Sam Houston Hosts the Houston Racing Festival

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sunday, January 31st 2021 is the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park. The event features the biggest day in Texas racing with over $1 million in purses. 

The highlight of the day is the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) with LADY APPLE (4-1) running to defend her title. Also in the field is the Spendthrift and owned mare MOTION EMOTION (7/2). Both horses are trained by Steve Asmussen. 

While LADY APPLE is the defending race winner, she has six losses since her last Ladies Classic. She will also be making her seasonal debut after finishing third in the Joseph E. Spanky Broussard Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds in late December. MOTION EMOTION is looking for her first graded stakes win, but she has placed in three previous graded stakes starts. This will also be her seasonal debut after being purchased by Spendthrift Farm for $800,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale. 

The next top race of the day is the $200,000 J.B. Connally Turf Cup (G3). The field is full with 12 horses. Mike Maker is looking for a win in the 1 ½ mile turf race. He has three entered with AJOURNEYTOFREEDOM, CONVICTION TRADE, and MARZO all looking for a shot at the win. 

SPOOKY CHANNEL has been running in Grade 1 and 2 company after coming out of the woodwork to score a 36-1 upset in the W. L. McKnight at Gulfstream on Pegasus World Cup weekend in 2020. However, he has yet to land on the board in these big races. He will be ridden by Julien Leparoux who has wins over the dirt and turf at Houston. 

Although TENFOLD hasn't hit the board in four starts and hasn't had a win in 13, it's hard to discount any Asmussen trained horse when racing in Texas. He won at 1 ¼ miles on the dirt when he won the Grade 3 Pimlico Special Stakes and was a third place finisher in the Preakness in 2019. Although a bit shy of the 1 ½ mile mark, he was racing against the likes of JUSTIFY and BRAVAZO that year. This will be his first start on the turf however, so perhaps Asmussen believes a change in surface will help him get back to winning.

TUT'S REVENGE also looks like a horse who could get ahead of the field as a gate to wire threat. However, he hasn't run on some of the tracks that attract the tough competition, instead running at Remington, Prairie Meadows and Canterbury.

Then there's the $200,000 Texas Turf Mile and both Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse have starters in this race. Pletcher has both FIGHTING FORCE and WINFROMWITHIN. FIGHTING FORCE recently broke his maiden in December at Gulfstream and then finished second in the Dania Beach Stakes. WINFROMWITHIN broke his maiden in his fourth start January 2nd at Gulfstream. 

Mark Casse is shipping PALAZZI over from Fair Grounds where he won a maiden special weight on the turf last month. 

William Reed has EXCESS MAGIC who is coming into the race with a two-race win streak. 

Finally, there's the $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint Stakes. FAST BOAT is the 7-2 morning line favorite. The CITY ZIP gelding has been running in stakes and Grade 2 company, but has yet to score a stakes win. His best effort so far as the Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint Stakes (Black Type) at Sam Houston last January where he placed second. His most recent win is an allowance optional claiming at Churchill last June. 

Mike Maker also has two entries in this race with the 5-1 MO MAVERICK and 10-1 TIGER BLOOD. MO MAVERICK's last win was an alliance at Aqueduct. TIGER BLOOD had a rough 2020 to say the least. 

Asmussen is running SHARE THE UPSIDE (4-1) has three wins out of his last four starts.


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