PLAYING THE PONIES

Fred Faour's selections for Wednesday at Sam Houston Race Park

Fred Faour's selections for Wednesday at Sam Houston Race Park
It's Day 3 at Sam Houston Race Park. Courtesy photo

It's Day 3 of the Sam Houston Race Park thoroughbred meet with nine races this afternoon. 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).

There will be a lot of off-track money today, so we should get some decent prices on these picks. Good luck.

FIRST 

6-2-8-4

PERFECT CLASS was a beaten favorite in last and could bounce back

SECOND

7-8-10-2

BATTLE ZONE ships in from New York and looks tough here

THIRD

4-3-2-8

GIO POINT might fit well here in a wide open event

FOURTH

6-5-1-2

REAL PANIC was in deep in last and fits better in this spot

FIFTH

2-4-5-8

Slim edge for WOULDA COULDA DID but any of about six horses could win this

SIXTH

7-5-1-6

MY TOCCET will be a late factor and could pop at a price

SEVENTH

1-6-3-2

BEST OF TES should be in the mix 

EIGHTH

7-2-1-4

PERFECT PARADE should bounce back and offers value in this spot

NINTH

7-5-3-10

ESCAPIST has faced tough customers and should do well here

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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