12/02/2007 1:00AM

Nolan wins three stakes at Sam Houston

EmailHOUSTON - Jockey Paul Nolan won three of the eight stakes run on the annual Texas Champions Day program Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park, while horses wearing the No. 5 saddletowel accounted for five consecutive stakes wins from races 2-6. Purses for the Texas-bred stakes totaled $475,000 on what was the richest night of the meet at Sam Houston.

Nolan got started in the fifth race with Annie Savoy ($31.20), who crashed the match-up between Valid Lil and Wrenice when she surged for a nose win in the $50,000 Yellow Rose. Nolan then guided Hollye Lynn ($25.20) to victory in the $75,000 Martanza and Sandburr ($4.80) to a defense of his title in the featured $100,000 Star of Texas.

"It's a big night for me and for all the people I'm involved with," said Nolan.

Sandburr was returning from a six-month layoff for the Star of Texas. He sat in fourth in the early stages of the mile and a sixteenth race, advanced down the backside, then launched a four-wide bid on the final turn. Sandburr took command in the stretch, drifted out late, and then dug in to secure a length and a quarter win over Moon Kid.

Sandburr was a popular winner, in part because of his longevity. An 8-year-old gelding by Sandpit, he picked up his 14th career win Saturday, and improved his Sam Houston record to 8-for-16.

"That's what it's about, those kind of horses being able to keep showing up like that," said Michael Stidham, who trains Sandburr for Feel the Thunder Stable.

Stidham said the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 12 is a possibility for Sandburr's next start. He won the Louisiana Handicap last year after taking the Star of Texas.

Mystery Classic ($3), No. 5, won the night's first stakes, when he captured the $50,000 Spirit of Texas at six furlongs for the second straight year. The next two races were for 2-year-olds, and both seven-furlong stakes were won by the No. 5 horse. Ms Classic Seneca ($29.60) remained perfect in three starts with her half-length win in the $50,000 Bara Lass. Crook's Bodgit lit up the toteboard when he got up for a neck win over 4-5 favorite Ferdinand's Flyer in the $50,000 Groovy, paying $105.40.

One race later, Annie Savoy cut back to one-turn for the Yellow Rose and came rolling through the stretch to catch Stealth Cat. Valid Lil, who was favored, finished fourth in the race. Her rider, Quincy Hamilton, said she seemed to struggle with the track Saturday. Wrenice finished ninth after a slow start from the rail post. She rushed up to hold her position, dueled through a half-mile in 44.49 seconds, and regressed. The start of the Yellow Rose was delayed several minutes when two of its starters were difficult to load.

The final five-horse to win a stakes was Alleged Hug ($21.20), who closed for a three-quarter length win over Northern Scene in the sixth race, the $50,000 Richard King at a mile and an eighth on turf. But it would not be the final time the five-horse won Saturday. The nightcap, a starter allowance, went to Dusty Tunnel, who became the sixth five-horse to claim victory on the 10-race card. In the irons was Nolan, giving him a four-bagger Saturday.

* Jockey Eguard Tejera suffered a possible fractured collarbone in the Martanza, when his mount, Party of One, appeared to clip heels, then fell approaching the quarter pole. The filly did not appear to sustain any serious injuries.

* Attendance was 6,194. Handle on the card from all sources was $1,927,018.