in a track-record time of 2:28.16. In 2015, he won with Coalport and in 2014 with Admiral Kitten.