Falcon Points

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

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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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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