06/25/2003 12:00AM

Summer season has Texas twist


With Texas-breds in the opening night Harris County Stakes and five stakes races for Texas-breds during the Texas Summer Showdown on July 25, the summer Quarter Horse season at Sam Houston Race Park has a Lone Star flavor.

On opening night Friday, a solid field will start in the $10,000 Harris County Stakes over 350 yards. MJ Gold, the fastest qualifier in 2002's Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity, is one of five 3-year-olds in this field of eight distaffers.

The summerlong Quarter Horse season runs through Sept. 6 on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule. First post time Thursday through Saturday is 7 p.m. Central, with races starting at 5 p.m. each Sunday.

July 12 will feature a Grade 1 stakes tripleheader: the $80,000-added MBNA America Texas Challenge Championship, the $35,000-added Bayer Legend Texas Challenge, and the $100,000-added TQHA Sale Futurity.

The Texas Summer Showdown on July 25 will offer $175,000 in added money for 3-year-old and older Texas-breds in five stakes races, including three $40,000-added stakes.

The season will conclude on Sept. 6 with the Grade 1, $100,000-added Sam Houston Futurity and the Grade 2, $35,000-added Sam Houston Derby.

New look for Remington season

The 15th Remington Park Quarter horse season, which starts Friday night, has a different look than in the previous 14 years, when the season was run during the spring.

Instead of a straight Quarter Horse meet, this Quarter Horse season runs for 13 dates, and then Thoroughbreds will be added for the next 12 dates. On Fridays and Saturdays the first race is at 6:45 p.m. Central, and on Sundays it is at 1:15 p.m.

Opening night will have trials to the Grade 2 Oklahoma Futurity and Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby. The finals for each race will be run July 12.

Heritage Place Futurity winner A Chick of Class will start in the third of seven Oklahoma Futurity trials.

Shake Em Rita Ballou, second in the 2002 Blue Ribbon Futurity, meets two-time stakes winner Jazzy Corona in the third of three Oklahoma Derby trials.

Missing from the 2003 Remington Park stakes schedule are three Grade 1 races: the Heritage Place Futurity, the Heritage Place Derby, and the Remington Park Championship. The Heritage Place races were contested this spring at Blue Ribbon Downs. The Remington Park Championship, which could return in 2004, had a Champion of Champions berth going to the winner. That berth now goes to the winner of the Grade 1 Refrigerator Handicap at Lone Star Park.

The Grade 1 stakes this summer are the MBNA America Oklahoma Challenge Championship (July 13), Remington Park Futurity (Aug. 17), and Remington Park Derby (Aug. 17).

Firecrackers at Delta

Stakes winner Go Easy Graham meets the well-bred First Kool Baby in the Grade 1, $180,100 Firecracker Futurity, and the consistent Coronas Prospect faces a tough challenge in the Grade 2, $106,400 Firecracker Derby on Saturday night at Delta Downs.

Go Easy Graham, owned by Tommy Rhodes and trained by Doug Lilly, has three wins from four starts, including a victory in the Grade 3 American Airlines East Challenge at Delta Downs. The sole stakes winner in the Firecracker Futurity, Go Easy Graham won the East Challenge by a neck over I Make Em Shake, who is also in the 350-yard Firecracker Futurity.

First Kool Baby, owned by Ramiro Lopez and Bob Gaston, is undefeated in two starts and has the Firecracker Futurity's fastest qualifying time - 17.72 seconds for 350 yards. The Heath Taylor-trained colt is a son of leading sire First Down Dash and is the first foal out of 25-time stakes winner and two-time champion Kool Kue Baby.

In the 400-yard Firecracker Derby, Coronas Prospect, owned by TCB Racing, has recorded six wins from nine starts for trainer Janet Van Bebber, including four wins at Delta Downs. Coronas Prospect set Delta's 350-yard track record of 17.55 seconds while winning the Grade 3 Kindergarten Futurity last summer.

First Place Win, owned by Al-Whit Racing and trained by Kenneth Roberts, has the class to win the Firecracker Derby after winning last year's American Airlines East Challenge at Delta and finishing in fourth place in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity.