March 12, 2013, Houston, Texas
From Derek Thompson’s notebook ~The Sam Houston racetrack in Texas was the setting over the weekend for the 3rd leg of the Sheikh Mansour Global Racing Festival and it went the way of Switzerland in the shape of Sarah Leutweiler.
The 29 year old lawyer from Zurich rode a stylish race on the locally bred Willeys Song and came home in good style much to the delight of the capacity 10000 crowd!
The 7furlong race attracted a truly international field of 12 runners including the American jockey Sandee Beatiie who had ridden over 500 winners but it was the impressive Leutweiler – twice lady jockeys world champion – who looked different class!
There was also a listed race, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan cup and this produced a tremendous finish with the gutsy Krosfire holding the late challenge of the hot favourite So Big is Better.
Racing Ostrich and Camels
Both of the Arab races produced plenty of interest from the massive crowd although to be fair it was a fun night at the races and amidst the 10 race card were a couple of races for Ostriches and Camels. I’ve seen plenty of camel races in my time – this was for local celebrities who raised a lot of money for charity – but I’ve never seen an ostrich race before and it certainly provided plenty of fun and hilarity.
The venue, the Sam Houston racetrack named after the first governor of Texas, was OK but it didn’t exactly set the world alight considering it is the racetrack for the richest city in America! However it was good to see the name Cash Asmussen among the list of trainers at the track and although the former American and European Champion jockey was away on business in Hong Kong his Gambini won the 1 mile race saddled by his assistant Erica Cook.
1500 TV Monitors?
One thing that did stand out at the racecourse were the number of tv monitors that brought in races from all over the world. I understand there are over 1500 tv sets at the track – is this a world record?!
Darley Awards Ceremony
Then on Sunday the great and good of American racing not to mention the many of us who had flown in on Emirates put our best on for the 26th annual Darley Awards at the JW Marriott hotel in the heart of Houston.
It was an honour to host such a prestigious awards ceremony – very well organized by Lara Sawaya – and the general feeling the morning after the night before was that these were the best ever Darley Awards.
After the ceremony I conducted an auction of nominations and this helped raise over 20,000 dollars!
I must also say well done to Denise Gault, Chief Steward of the American Arabian Racing Cup, who made us all feel very welcome and never stopped rushing around making certain all her visitors were well looked after!
I also managed to fit in a visit to the Houston Rodeo which runs for the whole month and it was amazing!
There must have been around 30000 people there and apart from the usual attractions of trying to sit on those bucking broncos there were classes for some of the most pampered cows and pigs in the world! Indeed before one class I saw a lady using a hair dryer on her star pig!
I didn’t stay to see if all her hard work paid of because it was back to the airport for the overnight flight to London and then straight in the car to the Cheltenham Festival!
From temperatures of around 20 degrees in Texas it was back to reality with a wind chill of minus 9!
The hard working ground staff had covered the track to make certain it was raceable and that meant putting down a staggering 65 acres of frost covers!