09/09/2009 12:00AM

Connally Turf Cup moving to January


Sam Houston Race Park has made a significant calendar move with its richest stakes, the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup. It will now be run on Jan. 30, 2010, rather than its typical placement the first week in April.

The race was pushed to an earlier date after regional neighbor Fair Grounds moved its premier turf race, the Grade 2, $500,000 Mervin Muniz, from mid-March to its closing weekend, March 27.

"It worked on the calendar," said Eric Johnston, vice president of racing for Sam Houston, of the Connally date change.

He added that with the exception of the Sunshine Millions, there are no other major turf races nationally within a reasonable timeframe of the Connally.

The Connally, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, is part of a 13-race, $1 million stakes schedule for Sam Houston. The track will open its 60-date meet Nov. 27, and race through April 3, 2010.

Other major dates include Texas Champions Day, a program of seven divisional statebred stakes worth $400,000 on Dec. 5. The $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, is March 27.

Sam Houston, which was forced to cancel its meet a year ago due to damage from Hurricane Ike, is running about six fewer stakes this season in order to concentrate on its overnight purse structure. Johnston said purses are projected to average $106,000 a day. Stall applications close Oct. 16, with the stable area to open Nov. 10.