Another Mystery (left) and Fantasioso (middle) dead-heat for the win in the John B. Connally Turf Cup, with Strong Tide a head back in third at the wire
To say that history was on the line in Sunday afternoon’s Grade 3, $200.00 John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park, would be a major understatement. Since its first running in 1995, the race has attracted some of the top turf horses in the country. On Sunday, not one but two turf specialists added their names to the list of John B. Connally Turf Cup champions and history was made as the race resulted in a dead-heat for the win for the first time.
The 1 1/2-mile turf event came to a thrilling conclusion with a three-horse photo finish at the wire. The Turf Cup has always attracted top turf horses from across the country, and Sunday’s race was no exception as the Illinois-bred Another Mystery, with races from the Midwest and West Coast, shared the win with East Coast-based, Argentinian-bred Fantasioso .
James Graham-ridden Fantasioso, a 7-year-old horse by Strategic Prince, was bred by Luther Eduardo Carlos in Argentina. He is co-owned by Bloom Racing Stable and his trainer, Ignacio Correas, IV.
Though he had made 12 starts at the distance previously, Fantasioso was cutting back from his last race, the two-mile H. Allen Jerkins Stakes at Gulfstream in which he finished third. He has hit the board in several stakes but was in search of an elusive win.
“He’s such a cool horse,” said co-owner Jeff Bloom. “This was a well-deserved victory as he has been close in so many of his races. James rode him perfectly and it was so gratifying to see him win a graded stakes in the United States.”
Fantasioso won several graded stakes in his native Argentina but this was his first graded stakes victory in North America. He has earned $259,539 in 32 career starts and has finished in the money in 19 starts, including six victories.
Graham was able to close despite slow fractions and create the trip his horse needed.
“They went slow in front of us, but he ran his rear end off and I was glad to finally win a Connally Cup,” said Graham, who made the trip to Sam Houston from Fair Grounds. “This horse has a good kick and I appreciated the opportunity to ride for Ignacio and Jeff.”
Another Mystery is a 6-year-old horse by Temple City, bred and owned by Team Block and trained by Chris Block. This marked the second Connally Turf Cup win for Team Block, who also brought Fort Prado to the winners’ circle in 2006.
“Two years ago he ran in the Connally coming off a ten-day rest,” said Block. “He’s matured a lot and as my dad would say, he’s been crying out for three turns. He had a good rest and trained great coming into the race. The Ioya family is all turf and Jareth put a great ride on him.”
Jareth Loveberry had the call on Another Mystery after riding the horse twice at the Fair Grounds, including a win in the Bob F. Wright Memorial Stakes. He is multiple graded stakes placed with $358,000 in and picked up his seventh career win earnings in 24 starts.
“He ran a really good race and handled the turf course well today,” said Loveberry. “He was grabbing the bit and had his head down at the right time. I want to thank Chris and the whole team for getting him ready.”
He’ll get a rest and run next at Fair Grounds, according to Block. Jeff Bloom said that Fantasioso will likely be pointed to Keeneland.
The final time for the stake was 2:31.28. Both horses closed from far back to hit the wire together after letting Dyn O Mite and Strong Tide set the fractions up front. Strong Tide held on to be involved in the photo finish at the wire and was placed third.
Strong Tide is a homebred for Michael and Penny Lauer of Indiana; Penny Lauer owns and Michael Lauer trains the 5-year-old son of English Channel. Geovanni Franco traveled to Houston to ride Strong Tide, who he also rode to victory in an optional claiming event at Oaklawn in their last start.
Hierarchy and Corey Lanerie led the rest of the field in fourth place, followed by pacesetter Dyn O Mite, post-time favorite Ajourneytofreedom, Malthael, Decision Maker, Tide of the Sea, Logical Myth, Parrot Head and Conviction Trade.
The John B. Connally Turf was awarded Grade 3 status in 2006 and boasts a solid roster of past winners including Chorwon, Warleigh, Fort Prado, Rod and Staff, Swift Warrior as well as three-time champions, Candid Glen and Bigger Picture.
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