11/05/2008 12:00AM

Texas Champions Day the highlight of winter meet

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The Texas Champions Day program of eight stakes worth $425,000 on Dec. 6 will highlight the Retama Park winter Thoroughbred meet that opens Nov. 20. The San Antonio-area track is hosting 43 of the 65 race dates that Sam Houston Race Park canceled last month because of damage to its grandstand and stable area sustained in Hurricane Ike.

Retama closes out its current Thoroughbred meet Nov. 15, then will run the Houston dates through Feb. 28. During the winter meet, there will be an abbreviated stakes schedule of 11 races, with no running this season of Sam Houston's most prominent stakes, the Grade 3, $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf and the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup.

The purses for the two richest Texas Champions Day races have been trimmed $25,000 each, with the Star of Texas, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, worth $75,000 this year, and the Martanza, for fillies and mares at a mile, worth $50,000. The remaining stakes, which cover divisions for 2-year-olds, turf runners, and sprinters, are each worth $50,000.

James Leatherman, racing secretary at Retama, said nominations to the Texas Champions Day races close Nov. 22. They should be sent to the racing office at Retama.

The other Sam Houston stakes to be contested at Retama will be the $50,000 Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 24, and two divisions of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on Feb. 14.