01/26/2012 4:40PM

Sam Houston: Pace will be key for Ioya Bigtime in Connally Turf Cup

Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Proceed Bee will be looking for his ninth career stakes win in the John B. Connally Turf Cup.

Trainer Neil Pessin is anxious to see what kind of pace develops for Ioya Bigtime in Saturday night’s Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. The horse has used his strong kick to win 4 of 9 career starts and will be looking for his first stakes win in the Connally. The 1 1/8-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up is the richest race of the meet at Sam Houston.

In all, a field of seven older horses will go, including Proceed Bee, a multiple stakes winner coming off a 1 1/8-mile score in the $50,000 Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park, and Papaw Bodie, who will be cutting back from a win at 1 3/8 miles at Gulfstream Park.

“There doesn’t look like there’s a lot of pace in the race, and he’s kind of a closer,” Pessin said. “That’s a real worry going into it.”

Otherwise, Ioya Bigtime stacks up nicely against his Connally competition. He’s a winner at the race’s distance and he’s a winner on turf, a surface over which his dam won 11 races. Ioya Bigtime also made a notable leap into graded competition in his last start Oct. 29, when he ran second in the Fayette at Keeneland.

“He made a big move down the lane,” Pessin said. “He couldn’t catch the winner, but we sure beat everybody else pretty handily.”

The Fayette, a Grade 2 run at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack, has since become a key race. Wise Dan, who won by four lengths, returned in his next start to take the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Eighttofasttocatch, who was fourth in the Fayette, came back to win the $75,000 Jennings at Laurel, and Decisive Moment, seventh in the Fayette, returned in his next start to win the $125,000 Delta Downs Mile.

As for Ioya Bigtime, he was freshened after the Fayette.

“He was due a break and got one,” Pessin said.

Pessin said Ioya Bigtime, who races for Team Block, resumed training in Florida, but with few upcoming options for the horse there he was sent to Fair Grounds. Robby Albarado has the mount on Ioya Bigtime, a son of Dynaformer who will break from post 7.

Proceed Bee has a tactical advantage on Ioya Bigtime as one who can be closer to the leaders.

“You can do different things with this horse,” said Scott Becker, who trains Proceed Bee. “Generally, I like to see him up close to the pace.”

Proceed Bee will be looking for his ninth career stakes win. He is to be ridden by Chris Emigh.

Papaw Bodie is seeking his fourth consecutive win while making his stakes debut. Rosie Napravnik has the mount for trainer Mike Maker.