It’s a big night at Sam Houston Race Park, with four stakes including the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. There is an all-stakes pick four, and we will break down those races in more detail.
Hopefully everything will go as planned tonight. Races 6-10 were canceled last night due to “technical difficulties.” Ray Paulick reported jockeys refused to ride after an “electrical surge.” Certainly it will be worked out by tonight with such a major card scheduled.
The main track has played heavily to speed. Almost every winner has been within a length turning for home, so most selections reflect that. Deep closers have made little impact. There have not been enough turf races to develop a pattern.
Picks for all races are below. Here is a look at the four stakes races:
FIFTH RACE — The Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint. This five furlong turf sprint features Heitai (3), one of the best sprinters in the region. He’s unbeaten on the turf and has been worse than second only once in his last 10 starts. He has a run of second-place finishes against strong company, including just missing by a neck against Delaunay at Fair Grounds. He will be extremely tough in this spot. Smaller pick 4 tickets can feel reasonably confident about singling him. If you go deeper, include Petey Cramer (5) and Global Power (11). Almost the entire field wants to be on the lead early. Heitai has failed to lead at first call just once in his last 10 and he was dueling through a :21 quarter then. He is simply faster than the others and if he does make the lead, will be nearly impossible to catch. The only potential closers in here — 1-4-8-9 — look overmatched, but the race shape should get one or more of them in the trifectas, superfectas and Houston Hi 5.
SIXTH RACE– The Allen’s Landing. A nice group of developing 3-year-olds. Lightly raced Waging War and Exodus have big upsides, while Fusaichi Flame and Bagpipes have stakes experience. Using all four in the pick four should get you past this race (1, 4, 7, 8).
SEVENTH — The Grade III John B. Connally Turf. Bim Bam is the morning line favorite here with two stakes wins in his last five starts. But has not shown much against tough fields in the last two. We’ll land on improving Trace Creek as a top pick but this is a cover race in the pick 4. We’ll use 3-5-6-7-8-9.
EIGHTH — The Houston Ladies Classic. Defending champ Rose to Gold is back but isn’t in the best of form. We will leave her off the ticket in favor of four horses — Cassatt, Shannon Nicole, Kiss to Remember and Angelica Zapata (2-6-7-8).
So here are the .50 pick four plays:
Small ticket (singles Heitai): Race 5: 3. Race 6: 1-4-8-9. Race 7: 3-5-6-7-8-9. Race 8: 2-6-7-8. Cost for .50: $48.
Bigger ticket: 3-5-11/1-4-8-9/3-5-6-7-8-9/2-6-7-8. Cost: $168. Honestly, I think you can go with the smaller ticket. Another way to play it is go three deep in the turf sprint and shorter in the Ladies with a backup saver ticket singling Hetai. That would look like this:
Main ticket: 3-5-11/1-4-8-9/3-5-6-7-8-9/2-8. $84.
Backup: 3/1-4-8-9/3-5-6-7-8/6-7. $24. Total investment: $108.
FIRST (7-6-3-5) — ESSCALATOR romped in last and will be tough here.
SECOND (3-2-7-5) — ALMOSTEVENWITHTHEVAN ran well at Mountaineer and form there has transferred well here.
THIRD (2-5-6-7) — TUCO’S REVENGE stretches out off a solid effort last week.
FOURTH (7-8-3-6) — If OUR ROMEO can relax early here, he could roll at a price.
FIFTH (3-5-11-8) — HEITAI loves this trip and will be have to be caught.
SIXTH (1-4-8-7) — WAGING WAR rates a look in a very tough event. Any of the top four picks could win.
SEVENTH (5-3-7-8) — Another tough group. TRACE CREEK steps up in class but fits here. Also add the 9 in pick 4s.
EIGHTH (8-2-6-3) — CASSATT has not run a bad race around two turns and will be tough to catch.
NINTH (2-1-5-6) — DAYBREAK DREAMER is in sharp form and looks like a solid top pick.
TENTH (2-4-11-14) — Completely wide open. JUST THE TAP is one of many who could take this