Jockey Stewart Elliott picked up his second leading rider title at Sam Houston Race Park as the meet wrapped up its 50-day stand Saturday, April 9th. Elliott had the support of trainer Steve Asmussen, riding first call for the Hall of Fame conditioner as he piloted 296 mounts, winning 62 races with earnings of $1,490,006. The successful union between Elliott and Asmussen began in Houston two years ago and has continued at Lone Star Park and Remington Park.
Asmussen won his 14th training title at the northwest Houston racetrack, following honors as top trainer in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Asmussen started 259 runners, finishing with a record of 51 wins, 41 seconds, 55 thirds and earnings of $1,554,306. He conditions Stonestreet Stable’s homebred Pauline’s Pearl (Tapit), who captured the richest race of the annual Sam Houston Thoroughbred season, the $400,000 GIII Houston Ladies Classic.
End Zone Athletics, Inc. clearly topped the owner standings, finishing with 22 wins, 29 seconds and 18 third-place finishes from 137 starters. The ownership group, founded by Karl Broberg, has been a force at Sam Houston for over a decade with previous titles in 2018 and 2020.
Solid Meet for the Son of Top Louisiana Jockey Gerard Melancon
HOUSTON, TX- In the business world, there are countless stories about family-owned businesses transitioning between generations. In the racing industry, training mantles have been passed down between parent and child with tremendous success. But obstacles are plentiful when the son of an elite jockey chooses to pursue that same career path.
Thoroughbred jockey Jansen Melancon is a prime example. The 33-year-old rider is the son of one of the top riders in the country, Gerard Melancon. Known affectionately as Gee-Money, Gerard has won 5,048 career races and with his outgoing personality and bevy of top trainers in his hip pocket, seems destined to ride for many more years.
His son, Jansen, shipped his tack to Sam Houston Race Park in January and is currently tenth in the standings. He returns to action this week off a notable showing last weekend. He guided Gold Declaration to a driving runner-up finish at odds of 34-1 for trainer Terry Eoff on Friday, February 18. On the Texas Preview card, he scored an adroit stakes win aboard Chief Brady in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit. Melancon, riding for horseman Dallas Keen, found an opening on the rail and confidently navigated the 3-year-old to the wire. It’s difficult for members of the Sam Houston jockey colony to command attention with veterans Stewart Elliott and Ry Eikleberry winning races for top horsemen Steve Asmussen and Karl Broberg. But last weekend, racing fans in Houston and across the country, saw the talent of Jansen Melancon.
Jansen began riding in 2008 and has won 761 races from over 7,300 starts and purses of $14.2 million. Becoming a professional jockey was all he ever dreamed about, and he always had the support of his father.
“He never discouraged me, ever,” stated Jansen. “He always wanted me to be happy.”
But for many years, being the son of Gerard Melancon, created imposing obstacles. Annette Melancon, wife of Gerard, and mother to sons Jonas and Jansen, remembers it well.
“People would tell Jansen that he had big shoes to fill or call him ‘little G’ referencing the well-known tag of “Gee Money,” she recalled. “It was difficult for him.”
Jansen had a tough time with it, but soldiered on as he made the rounds, picking up mounts for a number of horsemen.
“When I first got going, Joey Foster was one of the trainers who stuck his neck out for me,” he said. “Throughout my career, I’ve never ridden first call for a barn; I’ve always had mounts for many horsemen, and I appreciate each of them.”
Jansen faced challenges for many years; there were wins, but he was far from an overnight success. Alcohol played too much of a role in his life and he chose to face his addiction.
“I have been sober for two years now and have never felt better,” he explained.
Jansen always had the support from his parents and his wife, Brooke. They live just a subdivision away from them in Scott, Louisiana, with their 6-year-old son, Emmitt.
Gerard Melancon watches pretty much all of Jansen’s races and was thrilled with his three-bagger here on January 15.
“That was a great night for Jansen,” said his proud dad. “He’s always had a hard time riding under me in Louisiana. Hopefully he will pick up some owners and trainers because he has so much talent and he just needs opportunities!”
