Saturday night Sam Houston will hold the Houston Racing Festival, featuring four stakes races, including two graded stakes and the richest thoroughbred race in Texas, the Houston Ladies Classic. It is the kind of quality racing track founders envisioned when the Park first opened nearly 22 years ago.
If you are a casual fan, high quality racing is the best way to raise your interest level. Many of these horses have already competed on some of the biggest stages in racing, and many more will go on to do so the rest of the year.
The card features four horses that ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup championship races, and a defending champion in the $400,000 Ladies Classic.
If you are making your first trip to the track, a friendly remind that the audio book Acing Racing 2016 is a terrific resource for beginners and also has a segment on trifectas and superfectas that are a must for seasoned pros. It is roughly an hour and a half and has everything you need to get started.
How the picks work: They are a projection of the most likely winners of the race in order of preference — not necessarily an exact projection of order of finish. We go more in depth with the stakes races here that what you will get on the tip sheet.
With that in mind, here is an analysis of the four stakes races on Saturday night, with suggested .50 pick four plays. Further below you will find full card selections for both Saturday and Friday.
RACE 6 — FRONTIER UTILITIES TURF SPRINT: MARCHMAN has not won in a while but he has been knocking heads with the best turf sprinters in the country. Five furlongs seems to be his best distance and he should be in the mix. BRILLIANT INTEREST should set the pace and could hang around for a long time. GALTON won his only try at this trip at Churchill Downs and trainer does very well with turf sprinters. D’CAJUN CAT could have a late say. BILLY TWO HATS and PERFECT TO PLEASE should contend to hit the board.
Picks 3-8-2-6. Others to use in exotics: 7-9.
RACE 7 — SPACE CITY STAKES: TWIRLING CINNAMON was a nice second to TAYLORS ANGEL at Fair Grounds but should get a solid pace to run down and looks tough here after mixing up with some of the best 2-year-olds in America last year. IRON DOME will be a big price after a tough run in the Delta Jackpot but lost to the early Derby favorite that day after setting an early pace. RIDING IN THE WIND has won two straight against lesser but should get a nice trip here.
Picks: 8-5-1-6. Others to use in exotics: 4-7.
RACE 8 — JOHN B. CONNALLY TURF CUP: You’ve got to love old-timer KAIGUN, who runs his race almost every time, no matter what the track and distance. What you probably don’t love is he doesn’t win very often anymore. Still, his best race puts him right there and he will be a serious contender. GOING SOMEWHERE should be the controlling pace — always dangerous at a mile and a half — and both starts in the U.S. have been very good after a nice career overseas. DA BIG HOSS and BIG JOHN B are hard knockers who should be serious contenders.
Picks: 8-10-5-6. Others to use in exotics: 1-2-4.
RACE 9 — HOUSTON LADIES CLASSIC. The richest race in Texas Thoroughbred racing once again features a very nice field, including defending champion CASSATT. But we will focus on the improving THEOGONY for trainer Mark Casse. Since leaving Canada and synthetics she has run twice against tough customers and just missed. CALI STAR will also be tough. She has won two straight and when trainer Marty Wolfson ships his horses to other tracks, they almost always run well. CASSATT, DIVA’S DIAMOND and FOREVER UNBRIDLED are all serious contenders as well.
Picks: 5-6-3-1. Others to use: 4 in pick fours, 2 in trifectas and superfectas.
Big money .50 pick four play: 2-3-8 with 1-5-8 with 5-6-8-10 with 1-3-4-5-6. ($90).
Smaller bankroll play: 2-3-8 with 5-8 with 5-6-8-10 with 1-3-5-6 ($48).
Saturday’s other races:
FIRST: 5-6-3-2. WASHITA BELLE will be tough if she handles the stretch out
SECOND: 4-1-6-7. Aptly named HORSEPOWER should be a good fit in this spot
THIRD: 5-2-1-9. MAKOSHIKA just missed in last and could pop at a price tonight
FOURTH: 7-5-1-6. ISH RULES is consistent and might do well here
FIFTH: 8-9-7-1. AREOLITE has been facing tougher and should be in the mix
SIXTH-NINTH: SEE ABOVE.
TENTH: 9-11-10-6. CC’S SONG is in sharp form for a solid barn
SELECTIONS FOR FRIDAY, JAN. 29
FIRST: 2-6-7-1. MI TORMENTO is in sharp form and loves this surface
SECOND: 6-7-5-4. LADY OF ROHAN has some nice efforts in Oklahoma and trainer is off to hot start
THIRD: 2-4-6-3. PLASKA responded to Parker with a big effort last out and could repeat
FOURTH: 7-2-4-3. LOUISA’S PRIDE should get an uncontested lead and will be tough to catch
FIFTH: 8-3-2-7. BIG LIL RED will be in the mix if he takes to this surface
SIXTH: 2-9-8-5. SALT CREEK GULCH tries turf for the first time and fits well here
SEVENTH: 6-3-4-7. BACK TO MT TIGER needed last and should be rolling late
EIGHTH: 1-5-2-4. Both halves of the entry look strong here and either could win
NINTH: 3-12-5-7. Distance should suit VALID MEMORY perfectly