09/16/2010 1:19PM

Connally Turf Cup tops Houston stakes slate


The Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup is the richest of 14 stakes that Sam Houston Race Park will pack into a 27-date meet that opens Jan. 21. The1 1/8-mile race for older horses is to be run Jan. 29 as part of a consolidated schedule that will feature record purses of $160,000 a program. The season will continue through March 7.

“We’re thrilled to be offering a boutique meet,” said Andrea Young, president of Sam Houston. “This is the window of time when our meet has always been the best.”

Sam Houston had typically run about 60 dates each season between November and April, but last week received Texas Racing Commission approval for a January to March schedule. The shorter meet has enabled the track to enhance its stakes calendar and purse structure.

Young said Sam Houston has boosted the value of the Maxxam Gold Cup, the track’s signature dirt race, from $100,000 to $150,000. The 1 1/8-mile stakes for older horses is March 5. The track has also added a new race to its $1.1 million stakes schedule, the $50,000 Rail Splitter for older horses at five furlongs on turf Feb. 12.

The opening weekend action will be highlighted by the Jan. 22 running of Texas Champions Day, a program of seven statebred stakes worth $400,000. The card had traditionally been in December, and with the move to January some age conditions must change. For example, races like the $50,000 Groovy and $50,000 Bara Lass, which were for 2-year-olds, are now for horses who are 3.

Sam Houston will race every Friday through Monday.