They say everything is big down in Texas. From my Lone Star State experiences, I’d have to say that ‘they’ are correct. Saturday evening at Sam Houston Race Park should fit right in. The richest day in Texas racing promises to be a big night. The after dark card features the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, but also boasts a trio of interesting supporting stakes that could well upstage the headliner. Without further ado, follow me in as I try to make sense each of the four that comprise the all-stakes late pick 4.
Race 6 – Allen’s Landing Stakes – The first of the four stakes, at seven furlongs on the main track, is by far the weakest of the bunch. Kowboy Boots looks like a legitimate favorite for the powerhouse team of Ken & Sarah Ramsey. It will be the first start for his new connections, after being scooped up while winning a $40,000 maiden claimer for fun two months ago at Churchill Downs last time. Watch out for the morning line third choice, F J Uncle Vic, who had some trouble when finishing 4th last time in his local debut against state-bred stakes horses. Another Texas-bred, Check Ride also merits consideration, as a two-time winner, and getting a major class break after tangling with the talented, Walt, in his latest.
Race 7 – Champion Energy Services Stakes – A 5 furlong test for turf sprinters, this one has drawn an explosive field. First of all, you have to really wonder about Force Freeze breaking from the rail. One of the best sprinters in the nation a few years ago, the 9yo gelding will be making his first start since a big win 23 months ago, for new connections, Eric and Randi Moreau-Sipiere and trainer Jerenesto Torrez. Can he win the race? Should he have even been brought back at this advanced age? Questions to which I don’t have a good answer for yet. If he’s ready, he should add to an extremely fast early pace, which will include the Tom Amoss trained 3-1 morning line choice, Sum Of The Parts. Two impressive wins sandwich his fading to last performance in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Rosie N will try to take his speed all the way. A tactic his trainer does not hide. "He's made a living on the front end," said Amoss. "It's no secret that we are going to send him and hope he holds on. This is a very good field." Adding to all the speed is the classy Great Mills, winner of this race two years ago for trainer Steve Asmussen. Certainly any of these excellent speed horses can go all the way tomorrow night, but considering the blistering early pace, I will look for one that can rally. The talented Chicagoan, Hogy, fits the bill. At his best, he is very good, and hopefully rider, Chris Emigh, will have him in position to pick up the pieces in the stretch.
Race 8 – John B. Connally Turf Cup (Grade 3) – Trainer Michael Maker is loaded for bear in this one with Admiral Kitten and King David. The latter was the runner-up in last year's edition of the mile-and-one-eighth turf contest, and the former was as classy as any 3yo turf horse in the nation last year. Admiral Kitten is the 2-1 morning line choice for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park last August. He looked great that day, but it was his only win out of seven turf tries last year. Having said that, he did finish 2nd in the other six, all the while running against tough hombres. At his best, he does win this going away, but with his penchant for being a bridesmaid, I want to cover things in case he runs 2nd once again. I see the most likely upsetter to be the lightly raced Marine Patrol. The Gary & Mary West chestnut is a rapidly improving 4yo who I’m hoping will be on or near the early lead in a race devoid of front runners.
Race 9 – The Houston Ladies Classic – This one looks wide open. Actually, a case could be made for everyone of the eight fillies and mares looking to win Sam Houston’s riches race. Forced to pick one, I would likely lean towards Awesome Flower. A five-time winner last year, the daughter of Flower Alley should get a good trip coming from off the pace with Rosie in the irons. Another with a big chance is the 6yo mare, Class Included, who is currently in career best form for trainer, Ron Faucheux. Narrow this race at your own risk, though, as I mentioned before, Rose to Gold, Unusual Way, And Why Not, Phonybooksnrecords, Do You Like Me Now, and Moon Philly also would be no surprise at all to make it into the winner’s circle.
The Play – I’ll go with a pair of $1 Pick 4’s for a total of $102.
2,5,6 / 7,8 / 5 / ALL = $48
2,5,6 / 3,7,8 / 3,4,5 / 4,6 = $54