Spotlight on Sam Houston

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Sam Houston Race Park in Texas offers their premiere day of the meet Sunday with six Stakes races, including the Grade III Houston Ladies Classic and the Grade III John Connally Turf Cup.

Those who don’t usually wager on Sam Houston should note that all rolling wagers — Daily Doubles, Pick Threes, Pick Fours, Pick Five, and the Space City Pick Six — have a player-friendly 12 percent takeout rate.

Here is a look at the all Stakes late Pick Four:

Race 7 — $200,000 Texas Turf Mile: Excess Magic has come alive for trainer Bret Calhoun since trying the turf/route game, winning his last two starts by daylight. His turn of foot should make him the one to beat. Florida shipper Fighting Force (trained by Todd Pletcher) and California invader Harlan Estate (trained by Peter Eurton) each add Lasix exiting states where Stakes horses are not allowed to use the anti-bleeding medication.

Race 8 — $300,000 Grade III Houston Ladies Classic: Letruska was a multiple Group I winner in Mexico and is a multiple Grade III winner in the U.S. She has one way to go — as fast as she can as far as she can. Trainer Steve Asmussen may have entered Motion Emotion to help keep that rival honest and to help set things up for defending champ Lady Apple. The latter is not consistent but when she is good she is very good.

Race 9 — $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup: Spooky Channel exits a good prep when fourth behind eventual Pegasus World Cup Turf runner-up Largent at Gulfstream Park. He is a Graded Stakes winner at this 1-1/2 mile trip and Julien Leparoux comes in to ride. Conviction Trade is one of three horses entered by trainer Mike Maker, who has a history of claiming horses with these turf marathon races in mind. Fitness will not be a problem coming off a runner-up effort in the two-mile Allen Jerkens Stakes. Henley’s Joy won the Grade I Belmont Derby last summer but has yet to regain that form.

Race 10 — $75,000 Jersey Lilly Turf: Catch a Bid and Stunning Sky appear to hold a class edge over the rest of this field. The former was in the Chad Brown stable last year and is well spotted in her first outing for trainer Joe Sharp. The latter was a Grade III winner at Keeneland last fall and may be using this to try and grab a confidence boosting win after being the beaten favorite in her last two starts.

Derby preps

The emphasis is on three-year-olds Saturday at Gulfstream Park, with five Stakes races for sophomores, including the $200,000 Grade III Holy Bull Stakes.

Mutasaabeq, winner of the one turn mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes, is also proven around two turns and looks like the one to beat for trainer Todd Pletcher. Greatest Honor, trained by Shug McGaughey, has the benefit of a two-turn Maiden victory at Gulfstream. Two other impressive recent Maiden winners — Donegal Bay and Prime Factor — are stablemates of Mutasaabeq. Both have the type of early speed that makes them dangerous stretching out for the first time.

At Santa Anita Saturday, Hot Rod Charlie, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a 94-1 long shot, makes his sophomore debut in the Gr. III $100,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Doug O’Neill trains Hot Rod Charlie and also plans to enter recent Maiden winner Wipe the Slate. Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg (trained by Bob Baffert) and deep closers Rombauer (Michael McCarthy) and Roman Centurian (Simon Callaghan) may be the biggest threats to the O’Neill duo.

SA Friday card off

Due to expected heavy rain Thursday and Friday, Santa Anita has cancelled their live racing card for Friday.

In addition, the San Marcos Stakes, which was scheduled to be run on the turf Saturday, will instead be run Saturday, February 6.

“The models are showing us three straight days of rain, with the heaviest hitting around noon on Friday,” said Nate Newby, Santa Anita Senior Vice President and General Manager. “We’ve discussed it with our stakeholders and cancelling Friday in advance provides horsemen, fans, and employees the best scenario to plan accordingly.”

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Gulfstream Park Thursday, Race 6 — Picking Up Pennies (No. 1). Gelding was well bet in his career debut Dec 31 but got shuffled back to last after the start and had to be steadied working his way up the rail down the backstretch. He adds blinkers and figures to show much more early zip with clear sailing.

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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