Jansen is in agreement with Gerard on that front.
“A lot of the trainers knew me as a kid,” said Jansen. “The comparisons to my dad were ongoing, but riding in a different circuit, I am Jansen, not G’s son.”
On Saturday, February 19, Gerard won the finale at Delta Downs aboard Frank the Mayor for trainer Keith Charles. That evening, he and Annette settled into their recliners to watch Jansen ride the Texas Preview Night card at Sam Houston Race Park. Jansen piloted Chief Brady in the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit, who had won his debut in January for trainer Dallas Keen. He was stepping up against in stakes company, but Jansen settled the 3-year-old colt on the backstretch before finding room on the rail. The son of Bradester responded gamely and drew off to a three-length victory at odds, rewarding his fans with a $13.20 win payout.
“He’s never had dirt in his face, but took it well,” said Jansen. “He was moving nicely and dragging me along; I saw the rail open and took the opportunity.”
Keen had no hesitation is giving Melancon the return call.
“Jansen is a talented rider,” stated Keen. “He shows up in the mornings and listens when I tell him about what the horses like and do not like. He won by six lengths on Chief Brady in his debut and made an impressive move up the rail in the Jim’s Orbit.”
In addition to impressing Keen and racing fans last Saturday, Melancon drew rave reviews from his parents.
“Gerard was whooping and hollering watching Jansen win that stakes,” said Annette. “It was exciting; we were very proud of him!”
Jansen has ridden against his father many times in Louisiana and is destined for repeat duels in the future. His approach is that they are just two jockeys trying to cross the finish line first.
“When I am in the starting gate, it doesn’t matter who I am riding against,” said Jansen. “It’s just me and the horse trying to win the race.”
He will ride at Sam Houston Race Park until the 2022 Thoroughbred season wraps on Saturday, April 9. Jansen and his agent, Bubba Wood have several options open about his next stop.
“I feel I have never worked a day in my life,” he explained. “It’s still fun. There’s no freer feeling than being on the back of the horse.”
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. Owned by Penn National Gaming. Inc., the racetrack, which opened in 1994, offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and the Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Request For 50-Day Thoroughbred Meet Granted at Tuesday’s Texas Racing Commission Meeting
HOUSTON, TX – Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2022 live racing season on Thursday, January 6 with an expanded 50-day Thoroughbred meet. The Thoroughbred meet will conclude on Saturday, April 9. The dates were approved by the Texas Racing Commission on Tuesday, July 27.
Sam Houston Race Park was granted 46 Thoroughbred days in 2021and had one of the most successful seasons since it opened in 1994 as the first Class 1 racetrack in Texas. One of the major highlights was its $5.3 million handle for the annual Houston Racing Festival. Houston Ladies Classic (G3) winner St. George Stable’s Letruska continues to deny her rivals in graded stakes competition across the United States. She currently tops the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, a weekly salute to the ten leading Thoroughbreds in North America.
Sam Houston Race Park also received approval for their annual Quarter Horse racing season. The 25-day meet will begin on Friday, April 22 and continue through Saturday, June 18.
“We are pleased that we have approval for next year’s live racing schedule,” said Dwight Berube, Sam Houston Race Park’s General Manager. “We are in the midst of planning for 2022 and look to build on the momentum that we were able to achieve this year.”
Further information on purses, stakes schedule, stall applications, training hours and condition books will be forthcoming.
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. The Park offers a variety of attractions including a Suite Level featuring luxurious suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options at the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and theJockey Club. For more information on upcoming live racing, shows, events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
Two other horses’ sample sizes were insufficient and two of the 10 tested clean.
Thursday, Sam Houston Race Park announced that Friday’s Grade 2 race will be held as a non-wagering event, and that trainers of horses testing positive will be barred from entering at the track, effective immediately.
Sam Houston Race Park has canceled live racing through Saturday, Feb. 20, due to continued winter weather, the Houston track announced Feb. 17 via Twitter. Racing on Wednesday had also been canceled.
