Sam Houston Race Park opens Friday night with the track&rsquo;s biggest program of the season on the immediate horizon. The Houston Racing Festival card, led by the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic &ndash; which is the richest Thoroughbred race in Texas &ndash; and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, is on Jan. 28. Entries for the program will be out on Wednesday, Jan. 24. &ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve tried to do is make the day even bigger than it had been last year,&rdquo; said Frank Hopf, senior director of racing operations for Sam Houston. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve taken two Texas&#45;bred stakes that normally fell on Texas Champions Day and added them to the program for a total of six stakes on Houston Racing Festival Day.&rdquo; Sam Houston has a 32&#45;date meet that runs through March 17. The $825,000 Houston Racing Festival card anchors the $1.5 million stakes schedule at Sam Houston. The track moved it to a Sunday afternoon last year with the introduction of the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park the previous day, and the schedule will stick this year, with first post for the Sunday program at noon Central. &ldquo;We saw a lot of success last year being on the Sunday,&rdquo; said Hopf, noting the $2.8 million handle on the card from all sources was the most on Sam Houston&rsquo;s races since a program in 2007. &ldquo;We made the switch because of the running of the Pegasus. We draw jockeys from Gulfstream and had to make the move of our big race to accommodate them. Nominations close Saturday and we certainly are getting a lot of positive interest from both coasts in the racing world.&rdquo; The Houston Ladies Classic, a 1 1/16&#45;mile race for older fillies and mares, is expected to draw champion Champagne Room from Southern California and Actress, winner of the Grade 3 Comely in New York. Sam Houston&rsquo;s other major stakes cards include Texas Champions Day (Jan. 27), featuring four statebred stakes, and the Maxxam Racing Festival of four stakes led by the $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup for 4&#45;year&#45;olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 24. Purses at the meet are projected to average $140,000 a program, said Hopf. The track has raised maiden special weights from $19,000 to $20,000, according to racing secretary Matt Crawford. In addition, the bottom&#45;level purse for dirt races has been increased from $5,500 to $6,000. &ldquo;Stall applications came in strong this year,&rdquo; said Hopf. &ldquo;We had over 1,500 applications. Our barn area can hold just over 1,100 horses.&rdquo; Steve Asmussen, who has won nine training titles at Sam Houston, is back with a division for the new meet, while new faces include trainers Boyd Caster and Laura Wohlers. Iram Diego will be seeking his third straight title in a colony that includes such new faces as Jermaine Bridgmohan and Lane Luzzi. Sam Houston will again have a 12 percent takeout on multi&#45;race wagers, said Hopf. Jim Byers will call Sam Houston&rsquo;s races the first three weeks of the meet. Tom Harris, the announcer since 2009, will be at the mic for February, and in March the races will be called by Chris Griffin, said Hopf. Harris has been named announcer at Emerald Downs. Sam Houston will race Fridays, Saturdays and Wednesdays, then add Tuesday cards starting Feb. 13.