04/12/2012 5:48PM

Sam Houston: Texas Challenge puts Grade 1 berth on the line


Sam Houston Race Park in Houston will put on four major Quarter Horse stakes Saturday night, including the Grade 1, $100,620 Texas Challenge Championship for older horses, and the Grade 2, $487,770 Sam Houston Futurity. The program starts at 7 p.m. Central.

The Texas Challenge Championship drew a field of 12 horses, with the winner to earn a berth into the Grade 1, $350,000 Challenge Championship at Prairie Meadows on Oct. 27. Saturday night's race will be run over 440 yards, and its leading contenders include Giorgino, a winner of 8 of 17 starts for owner-trainer Jorge Haddad. The horse will break from post 8.

"I feel he will run well," said Haddad. "He has a good draw and will be ridden by J.R. Ramirez, who knows him well."

In the Sam Houston Futurity, fastest-qualifier Spartocus will break from the rail under David Alvarez. The chief threat could be Diamond Version, a filly who set the third-fastest qualifying time for owner Jerry Windham.

"We ran three in the trials, and I thought she would be one of our best," he said. "She has always put away the competition in her works, and she broke really well in her trial."

The other stakes at Sam Houston on Saturday night are the Grade 3, $180,900 Sam Houston Derby and the $25,000 Sam Houston Juvenile Stakes.