Five stakes races for state-breds as part of the Texas Preview Day program had been scheduled for Saturday but are now moved back a week.
“Due to ongoing weather conditions in Houston, SHRP has canceled racing through Feb. 20,” Sam Houston wrote in a tweet.
“Texas Preview Day is now rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 27.
“The 5 Stakes Races will not be redrawn.”
Texas Preview Day will feature the $75,000 Houston Turf Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, the $75,000 H-Town Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs, the $75,000 Jim’s Orbit Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings at six furlongs, the $75,000 Miss Bluebonnet Turf Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at a mile, and the $75,000 Two Altazano Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.
Letruska winning the GIII Houston Ladies Classic S. | Coady Photography
Sam Houston Race Park set a record for handle during its 10-race Houston Racing Festival card Sunday, Jan. 31. Besides the $300,000 GIII Houston Ladies Classic S. and $200,000 GIII John B. Connally Turf Cup S., the fixture also featured the $200,000 Texas Turf Mil S., $100,000 Pulse Power Turf Sprint S., the $75,000 Stonerside Sprint S. and the $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf S. A record total of $5.3 million was wagered at the Houston-area track.
“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s Houston Racing Festival and setting a record handle of $5.3 million,” said Frank Hopf, Senior Director of Racing. “It was a team effort from everyone at Sam Houston and our thanks go out to all the horsemen and owners for supporting our meet. This would not be possible without our horseplayers, both here in Texas and nationally. It was a great day.”
Request For 46-Day Thoroughbred Meet Granted at Tuesday’s Texas Racing Commission Meeting
HOUSTON, TX – Sam Houston Race Park will kick off its 2021 live racing season on Friday, January 8 with an expanded 46-day Thoroughbred meet. Live racing will be conducted on the traditional Friday and Saturday evenings, with Thursday late afternoon racing added to the calendar throughout the season. Wednesday afternoon racing will return for seven weeks beginning February 10. The Thoroughbred meet will conclude on Saturday,
Purses will be substantial with a total of $11.4 million offered throughout the season. Horsemen will have the opportunity to run for overnight purses of approximately $248,000 per day with notable levels as follows:
Maiden races will be offered at $36,000
Allowance races will start at $37,000
The 2021 Thoroughbred Stakes schedule will offer approximately $2,200,000 in purses. A complete stakes schedule will be released in early October, but officials have confirmed that the Houston Racing Festival will take place on Sunday, January 31 with an afternoon post time. Both the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) and the John B. Connally Turf (G3) continue to attract nationally prominent trainers and serve as a springboard for each champion to garner multiple graded stakes throughout the year.
“We had an exceptional meet in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic forced its early cancelation,” said Dwight Berube, Sam Houston Race Park’s General Manager. “Our goal throughout this year was to move forward and offer our loyal horsemen and women even better opportunities for 2021. We are very excited about the upcoming racing season!”
Sam Houston Race Park also received approval for their annual Quarter Horse racing season. The 23-day meet will begin on Friday, April 23 and continue through Saturday, June 12.
Frank Hopf, Senior Director of Racing Operations and James Leatherman, Racing Secretary announced that stall applications for the upcoming meet are due by Wednesday,November 6. The Sam Houston Race Park barn area will open on Saturday, November 28 with training hours set to commence on Tuesday, December 1. The first condition book will be available in mid-October and further information about the season can be accessed at www.shrp.com.
About Sam Houston Race Park
Sam Houston Race Park is Houston’s premier racing and entertainment facility, located just 15 miles from downtown Houston. SHRP offers a variety of attractions including luxury suites overlooking the racetrack, The Pavilion Centre, and award-winning dining options in the Winner’s Circle Restaurant and Jockey Club. For more information on upcoming events and tickets, please visit www.shrp.com.
During a teleconference meeting Sept. 29, the Texas Racing Commission approved a schedule for 2021 race dates in which Sam Houston Race Park and Lone Star Park will be the only tracks to run Thoroughbred meets in the state. The state’s other major track, Retama Park, will run exclusively Quarter Horses next year.
