Updated on 10/16/2012 1:39PM

Sam Houston: New $400,000 stakes to be run in January


Sam Houston Race Park has created a $400,000 stakes race for fillies and mares to be held Jan. 26 as part of a redesigned, 21-race stakes schedule released Tuesday. The Houston Ladies Classic is for 4-year-olds and up at a mile and a sixteenth, and it will share a night card with three other stakes, including the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Turf Cup.

The races top a stakes schedule worth nearly $1.7 million, up from $1.1 million a year ago. Sam Houston opens its meet Jan. 18. The track is to race 34 dates through March 17, pending approval from the Texas Racing Commission.

The Houston Ladies Classic will be the richest Thoroughbred race ever run at Sam Houston, which opened in 1994. It will also be the richest currently run Thoroughbred race in Texas, surpassing the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap that was held in May. Increases in handle have made creation of the race possible, said Sam Houston president Andrea Young.

“We’re trying to attract more interest nationally,” she said. “This will give us the opportunity to get some big names to Houston.”

Young said funds for the Houston Ladies Classic would come from the purse account. 

“We’re in support of the race,” said Jan Haynes, chairman of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership. “The last couple of years we did have to take a reduction in live racing at Sam Houston and the meet has been successful. They have had double-digit gains across the board, in live and export handle and attendance, and Sam Houston is adding back another full weekend of racing this next year.”

Young said the filly and mare division was chosen for the new race after analyzing the first-quarter stakes programs around the country. She also noted the recent popularity of Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and Havre de Grace, as well as the anticipated depth of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita.

“Fillies and mares have been the story of the industry the last three years, and might be again this year,” she said.

Nominations for the Houston Ladies Classic close Dec. 28. Pre-entries for the race will be taken Jan. 16. The fee is $2,000, but owners entering and starting at least one horse in an undercard stakes Jan. 26 will have their pre-entry fee refunded upon starting as part of a “ship assist” program tied to the card. The undercard stakes are the Connally, for 4-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth on turf; the $75,000 Champion Energy Services for 4-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf; and the $50,000 Allen’s Landing for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. Sam Houston also plans to raise funds for the Houston chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure during the Ladies Classic card.

Sam Houston will also group stakes on March 2, when the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, for 4-year-olds and up at a mile and an eighth, leads a four-stakes card that also includes the $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup. In addition, there will be seven stakes run between Jan. 18-19, all restricted to horses bred in Texas.

Sam Houston, which is co-owned by Penn National Gaming, projects purses will average $165,000 a program this meet, said Young. Stall applications are due Nov. 19.