Deep Field Assembles for John B. Connally Turf Cup

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 24th, 2018

It’s only January, but I’m willing to bet that a couple months could pass before we see another field of turf horses with as much quality as the group that has assembled for Sunday’s $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (gr. III) at Sam Houston Race Park.

The 1 ½-mile race could easily be mistaken for a Grade 2 or even a Grade 1 event at any other time of year, since several of the twelve entrants having already scored victories at those levels. Leading the way is Bigger Picture, who won this race last year during a productive season that saw him score a signature victory in the United Nations Stakes (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. Trained by Mike Maker, Bigger Picture has not run since finishing twelfth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I), but should be poised for a rebound while facing easier company at Sam Houston.

Maker will also send out Camelot Kitten, who won four graded stakes events as a three-year-old in 2016. Camelot Kitten has been trained throughout his career by , but following a 0-for-4 campaign in 2017, Camelot Kitten has been transferred to Maker and will be seeking a rebound while stretching out in distance. Other contenders include Big Bend, winner of the Sycamore Stakes (gr. III); Chicago Style, beaten a neck in the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. II) last time out; and Some in Tieme, winner of the Louisville Handicap (gr. III).

Also on the Sunday card at Sam Houston is the $400,000 Houston Ladies’ Classic (gr. III), which attracted eight fillies and mares. In terms of accomplishments, the graded stakes winners Actress and Tiger Moth headline the field, with Actress looming as one of the favorites following victories in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) and Comely Stakes (gr. III) last fall.

But Actress will be stepping outside her age division for the first time and Tiger Moth enters off of four straight defeats, leaving the door open for one of the other six contenders to score a breakthrough victory. Among the fillies and mares seeking their first graded stakes wins are Valadorna, runner-up in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I); Martini Glass, who ran second in both the Delaware Handicap (gr. I) and the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) last year; and Ready to Confess, runner-up in the 2016 Iowa Oaks (gr. III) and decisive winner of the She’s All In Stakes at Remington Park last time out.

Post time for the first race of the day is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.