PLAYING THE PONIES

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Friday, April 19

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Friday, April 19
Coady photography

Here are my selections for Friday night. 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).

FIRST
1-10-4-2
WAR HORSE
Has been close on a few occasions and should be in the mix


SECOND
6-4-8-3
SANTANDER
Last was a disaster but prior efforts would put him in the mix

THIRD
4-8-6-5
MULLINER
Has been close on several occasions and maybe tonight is the night

FOURTH
4-7-8-3
EVERYTHING IVORY
Been in some tough heats and could surprise at a price

FIFTH
1-7-9-2
BE ZOOMIN FIRST
First time starter had a nice work at Delta and could surprise

SIXTH
2-6-8-1
A FIREY MAMA
Has been decent at times and could win at a solid price

SEVENTH
3-6-8-1
CAPITAN DE LA PLAYA
Inconsistent but best effort puts this one squarely in the mix

EIGHTH
6-4-3-7
HOT BEER
Should be tasty with a clean trip in this spot

NINTH
2-4-5-1
FDD ATTITUDE
Has been in very tough company and should improve in this spot

TENTH
1-7-6-8
JESS PAINT ME PERRY
Has been close in the last two and should be in the mix if ready

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With their closer revealed, here are the Astros top bullpen X-factors

Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.

Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.

Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.

Who pitches the sixth inning?

Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”

While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.

And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.

But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!

Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!

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