01/19/2012 5:35PM

Sam Houston: Skip a Smile starts defense of Texas title in Star of Texas Stakes


Rose Mary Chandler is an equal-opportunity breeder. Her program has accounted for one of the region’s top Quarter Horses in Acorn and one of Texas’s best Thoroughbreds in Skip a Smile.

“They were playmates growing up,” Chandler said.

Acorn was recently named Texas’s top aged Quarter Horse gelding, while Skip a Smile accomplished so much last year that he enters Saturday night’s $100,000 Star of Texas at Sam Houston Race Park as the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s recently crowned horse of the year for 2011. He will be seeking his sixth stakes win when he starts in the Star of Texas, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and up that is part of Texas Champions Weekend.

There are four stakes on Saturday night’s card, all of them restricted to horses bred in Texas. They are worth a cumulative $250,000. The races cater to different divisions, and they come on the heels of a Friday night program of three Texas-bred stakes that opened the new meet at Sam Houston.

Skip a Smile, trained by Steve Asmussen, won 5 of 13 starts in 2011, with four of those wins coming in stakes. The first was the $50,000 Richard King at Sam Houston on turf on Jan. 22. He proceeded to take the $75,000 Assault on dirt at Lone Star Park in July, then the $100,000 Governor’s Cup and $100,000 DeBartolo Memorial, both in the fall over the turf course at Remington Park.

“I don’t have to tell you how impressed we are with him,” Chandler said. “He didn’t race at 2. As a 2-year-old, he did not show a whole lot. He showed immaturity, so we took him home. After that, he started to show us some signs that he had some athletic abilities. We’ve been very, very fortunate. He amazes us.”

Skip a Smile, a 5-year-old son of Skip Away, is to be ridden by Luis Quinonez. His chief rivals in the six-horse field include Coyote Legend, who has won three allowances over open company in his last four starts, and Mr. Woodrow, a new face to the division who last year was fifth to Prayer for Relief in the Grade 2 Super Derby.

Spirit of Texas: Aces N Kings returns

Aces N Kings will be making his first start since August in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas, a six-furlong stakes for 4-year-olds and up. He will be returning to dirt for the race and will be making his first start at the distance.

“We’ve been eager to run him six furlongs, but have never gotten a chance,” said Caroline Dodwell, who trains Aces N Kings. “It’s a little bit of an experiment, but he’s got a good turn of foot and has been working lights out.”

The Spirit of Texas also drew Gold Coyote, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter for owner-breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr., and Chief of Affairs, who is cross-entered in a race at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

Larry Taylor will ride Aces N Kings, while Cliff Berry has the mount on Gold Coyote.

◗ Scrappy Roo, who is a past winner of the Grade 3 Connally Cup Turf at Sam Houston, will be seeking his eighth win over the local course in the $50,000 Richard King. The 1 1/16-mile race is for 4-year-olds and up. Asmussen owns and trains Scrappy Roo, who will be ridden by Quinonez.

◗ Canigotoo, who won his career debut with a Beyer Speed Figure of 93 last June, will be seeking his first stakes win in the $50,000 Groovy, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds. John Jacinto has the mount for owners Jerry Durant and Bill Jordan and trainer Bret Calhoun.