PLAYING THE PONIES

Fred Faour's selections for Friday at Sam Houston Race Park -- plus a bonus play on Saturday's Pegasus World Cup

Gun Runner heads Saturday's Pegasus field. Brisnet.com

It's Day 4 of the Sam Houston Race Park thoroughbred meet with nine races tonight. Here are my selections for the card. These are not meant to be in exact order, but merely the four horses I think have the best chance to win. For beginners, I suggest exacta boxes with three horses, using two of mine and one of your own. And you can always pick up a copy of Acing Racing 2016 to learn everything you need to know. (These are the picks and format that are available on the free tip sheet at SHRP). Also, the Blitz is broadcasting live at the track today from 4-7 p.m. Drop by and say hello. However, before we get to the Sam Houston picks, the richest race in the world will be run at Gulfstream on Saturday and if you are looking for a play...

Pegasus World Cup

The race will be the final one for future Hall of Famer Gun Runner, who is the 4-5 favorite. He inherited the Best Horse in the World title when Arrogate returned from his Dubai World Cup win and was never the same. Gun Runner has won four in a row and six of his last seven, with only the second in Dubai to Arrogate tarnishing his record. He is a hard horse to root for, because his trainer is unlikeable, but that's not the horse's fault and does not tarnish his briliiance. He beat most of these in his last race, the Breeders' Cup Classic. But there are reasons to play against him here. Gulfstream is a quirky surface, he drew a tough post and will face serious early pace pressure. All that said, he is clearly the horse to beat. However, we will take a shot with No. 6 Gunnevera at 15-1. He loves Gulfstream, will be rolling late and could turn the tables on some of the horses that beat him in the Classic (he was fifth that day).

Cost will vary based on your bankroll, but we will base these plays on $2 exactas so you can get out light. Feel free to increase the wagers based on your personal budget (or go with $1 exactas if you are limited). We will do a $5 exacta box with Gunnevera and Gun Runner in case the big dog comes to play. If he doesn't, we will pick up a nice score wheeling Gunnevera in the exactas with every possible contener for $2: 6 with 2-4-5-7-9-11-12 and 2-4-5-7-9-11-12 with 6. That will cost $28 and your total outlay is $38. You could also consider playing him first and second in the trifectas with the 2-9-10-11 in second and 2-4-5-7-9-10-11-12 in third. (The second bet would be 2-9-10-11 with 6 with 2-4-5-7-9-10-11-12. For .50, those two bets come out to $28. Good luck on your plays.

Sam Houston Race Park Friday

FIRST

3-8-7-6

BIG CORK catches the easiest field he has seen in a while

SECOND

4-5-1-2

MOSTA FLYIN should be in a good spot to break through

THIRD

6-9-8-2

UNBRIDLED ENCORE is consistent but will need his best effort

FOURTH

5-6-2-3

OH FLO is well bred and could surprise at first asking

FIFTH

10-12-1-6

ARCH OF AGES drops in for a tag for the first time

SIXTH

2-1-7-8

DRINKIN SONG should be competitive at this distance

SEVENTH

5-10-7-6

REAL DE JALPA should be in the mix if she runs back to her Arlington turf form

EIGHTH

4-5-1-2

SELFIE SENSATION was sharp in last and will be tough

NINTH

11-3-2-4

CALF CREEK BULLDOG drops in for a tag and should improve

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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