Stakes, Trials Kick off Sam Houston Meet

JRC Callas First takes the Harris County Stakes.

Press Release

The first stakes of the 2014 Sam Houston Race Park Quarter Horse season, the $20,000 Harris County Stakes, attracted a solid field of eight on Saturday night. For the third year in a row, trainer Brian Stroud captured the 550-yard feature. The winner was Roberts Racing Stables’ JRC Callas First, who returned in top form after a five-month layoff.

Damian Martinez rode the Texas-bred son of Winners Award, breaking from post position six and crossing the wire in :27.093, three lengths ahead of post time favorite Corona La Jolla.

“This horse just kept running,” said Martinez. “This was my first stakes win ever!”

Stroud and his wife, Dana, purchased the bay gelding last October at Lone Star Park.

“We gave him a break during the winter,” said Stroud. “He’s gotten away from us a few times in the post parade, so we asked permission to pony him to the track. He is a very nice horse.”

Stroud won the Harris County Stakes in 2012 and 2013 with JC My Diamond Man. He believes that JRC Callas First was capable of a stakes win at this distance, based on his previous win at 550 yards, a $10,000 conditioned claiming on August 2 at Retama Park.

Trainer Kie Mushinski was pleased with the runner-up effort of Corona La Jolla, an 870-yard distance specialist.

“He’s not really a 550 horse, but he did well,” said Mushinski. “This was a good tune up for the (870-yard) Governor’s Cup Marathon (on May 3).”

JC My Diamond Man was a heavy favorite last year, but JRC Callas First rewarded his backers with $14.40 for the $2 win ticket. First Spectacular completed the trifecta and JJS Black Lace ran fourth.

Longshots Sixes Straw and Pyro Win Trial Races for the Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge
Two trials were contested to determine the 10 fastest qualifiers for the $100,000-added Bank of America Sam Houston Championship Challenge (G2).

Sixes Straw posted the fastest time in the trials, covering 440 yards in :21.833. The 5-year-old son of First Down Dash is owned by Circle T Ranch and trained by Rolando Almarza.

“I thought my other horse (Dash Master Jess) was the one with a big chance,” said Almarza. “I’ve only had Sixes Straw one month. He ran well; it’s always good to have one in the final.”

With a lifetime record of two wins from 17 starts, Sixes Straw went to the gates at odds of 26-1, returning a nice mutuel of $54.40. Runaway Wagon, who won the 2013 Sam Houston Classic (G2) for trainer Bobby Martinez, ran second, followed by The Field Cricket and DW Runaway B.

The winner of the first trial, Pyro, bred and owned by Kathleen O. Matey, blazed to the wire of the 440-yard trial in :21.855. The 4-year-old son of Make It Anywhere is trained by Judd Kearl and was ridden by Jose Alvarez.

“I was worried when I saw him break,” said Kearl. “No sooner did he cross the wire did I get a text from Kathleen. She said ‘my little pony just beat the big horses.’”

Pyro paid $39 for the win and was followed to the wire by The Sunday Assassin, Nash Jolla and Im a Feature Girl.

For a complete list of finalists, times, sires, dams, owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys, click here. The top 10 will return for the final on Saturday, April 12.

Emilianos Wagon Fastest Qualifier for the Sam Houston Maiden Classic
Ten trials were run on Friday, March 21, for the $71,100 Sam Houston Maiden Classic. The first trial of the evening produced the fastest qualifying time as Emilianos Wagon got the ball rolling in impressive fashion.

The 3-year-old son of PYC Paint Your Wagon is bred, owned and trained by Jorge Haddad of Seguin, Texas. With Saul Ramirez Jr. in the irons, the bay gelding closed from the far outside post, covering 350 yards in :17.742.

This was just the fifth start for Haddad's homebred, who began his career last year at Delta Downs. He qualified for the $265,755 Firecracker Futurity (G3) at Delta Downs on July 4 and finished second but was disqualified and placed seventh for interference.

"He ran a really good race," said Haddad. "I knew how fast he was, and he seems to have more confidence this year. He was really flying at the end."

Haddad and his wife, Kitty, have three children. Multiple graded stakes winner Giorgino was named after their oldest son, Jorge Jr. (George), and Emilianos Wagon is named after their second son, Emiliano. Haddad is looking for a special horse to bear the name of his only daughter, Giuliana.

Mike Amburn's PYC Paint Your Wagon gelding Paintedinoil under jockey Luis Ramirez was the second-fastest qualifier, winning his trial in :17.742. Guy Hopkins trains Paintedinoil as well as the 10th-fastest qualifier Snipes And Bites.

The 10 fastest qualifiers will return on April 5 for a final purse of $77,100, up considerably from the $53,400 in 2013. The complete list of qualifiers for the 2014 Sam Houston Maiden Classic, can be viewed by clicking here.

Special Post Time Set for Saturday, March 29
Due to an exceptional number of nominations for the Sam Houston Futurity (G2), there could be as many as 18 trials run on Saturday, March 29. As a result, Sam Houston Race Park has moved its evening. post time to 2:00 p.m. The 10 fastest 2-year-olds will advance to the final which will be run on Saturday, April 19.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information,
follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, watch the AQHA Racing Newscast and visit