Sam Houston Race Park Opens 24th Live Racing Season Jan. 20
Opening night has arrived at Sam Houston Race Park, and nine races are scheduled for Friday, Jan. 20. The 32-day Thoroughbred meet is expected opens its 24th live racing season with free admission for Military members (valid ID).
Three of Friday’s opening night races will be run on the Connally Turf Course, where the Connally Turf Cup will anchor a card of five stakes on Sunday, Jan. 29 that includes The Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. That will be the only Sunday of racing during the meet.
“We always try to position ourselves in kind of good spots on the calendar so we can be more competitive,” said Andrea Young, president of Sam Houston. “We looked around the country, and there’s not a lot going on that Sunday. We’re the big race in town. We said this looks like an opportunity. We kind of want to see if we can grow the day a little bit more by moving it to a Sunday. Obviously, there’s a lot more wagering across the country during the afternoon on a Sunday than there is at 9 p.m. Central on a Saturday.”
Purses for the meet are projected to average $160,000 per program.
The stakes schedule for Sam Houston is worth $2 million. The season traditionally opens with Texas Champions Weekend, when seven divisional stakes for statebreds are run, but those races have been postponed. Sam Houston has been closed to horses from Louisiana in light of the equine herpesvirus outbreak at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The racing office, now under the direction of racing secretary Matt Crawford, reports that over 950 horses are currently stabled on the backside.
“We had a good entry day and have welcomed a group of very loyal supporters of Texas racing as well as several new conditioners” said Crawford. “Horsemen have been pleased with the track surface during training hours and are eager to begin the 2017 live racing season.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is among those with divisions at Sam Houston. He won the track’s trainer and owner titles last year. Karl Broberg, who led all North American-based trainers in wins in 2016, also will be active at Sam Houston. Among riders, Iram Diego returns after winning last year’s title. Fans will have to wait to see 2015 leading rider DeShawn Parker, who is recovering from a heel injury last month at Fair Grounds. He is considering returning to Houston, pending medical clearance.
Sam Houston will race on Friday and Saturday nights and on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Racing will continue through March 21 and the track has moved up its post for the afternoon cards about an hour to noon.