Blueridge Traveler returns to winning ways in a Feb. 10 allowance race at Oaklawn Park

Blueridge Traveler returns to winning ways in a Feb. 10 allowance race at Oaklawn Park

Coady Photography

McPeek Sends Blueridge Traveler to Maxxam Gold Cup

The 4-year-old son of To Honor and Serve won a Feb. 10 allowance at Oaklawn Park.

A mix of seasoned veterans and runners rising in the ranks will line up Feb. 24 at Sam Houston Race Park for the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, led by Horizon Stables' Blueridge Traveler.

The 1 1/8-mile event is the feature of a card that includes four stakes. The others are the $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares; the $50,000 Houston Turf Stakes for accredited Texas-breds; and the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup at six furlongs on the main track.

Blueridge Traveler, a 4-year-old son of To Honor and Serve, showed considerable promise last season, running second in the $500,000 Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park before he went to the sideline. Trainer Ken McPeek brought the colt back in October to face allowance company at Keeneland and finished first, but he was disqualified and placed eighth. Blueridge Traveler was the runner-up in a November allowance at Churchill Downs and third in a Jan. 20 allowance race at Oaklawn Park before winning there Feb. 10 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race.

"He's a really nice horse," McPeek said. "He had a physical issue last spring and we had to lay off, but he's come back strong. I really wanted to try him at a mile and an eighth, and he prepped for this with a good win at Oaklawn."

Channing Hill, who has ridden the bay colt for McPeek in four of his nine starts, will make the trip to Texas for the mount.

McPeek made his first trip to Sam Houston in 2002 with Take Charge Lady, who won the $275,000 NTRA Great State Challenge Distaff. He returned in 2013 and saddled the winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup, Unstoppable U, an Exchange Rate colt owned by Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables. The Kentucky-based horsemen made a third trip to Houston for the 2014 Maxxam Gold Cup with Frac Daddy , who finished second to Red Rifle

End Zone Athletics' Social Misfit is the high earner in the field with $413,768 banked in 59 races. Trainer Karl Broberg has tapped current leading rider Iram Diego to pilot the 9-year-old gelding by Porto Foricos. The Louisiana-bred will make his Sam Houston Race Park debut in the Gold Cup. He exits a third-place finish in the $170,000 Louisiana Premier Night Stakes at Delta Downs Feb. 3, a race won by 2016 Maxxam Gold Cup winner Mobile Bay.

Holiday Mischief, owned by Joe Offolter and Carter Thoroughbreds, is another experienced veteran who will be making his 52nd career start in the Maxxam. The 8-year-old Kentucky-bred has run well at Sam Houston for Offolter, who is also the gelding's trainer.

"He's just such a sound runner and great horse to be around," said Offolter. "He might have won a stakes as a 3-year-old at Sam Houston, but that was the year Departed showed up, and he was a monster. Ivan Arellano has done well for us this meet; he's a good rider, and we wanted to give him a chance in this stakes."

Rounding out the field are Net Gain, Franco, and Hyper Drive.

The Maxxam Gold Cup, which debuted in 1994, has produced an outstanding roster of distance specialists. Two millionaires have won previous editions: Mobile Bay and last year’s winner, Iron Fist.

Entries: Maxxam Gold Cup S.

Sam Houston Race Park, Saturday, February 24, 2018, Race 8

  • STK
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 9:16 PM (local)
11Social Misfit (LA)Iram Vargas Diego118Karl Broberg9/2
22Blueridge Traveler (KY)Channing Hill120Kenneth G. McPeek6/5
33Franco (KY)Lane J. Luzzi116Bryan Porter10/1
44Net Gain (IA)Keeneland Sales GraduateGlenn W. Corbett120Clinton C. Stuart5/2
55Holiday Mischief (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateIvan Arellano116Joe S. Offolter8/1
66Hyper Drive (OK)Lindey Wade120Randy Oberlander5/1