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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As the Ronaverse continues, emotions are high. People are getting upset over the dumbest things. Maybe it is simply because Twitter has the worst people in the world, but endless topics are being "debated" that really have no reason to be questioned.

One of the oddest of these is starting to pop up as athletes opt out of returning to play among the Covid-19 shortened seasons. People are actually critical of athletes who make these decisions.

Those people are simply what we call "dumbs."

It doesn't matter what their reasoning is. Athletes - like all of us - have the option to worry about things other than their job. Simply because they have the wherewithal to take time off without pay is no reason to be critical. David Price became one of the latest this week and explained his decision well.

But they owe it to us, the fans.

Sports is not life. These athletes do not owe you anything. You choose to buy their gear and wear their numbers. That's your right. It's also their right to be concerned for their own health and that of their families.

They are young. The disease barely affects young people.

True. But if you are the one young person it does impact? And what about your parents and grandparents? Are we to fault players for caring about things like that? They are people. There are those who dehumanize them because they are famous, make a lot of money and live lives most people will never have. But that does not mean they aren't real people with real life concerns.

They make millions. It is worth the risk.

What good are those millions if you are dead? Or a family member becomes gravely ill? This should not even be a debate. Players have the right to make up their own minds, just as you do. I am not one of the Rona Paranoid Crew, but I don't rip people who are overly careful. We should all deal with this in ways we think are best. Everyone loves to throw out terms like "personal freedom" and "it's my right" when it suits their needs. In this case, it applies to the athletes.

The sad thing is not everyone can afford to stay away from work in order to survive. Many waiters, cooks and bartenders were forced to go back to work to pay bills. Many were not comfortable doing that, but they had no real choice. That sucks.

But those who do have a choice should be able to make it without facing criticism. Maybe it costs your team a World Series if a key player opts out. Or an NBA title. So what? There will be other years, other chances. That won't be the case for a lot of high school and college athletes who may never get to play again. Sure, they might be bitter that pros can sit out, while they have been robbed of one last chance at the game they love. But the Rona is not their fault. Neither is the fact that these athletes have the means to follow their principles.

What will their teammates think of these players abandoning them?

That's a fan argument. Most players will completely understand, because they, too, are human. If the season winds up shutting down halfway through or never getting started, no one will remember who wasn't there. Nor should they care.

But for some reason, people do. They have the right to choose whether to play or not. You have the right to choose whether or not you will keep buying their jerseys. That is how freedom works.

It would be nice if we would all just allow people to make the best decisions for themselves without turning it into a stupid debate.

In today's world, I realize that is not reality. The dumbs are inheriting the earth.

So memo to athletes: If you want to be on the field, awesome, we will be rooting for you. If you believe it is not worth the risk to you or your family? Stay safe and we will see you when you feel comfortable again. Simple, right? That really should be the end of it.

Sadly, it won't be. That's not the world we live in anymore, if it ever was.

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