Updated on 09/16/2011 7:53AM

It's all in handling the trip


Who will adapt best? That may be the deciding factor when 12 well-matched older horses, most of them shippers, meet in Saturday night's $200,000 . The 1 1/8-mile race is the richest of the season at Sam Houston Race Park and one of four stakes on the card Saturday.

"It looks like one of those races anybody can win," said Richard Scherer, who trains 118-pound highweight Mystery Giver. "I think it's going to be about who gets the trip, who takes to the new course, and who handles the shipping."

The program will also feature the 2002 debut of Morluc in the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup, as well as the $50,000 Jersey Lilly for fillies and mares on turf, and the $30,000 Katy for Texas-breds.

El Gran Papa, who ships in from Southern California for trainer Bobby Frankel, and Mystery Giver, winner of last month's $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap at his base in New Orleans, appear to be the major players in the Connally, which also drew defending champ Candid Glen and two-time Connally winner Chorwon.

The field grows even deeper with the presence of Grade 1 winner Vergennes, a career front-runner who rated with success in an allowance prep for this race; Fan Club's Mister, who won the $100,000 Woodchopper Handicap over Mystery Giver in December; and the improving Even the Score.

El Gran Papa traveled to Houston on Tuesday, and appears to be a horse who adapts well to change. Last year, he shipped to Texas from California and won the $300,000 Dallas Turf Cup over 1 1/8 miles at Lone Star Park. In his most recent start he finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Irish Prize in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap on Dec. 30. The quality of company he kept in that race makes him the horse to beat in the Connally.

Regular rider Garrett Gomez will have the mount for owner Tom Tatham, a resident of Houston.

Eddie Martin Jr. invades from Fair Grounds to ride Mystery Giver, who defeated four Connally starters with his 1 1/2-length win in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup on Feb. 2. The race was a career-best for Mystery Giver, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

"His last race didn't seem to knock him out," said Scherer, who was to ship Mystery Giver to Houston on Friday. "He's on top of his game."

First post is 7:05 p.m. central, with the Connally scheduled to go at 10:02 p.m. The race will be broadcast on tape delay at midnight on ESPN2.

for Sam Houston entries.

Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Sam Houston.

Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Sam Houston.