Uttered for the second time after immortalized by astronaut James Lovell aboard the crippled Apollo 13:

"Houston - We have a Problem!"

Saturday, December 5th, we had entered General Charley in the $50,000 added Richard King Stakes run at a mile and one eighth on the funky turf course at Sam Houston Race Track, in Houston, Texas.   The Richard King was one of 7 Stakes races on the card for Texas bred mules, of which our own General Charley is one.

Looking over the nomination list, we thought Charley would have a great chance against this competition - so we made a few expensive decisions.

One was to ship Charley over to Sam Houston from the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.   He arrived on the Thursday prior to the race.  On raceday, we jetted down Charley's usual jockey Eddie Perez from Chicago.   Also, trainer Neil Pessin flew over from New Orleans on a "Race Charter" along with some other jockeys following Saturdays racing at the Fair Grounds.   Sam Houston runs at night so Neil just barely made it.

Rabbit Partners, Jean & Rick were in attendance and were joined by our Uncle & Aunt, Ron & Marcy Johnson who drove down from Dallas.   Also, nephew Chris Donan, husband to Tomczak daughter Rachel, came by as he had just driven down from Chicago having been recently transferred to the Houston area.   Also, Robinson Jonmoore, son of cousin Robbie, along with his partner Melissa, came on by as they live in the Houston area.  The whole group is pictured to the left.

The turf course at Sam Houston is pretty strange.  They start WITHIN the infield and come out a chute making a hard left onto the main track.  Then they circle the field once to complete the race - all under the lights at  NIGHT. Check out the Video below to see Charley in action.  They do things differently in the Lone Star state.

Charley had drawn the 2 hole out of a huge field of 14 - which was a great draw.  The plan was to get Charley settled near the lead in good position, hold him in reserve until the mid stretch and then let him loose with every one else making a mad dash to the wire.   Charley went off as the 5-2 second favourite and we liked our chances.

As usual, Charley broke great and settled on the rail waiting for someone to take the lead. No one did, however.  So we were forced to set the pace ourselves and through the first 8 furlongs Charley led the pack.  The problem is the race is 8 furlongs - AND A BIT MORE.   In that last eighth of a mile a tired Charley was assaulted by 7 other charging horses and ended up finishing a dissappointing eighth.  As usual, he ran his heart out, but the race was just too long to lead wire to wire.

Following the race we went back to see him and he was ravenous - which is a great sign. He came back just fine, though reflecting on his year we noted that he had now run 12 times.   A lot for any horse - but particularly for Charley as he is about to be 8 years old.   So trainer Neil Pessin advised a short vacation for Charley - so he shipped him back to a nice horse farm in New Orleans for a few weeks of vacation. 

We plan to next race him at the Fair Grounds in January so stay tuned. 

 So as we left Houston we felt like Commander Lovell of Apollo 13...

Glad we all got back safe - but we didn't accomplish our mission!