Falcon Points

Sam Houston Race Park is primed for one of its best years yet when live racing returns on Friday

Courtesy photo

Live racing will return to Sam Houston Race Park this Friday night, and the 26th season of racing could be one of the best yet. The thoroughbred meet kicks off with a 10-race card filled with more purse money, solid sized fields and better quality racing than we have seen in past years.

Thanks to the state Legislature actually helping the industry by earmarking $25 million annually for purse money throughout the state this year, 2020 has a chance to be the best quality of racing since the track's dynamic opening season in 1994.

Trying to compete

Purse money is simply the dollars paid out to the jockeys, owners and trainers. The more money, the better quality of racing. The better racing, the more people will bet. The more people bet, the more money goes into purses. It's the circle of horse racing life.

Sam Houston and the other Texas tracks have had trouble competing for horses with neighboring states. Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas are supplement their tracks with additional forms of gaming, mostly casinos, where most of the money is being bet by Texans. So the purse boost will help level the playing field.

Big races

Sam Houston has done a terrific job of staying relevant by going to shorter race meets, and building up purses through simulcasting the rest of the year. The thoroughbred meet will have 39 days and run through March 28. The quarter horses start shortly thereafter and run through May. The higher purses should bring better horses in both breeds, and bring more national attention to the track.

The biggest race day will be a special Sunday card on Jan. 26, with over a million dollars paid out in purse money, headed up by the $300,000 Houston Ladies Classic, which has become an early season national staple for fillies and mares.

That same day, the track will host a qualifier for the NTRA Handicapping Championship. The event will award two spots to the championship in Las Vegas, with an option for 2020 or 2021. It will be a $1,000 live bankroll tournament.

Most weeks races will be held on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Post times are noon Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. In March, the track will add three Tuesday cards as well. When the quarter horses start on April 13, they will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays

The most important thing...

Let's face it, as much fun as the races are to watch, gambling on them is what makes the world go round.

Betting on the ponies is one of the most fun ways to gamble. As in the past, the track will provide free tip sheets, and SportsMap will also provide free picks.

Sam Houston's racing surfaces are two of the safest and most fair in the country. Thoroughbred races are held on both dirt and turf, although weather sometimes forces races off the turf course. The track will run rain or shine, unless the weather is deemed dangerous. In the past, when the main track is listed as sloppy, horses on or near the early lead tend to fare very well.

Also, the Blitz will be broadcasting live several times throughout the meet, including opening night.

Fun ways to gamble

If you have never bet on the ponies, there are multiple wagers available in each race. Most are designed to bet a little to win a lot. If you want to learn how to gamble on the horses, the audio book Acing Racing 2016 is the perfect place to start. If you are a poker or sports gambler, the book explains things in ways you will easily understand.

In addition to live racing, Sam Houston has simulcasting from tracks so you can bet places from all over the world. However, there is nothing like live racing. It is a good family night out, and if you go, make sure you watch at least one race from the rail outside to get a feel for the power and majesty of the animals. There will be also some of the regular attractions if you aren't into the racing - .50 beer nights on Fridays, camel and ostrich racing, and more entertainment.

If you have never been, make it a point to check it out at least once this meet. You will be entertained.

Sam Houston Race Park is located at 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For more information, check out shrp.com.


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Texans training camp observations from 8/10. Still footage by Cody Stoots.

The Houston Texans inched closer to their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from a hotly contested practice.

1. Derek Stingley did it again. The rookie continues to get more and more work. It had been rare to see Stingley win a big rep against Brandin Cooks, but that changed Wednesday. Cooks planted and turned for a comeback route as Davis Mills was letting the ball go. Stingley planted himself, and I didn’t think he would make it to the ball. Well, not only did he make it, but he also had an interception bounce off his hands. The defense had a little buzz to it after the play from the rookie. It was an example of the eye-popping potential and continued growth for Stingley.

2. A few plays later, Stingley showed his agility and closing speed on a play where he ended up defending Nico Collins. It was a different task for Stingley, but he recognized where the ball was headed and went to close on Collins. Collins dropped the pass, but even had he caught it, Stingley was there to keep it a short gain.

3. Jalen Pitre was named a starter on the team’s unofficial initial depth chart. He’s earned it. Pitre flashes constantly and some of the early hiccups from camp are no longer present. Pitre skied over Brandin Cooks, didn’t interfere, and knocked a ball away. He’s going to be a must-watch in the preseason games.

4. Dameon Pierce has a nice burst and he’s stocky, but on Wednesday I saw some patience and vision from him. The rookie running back darted through a slow-developing hole for a big gain. Pierce catches the ball a fair amount as well, despite the fact his college games didn’t feature that a ton when you watched him play at Florida.

5. I was concerned about Dameon Pierce’s pass blocking, and I still want to see what it looks like at full speed. Wednesday showed he has a decent idea of what to accomplish. Pierce chipped a rusher that was about to beat the offensive tackle, allowing Davis Mills to complete a huge play to Brandin Cooks.

6. Davis Mills and Brandin Cooks finally hooked up on a long pass and made it look easy. It was in stride, on target, and went for a gain of over 30 yards. Mills had to step up a little to make the throw. It was a tight pocket, and he dropped it right into the bread basket of Cooks. It elicited the biggest cheer of the day from the fans in attendance.

7. Towards the end of practice, it was Davis Mills and Brandin Cooks again. The situational football was in full effect as the offense was drilling a 4th and 10 from the 20-yard-line setup. Mills had to buy a little time, and the offensive line held up well, but he saw Cooks coming open and fired to the back corner of the end zone. Two feet for Brandin Cooks and a touchdown. The defense was exasperated. They’d done almost all they could to contain Cooks.

8. It wasn’t the best day overall from the offense. In part, the defense had some nice plays. There was a little sloppiness from the offense overall. Some were almost connections. I will say though, that one bad play doesn’t feel like it dooms the offense anymore. There is hope if there is ever a negative play or an incomplete pass. It didn’t feel that way last season.

9. Maliek Collins might be a problem this year. For opposing teams, I mean, not the Texans. Collins had a couple of bad penalties last year and came up close on a few plays. He again had a nice play that would have resulted in a sack. It’s fun to see his potential show in camp, I am excited to see him and All-Pro guard, Quenton Nelson, in week one of the season.

10. Kevin Pierre-Lewis is healthy and ready to contribute. He was step for step on a Brandin Cooks wheel route that ended up being an incomplete pass. With some injuries in the linebacker group, the veteran has a chance to start or at least play a lot.

11. The preseason game is on Saturday against the Saints. Here are four players on offense and four players on defense I will be watching very closely. On offense guard Max Scharping, running back Dameon Pierce, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, and wide receiver Chad Beebe is who I will be looking for the most. On defense edge rusher Rasheem Green, defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, linebacker Neville Hewitt, and any rookie who plays.

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