Pauline’s Pearl, Queen Goddess lead Houston Ladies Classic noms

The nominations for the Houston Racing Festival at Sam Houston Race Park are closed. The annual event, with six stakes and purses over $1 million, will be contested on Sunday, January 30 with a special afternoon post time of 1:45 p.m. (CT).

The Houston Racing Festival includes two graded stakes, the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Women’s Classic and the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf.

The Houston Ladies Classic was inaugurated in 2013 and was awarded its grade status by the American Graded Stakes Committee in 2016.

Each year, the mile and a sixteenth main track feature has produced an exceptional runner who progressed to Class 1 wins and captured national headlines.

Joyful Victory, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, trained by Larry Jones, was the first winner of the Houston Ladies Classic. Midnight Bisou, the incomparable filly to conquer the 2019 edition, surpassed the $7 million profit with five Grade 1 wins.

Last year’s winner, St. George Stable LLC’s Letruska, won five consecutive stakes, including four Grade 1 titles before completing her 2021 campaign in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Super Saver is the nominee for the Older Female Eclipse Award this weekend.

This year’s Houston Ladies Classic, which will run with a $400,000 (vs. $300,000) purse, closed with 26 nominations. Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen has nominated Pauline’s Pearl. Homebred Stonestreet Stables LLC takes a win in the $200,000 Zia Park Oaks on November 23. She started her 3-year campaign at Fair Grounds before finishing second in the Grade 3, Honeybee and winning the Grade 3, Fantasy Stakes last April at Oaklawn park. Tapit’s daughter out of the Dixie Union mare Hot Dixie Chick has earned $733,300 in 10 career endeavors.

Asmussen, who has won 13 Sam Houston Race Park leading trainer titles, will be looking for his third win in the Houston Ladies Classic. He won in 2019 with Midnight Bisou and 2020 with Lady Apple.

Queen Goddess has been nominated by trainer Michael W. McCarthy. Owned by Eclipsed Thoroughbred Partners and TOLO Thoroughbreds Inc., Empire Maker’s 4-year-old filly has three wins from six starts. She captured the Grade 1, $300,000 American Oaks on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park in gate-to-wire fashion after the race washed off the grass and moved to Earth. The Houston Ladies Classic would be her second start on the main track.

Trainer Brad Cox, who won the 2018 Houston Ladies Classic with Tiger Moth, has nominated three fillies for the championship this year. Juddmonte Farms Amendment Nineteen is a staked daughter of Constitution, who made her final start at Oaklawn Park and finished second in the $150,000 Misteltoe. The Kueber Racing LLC coach competed in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks and was victorious in the Pippin on January 8 in Oaklawn. His third filly under consideration is Matera, a 5-year-old mare by Tapit, who won three of her five starts in 2021.

Nominations were strong for the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup, a mile and a half with 43 nominations received by the Sam Houston Race Park race office. Mike Maker, who has won the Connally seven times, has nominated 11 turf specialists. Three Diamonds Farms, which has won three previous editions with Bigger Picture, owns three nominated turf specialists; Cross Border, Tiberius Mercury and Tide of the Sea,

The John B. Connally Turf was awarded grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid list of past winners, including Chorwon, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff and three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture.

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