01/25/2015 8:59AM

Coalport much the best in Connally Turf Cup

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Coady Photography
Miguel Mena guides heavily favored Coalport to a 3 1/4-length victory in the John Connally Turf Cup.

Coalport, the 4-5 favorite, toyed with his eight rivals in the Grade 3, $200,000 John Connally Turf Cup Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, leading all the way in a 3 1/4-length win over Trace Creek.

Miguel Mena, riding for trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, put Coalport on the lead just after the start of the race, backing the pace up to a slow half-mile in 49 seconds, then kicking for home with three-sixteenths of a mile left to run. His late turn of foot was decisive, and Coalport won going away, runner-up Trace Creek left in his wake while more than three lengths clear of third-place Daddy’s Kid.  

Coalport ran 1 1/8 miles over firm turf in 1:49, his final three furlongs in 36 seconds, and his last eighth in 11.85. Coalport was running faster at the finish than he was at the start - no surprise given his connections’ rich history in the Connally. Maker won the Connally in 2012 with Papaw Bodie and in 2014 with Admiral Kitten, the latter owned by the Ramseys. He had the right horse for the race once again, and everyone knew it, Coalport paying just $3.80 to win.

Favorites also prevailed in the other two stakes comprising the undercard to the $400,000 Sam Houston Ladies Classic. Heitai paid just $3 winning the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint Stakes. He led all the way under James Graham, winning in his first start since being transferred from trainer Karl Broberg to Tom Amoss.  Longshots Hammer the Bay (40-1) and Brilliant Interest (43-1) finished second and third, boosting the $2 trifecta payoff to $548 even with a 1-2 favorite on top.

Exodus completed a clean sweep for stakes favorites on the card, going wire to wire in the $50,000 Allens Landing Stakes for 3-year-olds, Kerwin Clark riding for owner Fox Hill Farms and trainer Larry Jones. Exodus, a Medaglia d’Oro colt who’s a brother to Grade 1 winner Cross Traffic, set a quick pace, going his opening half-mile in 44.92 seconds, while holding Waging War at bay throughout, running seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.32, which included a final furlong in a slow 13.90 seconds.  He paid $2.80 to win.