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Sam Houston to Host First Graded Stakes Event

by Randy Chambers

Sam Houston Race Park, located in northwest Houston made a mark in racing history by becoming the first Class I racing facility to be built in Texas in 1994. Following in Sam Houston's foot steps were Retama Park, built in 1995 in Selma, Texas and Lone Star Park which opened in 1997 in Grand Prairie. All three facilities take part in the make up of the Texas racing circuit.

Lone Star Park is owned by the savvy Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment Corporation, and held the Breeder's Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in 2004. The most recognizable of the three outlets, Lone Star Park was built for $96 million and is known for it's captivating beauty. Nevertheless, Lone Star Park will have to take a back seat to Sam Houston Race Park on April 8, 2006 as the racing establishment takes center stage in hosting it's first Graded stakes event the Grade III Jon B. Connally Breeder's Cup Turf Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

Now in it's twelfth running the Jon B. Connally Breeder's Cup Turf Handicap was given Grade III status for the first time this year by the American Graded Stakes Committee. With a $200,000 purse up for grabs, a full field of twelve are set to do battle. Win junkie Fort Prado was installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite. The hard knocking seven-year old Onthedeanslist was penciled in at 9-2 after drawing the unfavorable post position twelve, while last year's winner Rapid Proof is slated to start the betting at 5-1. The track record for 1 1/8 miles on the turf course was set by Chorwon on March 6, 1999 in the time of 1:47.65.

Fort Prado a well traveled son of El Prado and race high weight at 120 pounds is coming off two consecutive stakes victories. In January he turned away two competitors he will face again on Saturday in Onthedeanslist and Waupaca, at Louisiana Downs in the Grade III Fair Grounds Breeder's Cup Handicap. Then he packed his bags and headed to sunny Florida where he captured the Tampa Breeder's Cup Handicap by two lengths at 122 pounds. This will be his first try over the Sam Houston Race Park lawn for owner Team Block. A winner of five of nine starts and over $500,000 in career earnings, Fort Prado was beaten by 1 lengths while finishing sixth in the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in his only try at 1 1/8 miles. Fort Prado will be ridden by Robby Albarado on Saturday.

Rapid Proof will try to defend his title after winning the Connally Breeder's Cup Turf Handicap in 2005. Rapid Proof has fallen on hard times since his victory in the Connolly. With four starts since the Connally, his best performance was his last effort, a second place finish in his first start of the year, an allowance prep race over the Sam Houston surface. He closed well and was just nipped at the wire by three quarters of a length by Seainsky. He has placed in both of his career starts over the Sam Houston Race Park turf, and recently put in a four-furlong breeze of :49.40 on April 1 at Oaklawn Park. A winner of 4 of 28 starts, Rapid Proof is trained by Hal Wiggins for owner Morrison Dolphus. Brian Hernandez, Jr. his regular pilot will once again be aboard.

Waupaca was able to stay close early then wear down the pace setter Gondolieri in an allowance optional claiming event in his last start, tactics that he will likely employ again on Saturday. His first start of the year was a third place finish to Fort Prado and Waupaca in the Grade III Fair Grounds Breeder's Cup Handicap. An offspring of Forrest Wildcat, Waupaca has eleven career wins, nine of those coming on turf. However, he has the daunted task of trying to erase his 0-for-6 lifetime record of Saturday's 1 1/8 mile distance. Waupaca is owned by Wayne Sanders and is trained by Donnie Von Hemel. Louisiana based jockey Elvis Perrodin will be in to ride.

Onthedeanslist will have to call upon all of his early speed after drawing post position twelve. Othedeanslist has made only one start so far this year, a runner-up endeavor to Fort Prado in January. The son of Honor Grades was a winner of four of eight starts in 2005, two coming by way of stakes victories, the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap at the Fair Grounds and the Tri State Handicap at Ellis Park respectively. If Onthedeanslist is able to clear his outside post position, he could get brave on the lead and prove very tough to catch when the real running begins. He is trained by Ralph Nicks for Team Valor Stables, and Corey Lanerie who has taken the call in his last four outings will once again ride.

Trainer Andrew Leggio would tell you not overlook his lightly raced four-year old Louisiana-bred son of Royal Anthem, Prince T.. Owned by Rancha Fresa Inc., Prince T. will switch back to the turf, after making his last three starts on dirt. He stayed relatively close early then faded in his last start when facing the likes of Purim and Arch Hall in the Grade III Razorback Breeder's Cup Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Five of his eleven career starts have come against Louisiana-bred's, and his only turf score came in the one mile Gentilly Handicap at the Fairgrounds in May of 2005. Prince T. will get in at the feather weight of 113 pounds, and the crafty veteran Bobby Walker, Jr. will be in the irons.

Don'tbotherknocking loves to win races, evidence by his 13 wins from 40 lifetime starts. He ships in from Tampa Bay Downs where he put in an even fifth place effort against allowance company. Arguably a case could be made for the eight-year old gelding by Farma Way, that his fuel tank was half empty for his first start of the year. His 2005 form is plentiful, as he rattled of three stakes wins in a row in the months of September and October while earning $207,450. He is trained by Bernell Rhone and is owned by Frank Jedlicki. Once again he will be accompanied by the rider that has had the most success with him of late, Quincy Hamilton.

Here is the complete field from the rail out with the morning line:

1. Waupaca 6-1
2. Doctor Doctor Mrmd 30-1
3. Dontbotherknocking 8-1
4. Prince T. 8-1
5. Twilight Vision 15-1
6. Fort Prado 3-1
7. Seainsky 15-1
8. Toratora 30-1
9. A R Crackers 20-1
10. Dynareign 12-1
11. Rapid Proof 5-1
12. Onthedeanslist 9-2


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