01/23/2011 5:03PM

Taptam conquers males in Star of Texas

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Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Cliff Berry guides Taptam to a 4 1/4-length victory in the Star of Texas.

Taptam launched what promises to be another strong season of racing Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park, when she left a nice group of male rivals in her wake to win the $100,000 Star of Texas by 4 1/4  lengths.

The 1 1/16-mile  race was the highlight of a seven-stakes program for horses bred in Texas. The races were worth a cumulative $400,000, and the Texas Champions Day card made for the richest program of the Sam Houston meet that opened on Friday.

Taptam ($4.40) took the initiative from the start in the Star of Texas, leading the boys through six furlongs in 1:13.20. She then opened up on the field through the stretch, to cover the distance on a fast track in 1:44.77.

“She is a remarkable horse,” said Cliff Berry, who was aboard for trainer Bret Calhoun. “It wasn’t necessarily the plan to get her to the lead, but I wanted to get her in the race. She’s a racehorse, fun to ride.”

Calhoun said Taptam, who was second to eventual Horse of the Year Zenyatta in last year’s Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, could run next in a prep for that race. He said she is a candidate for the $100,000 Bayakoa for fillies and mares at Oaklawn on Feb. 19.

Taptam, a 6-year-old mare by Pleasant Tap, was the Texas-bred horse of the year for 2010. She races for the partnership of Wayne Sanders, who bred her, and Larry Hirsch.

Quiet Again finished second in the Star of Texas, 4 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Mile Marker.

Sam Houston drew an ontrack crowd of 5,272 for Texas Champions Day, while handle on the 10-race card from all sources was $1,580,669.

Valid Stripes upsets Chief of Affairs

Valid Stripes ($55.60) overtook comebacking favorite Chief of Affairs in the stretch to win the $50,000 Spirit of Texas by 1 1/2 lengths. Chief of Affairs held second, while Gold Coyote and Goosey Moose, who were also returning from significant layoffs,  finished a respective sixth and seventh.

Valid Stripes was cutting back to one turn for the Spirit of Texas after finishing sixth in a $30,000 optional claimer at a mile at Delta Downs on Jan. 7.   

“He may not have run his best in his last few races,” said Kirk LeBlanc, who was aboard for trainer Amos Laborde. “But he sure knew where the wire was tonight.”

Valid Stripes covered six furlongs in 1:10.14.

Aces N Kings delivers in Groovy

Aces N Kings, who won 5 of 8 starts in 2010, started the new year in the winner’s circle when he held for a neck win over Tamtastic in the $50,000 Groovy. He led throughout in the seven furlong race for 3-year-olds, covering the distance in 1:25.11. Eguard Tejera was aboard Aces N Kings ($3.80) for owner-trainer Caroline Dodwell.

* In other races, Playgirl Prospect ($12.60) ran down 6-5 favorite Patty’s Pride on the wire for a nose win in the $50,000 Bara Lass for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. Lindey Wade rode the winner for trainer Danny Pish.

* Wade and Pish also won the $50,000 Richard King with Skip a Smile ($12), who rallied for a three-quarter length win over Brentwood Bullet. The winner covered 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:51.86.

* Kite Seeker ($12.60) rallied for a 2 1/4-length win over Girlsfest in the $50,000 San Jacinto for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Quincy Hamilton was aboard for trainer Karl Broberg.

* Hamilton and Broberg also teamed to win the $50,000 Yellow Rose with Truly Lucky ($7.60), who went wire to wire from the rail to cover the six furlongs for fillies and mares in 1:10.78.