The $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston has become the personal domain of trainer Mike Maker in recent years. He’s won the seven of the last eight runnings, including the last six in a row. Maker won the Connally the last three years with Bigger Picture, but relies on Marzo, Bemma’s Boy, Cross Border, and Patriot Drive in Sunday’s renewal of the 1 1/2-mile race.
Despite recent losses in the Red Smith (G3) and Ft. Lauderdale (G2), Sycamore (G3) winner Marzo might be Maker’s best chance with Corey Lanerie taking the reins, but Maker said not to take Bemma’s Boy, a close fourth in the River City (G3) last time, lightly.
“We gave him a freshening after Churchill Downs and has been training well,” he said. “I think he will like the added distance.”
Cross Border finished narrowly ahead of Marzo in the Ft. Lauderdale, two races after finishing a respectable fifth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).
“It wasn’t a great trip in his most recent,” said Maker, referring to the Ft. Lauderdale. “He and my other runner, Marzo, got in each other’s way.”
The New York-bred Dot Matrix has held his own against open company in recent years for Brad Cox and was most recently third to Sadler’s Joy in the Red Smith at Aqueduct at odds of 25-1. The newly-turned 4-year-old Tracksmith steps up in class off a recent win against his peers in the Woodchopper S. at Fair Grounds, while Grade 3-placed stakes winner Sleepy Eyes Todd, by Paddy O’Prado, takes a swing at graded company for his first turf attempt.
The inaugural $200,000 Texas Turf Mile for 3-year-olds attracted a field of 12, led by Billy Batts and Chimney Rock, the respective Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) runners-up. Jack and Noah and Pixelate both won grass stakes during the Aqueduct fall meet, while Bodecream enters off a sharp second in a Fair Grounds grass allowance.
Richard’s Boy is the marquee name in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint at five furlongs, but doesn’t seem as fast as he once was. Perhaps more dangerous are Real News, Fast Boat, and Jazzy Times.
Despite possessing no stakes experience, multiple allowance winner Dream Passage could be the one to beat in the $75,000 Jersey Lilly, a 1 1/16-mile grass test for fillies and mares. She’s won three in a row for trainer Brad Cox and will get Florent Geroux in the saddle.