MVP WANNABE

Ken Hoffman: Horse named after Astros superstar finishes ... second

Jose Altuve has had a banner year. So how did his namesake do in a recent horse race? Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sports radio host Barry Laminack won the annual Great Celebrity Camel Race on January 19 at Sam Houston Race Park. Laminack, who moonlights as a standup comic, hosts the 1-4 pm talkfest The Usual Suspects with Joel Blank on ESPN 97.5 FM. By bouncing across the finish line first, Laminack won $500 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Second place went to Channel 26 anchor Melissa Wilson. Two other entrants reportedly chickened out and refuse to board the spittin’ beasts. There’s a word for people like that: smart.

“I was scared to death,” Laminack says. “I felt like I was going to fly out of the saddle a few times.”

Saddle?

“It was more like a roll cage, a u-shaped bar. They told me I could hold on to the hair on the camel’s hump, but I felt that would only make him angrier. He was freaking out in the starting gate.

“Between my boys hitting the hump, and my rear end hitting his back, it felt like I was in a minor car wreck. My butt and lower back were battered. Two days later, my arms, back, butt, and knees were still hurting. The next time I ride a camel I’m bringing a hemorrhoid pillow to sit on.”

Meet Altuveatbat

That same night, a horse named Altuveatbat finished second in the fourth race, paying $5.20 and $3.40. The 3-year-old colt won $1,340 for his owner. It was the horse’s professional debut.
  
It’s been a big year for Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. He wins his third batting title, cops the Most Valuable Player award, the Astros take the World Series, and now a horse named after him finishes second at Sam Houston Race Park.

Altuveatbat — one word. How? Why?

“I named him,” says Sabina Pish. “My husband trains thoroughbred horses and the horse’s owner, Joey K. Davis, asked us to come up with a name. I caught ‘Astros Fever’ during the World Series, and fell in love with Jose Altuve and his story. I wanted to pay homage to Mr. Altuve.”

Altuveatbat was born March 15, 2015. His dad is a stallion named Etesaal; mom is Maddie’s Pride. Get this, Altuveatbat’s grandfather is named Grand Slam. Second base, second place. It’s all coming together now.

But why not name the horse just plain “Jose Altuve?”

“It’s very hard to get celebrity names approved by the Jockey Club, the registry that approves names for horses,” Pish says. “If I had named him ‘Altuve at Bat,’ it probably would have been rejected. I took a chance with ‘Altuveatbat’ and they approved it.”

That’s a change in the rules. Back when, owners had free rein on naming horses after celebrities.

Here’s a sports trivia question: Chris Evert is in the hall of fame for two sports, can you name them? Answer: horse racing and tennis.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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