03/19/2014 11:43AM

Sam Houston Quarter Horse meet begins with 10 trial races


On the heels of a Thoroughbred meet that experienced an uptick in handle, Sam Houston Race Park will move into its Quarter Horse season Friday night with a card of 10 trial races, a new racing secretary, and a series of post-race concerts. The 24-night meet will continue through May 11.

Sam Houston closed out its 32-date Thoroughbred meet March 11 with a 4 percent increase in average daily handle on its live races. The track’s meet for Quarter Horses, much like the Thoroughbred season, will offer several significant stakes races. The Grade 2 Sam Houston Futurity, which last year was worth $452,800 when won by Especially Tres, is the centerpiece event April 19. Trials are March 29.

Other notable races making up a schedule of 18 stakes include the Grade 1, $100,000 Texas Challenge Championship, a 440-yard race for 3-year-olds and up April 12; and the Grade 2, $50,000 Sam Houston Classic, another 440-yard race for 3-year-olds and up May 3. The trials Friday night will determine the field for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic on April 5.

Frank Stacks is the new racing secretary for the Quarter Horse meet, taking over from Eric Johnston, who has been named director of racing operations for Penn National. Stacks was the assistant racing secretary during the Thoroughbred meet and previously served as the racing secretary for Presque Isle Downs.

The concert series at Sam Houston will begin Saturday night with the popular country artist Pat Green. The track will race Thursday through Saturday most weeks.

Sam Houston reported that handle on its live Thoroughbred races from all sources this meet averaged $1,390,437 a card, an increase of 4 percent over the corresponding season in 2013. Officials noted that the increase came despite a 9 percent decrease in field size, to eight starters a race. Purses for the meet averaged $174,000 a program, up 3 percent.

Steve Asmussen won his sixth training title at Sam Houston, while Gerardo Mora locked up his second straight riding championship at the track when he edged Deshawn Parker by one win on the final card. The leading owner was Danny Keene.