Because Retama Park agreed to transfer some of its Thoroughbred purse money, Sam Houston extended its application and was approved for seven more days than what it had originally planned. The track will now run a 46-day Thoroughbred meet from Jan. 8-April 3 before Thoroughbred racing in the state shifts to Lone Star Park for a 42-day race meet from Apr. 16-July 18. Both Sam Houston and Lone Star will also run shorter Quarter Horse meets.
The 42-day meet by Lone Star is a reduction of approximately seven race days from historical averages since 2012, Mary Ruyle, executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, told commissioners before their vote, while opposing the shorter schedule.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order no. GA-23, issued this Monday, will allow for the reopening of the state’s simulcast racing on May 22. The order, relating to the expanded opening of Texas in response to the COVID-19 disaster, states that facilities may “operate at up to 25 percent of the total sited occupancy of the establishment.”
At 9 p.m. ET Monday, Lone Star Park has not made an official announcement regarding whether or not it is prepared to begin live racing on the 22nd, this coming Friday.
Executive Order No. GA-23, reads, in part:
“Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020, for all Texas counties except Deaf Smith, El Paso, Moore, Potter, and Randall counties:
D. Bowling alleys, bingo halls, simulcast racing to the extent authorized by state law, and skating rinks that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment; provided, however, that (i) bowling alleys must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating lanes; and (ii) components of the establishments that have video arcades must remain closed.
E. Rodeos and equestrian events that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy or, for outdoor areas, at up to 25 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the facility owner; provided, however, that this authorizes only the rodeo or equestrian event and not larger gatherings, such as county fairs, in which such an event may be held.”
The Elite Program, Inc. and Dr. C. Reid “Mac” McLellan, well known national instructor of Groom Elite classes around the country is offering an updated version of his Trainers’ Exam Prep class at Sam Houston Race Park February 6-9. Entitled Racehorse Owner-Trainer Prep Class and, expanded by one day, this version includes time for discussion of philosophy and methods of training racehorses. This class starts with discussion of options for acquiring racehorses, preparation of young racehorses, improving performance of older racehorses and options for post racing careers. Intertwined is discussion of relative rules of racing that influence and, in some cases, govern application of these training methods.
Those familiar with racing know that since 2019 rules are being changed rapidly. Some rules are in the best interest of horses and some are not. McLellan discusses these rule changes and how trainers and owners can make sure that their horses are given the best care within a volatile, changing rule environment.
This prep class’s opening session commences Thursday, February 6 at 3:00 PM and continues until 7:00 PM. Friday, Saturday, Sunday classes are from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM with continuing informal discussion during a one-hour in room lunch break each day. Sunday will be focused on the rules of racing involving daily activities on a racetrack including entering horses with correct imposts, raceday activities and post-race testing. Participants will enjoy a night at the Sam Houston Race Park races Friday night.
This class is open to anyone interested in learning about horses. Owners, jockeys, grooms and handicappers participate alongside participants desiring to take a trainers’ licensing exam. Tuition for this 25 hours of interactive discussions packed with information about racing, racehorses and the Rules of Racing is $349 if paid online by February 3 rd . Tuition after February 3 rd and at door (if space is available) is $400. This class, particularly the first three days qualifies as continuing education for previous Trainers’ Exam Prep Class participants. Previous TExP participants, as well as Groom Elite 101 certified grooms, receive a $100 prior participation credit and pay only $249.
The Elite Program, Inc. is a 501(C)3 non-profit that provides equine education classes through it’s Groom Elite™ curriculum. With its initial primary mission (in 2001) to provide education to grooms and hotwalkers or Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Racehorses, Groom Elite continually adapts and updates it’s programming that now includes courses for grooms and owners of OTTB show horses and welcomes owners and grooms of any breed. One of it’s more notable programs is its Second Chances Groom Elite curriculum taught in five adult correctional facilities in partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and it’s local affiliates in which participants learn life lessons while developing an employable skill working with retired racehorses.