Playing The Ponies

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Friday, March 29

Coady photograpy

Here are my selections for Friday. 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
5-8-6-1
CALIBER was a sharp winner in last and should handle the move to turf


SECOND
7-5-6-8
MEGASIZE faltered in last but tough heat and Parker stays aboard


THIRD
8-12-1-7
SOOLEAWA returns to a sprint distance where debut was strong


FOURTH
3-8-6-4
MY THIRD EYE was a sharp winner in last and takes a slight turn back in distance


FIFTH
12-11-7-9
ELVIS deserves one more shot after a lackluster debut


SIXTH
1-4-3-2
TRULY BLING hooked a monster in last and this should be an easier spot


SEVENTH
1-7-2-6
PREVIOUS HONOR heads a powerful entry that looks tough here


EIGHTH
8-1-4-5
SOUTH TEXAS DRAWL improved in last and similar effort gets it done

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Jose Altuve is crushing the baseball. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

The Astros and White Sox playing through the weekend at Minute Maid Park is their most interesting series since the 2005 World Series the ChiSox won in a sweep. Both are clear 2021 World Series contenders. We already know the Astros won't get swept four straight this time as their mashfest at the plate continued in Thursday's 10-2 coast of a series starting victory. So far in June the Astros are a spiffy 11-4. And have lost ground to American League West leading Oakland. The A's are 12-2 this month and take a two game division lead into the weekend.

The Astro offense is humming and then some, leading Major League Baseball in runs scored per game, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. The runs per game gap between the Astros and second-best Los Angeles Dodgers is larger than the gap from the Dodgers to 10th best. The Astros have hit at least two dingers in their last 10 games. That ties the MLB record set two years ago by an atrocious Orioles' squad that finished 54-108.

Jose Altuve's days of being a .340 hitter are almost certainly finished, and he has a paltry six doubles so far this season. But it's not like a .298 batting average is feeble, and with his home run surge at eight homers in his last 10 games Altuve is now on pace to hit 38 homers this season. 38! His career high of 31 was set two seasons ago. The single season record for a second baseman is 43, hit by Davey Johnson in 1973.

Michel Brantley is a .340 hitter this season. .342 to be exact going into Friday night. Since coming off the injured list he is hitting a mere .532 with 17 hits in 32 at bats. He's been a doubles machine though with diminished home run power. So naturally Brantley belted a three run shot in his first at bat Thursday, snapping a drought of 99 homerless ABs.

Losing Alex Bregman to a quad muscle pull for likely multiple weeks is a blow but if it had to happen this isn't the worst of times for it. Bregman is 0 for his last 19, and over his last 18 games hit just .174. In his first game replacing Bregman Abraham Toro homered and knocked in four.

While the offense can be overpowering it certainly isn't carrying the team. Over the last 18 games Astros' starting pitchers have a 2.38 earned run average.

Rockets looking to win the lottery

The NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday night. Hakeem Olajuwon will represent the Rockets on the freaks and geeks stage of non-playoff teams. The moment of truth for the Rockets is when the fifth pick envelope is opened. If it's a Rockets card it's a horrible blow to the pace of rebuilding efforts because the Rockets would lose the pick to Oklahoma City and in exchange get the 18th pick from Miami. When "The Athletic" asked General Manager Rafael Stone if dropping from top four to 18 would be a set back to the Rockets' rebuild, he absurdly said "not really." Either Stone was spinning in a spirit of optimism, or the Rockets have a not very smart guy as GM. He gets the benefit of the doubt toward the former. The Rockets have a 52.1 percent chance of keeping their pick.

The NBA coaching carousel is spinning hard. Seven vacancies, with another one or two possible. Rick Carlisle's sudden resignation in Dallas makes the Mavericks' opening the clearly best available gig. The Mavs have 22 year old superstar Luka Doncic and that's that. The Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since winning the NBA title back in 2011.

Doc Rivers's coaching job is presumably safe in Philadelphia but after blowing a 26 point lead at home to go down three games to two in their series vs. Atlanta, if the 76ers are taken out Doc adds to the worst gag job resume of any coach in NBA history. Three times Rivers has coached a team that blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven. No other coach has twice lost a series after leading 3-1. The Rockets did it to Rivers's Clippers in 2015. The Nuggets did it to Doc last year ending his tenure with the Clippers. Back in 2003 Doc was coaching Tracy McGrady and Orlando when the Detroit Pistons rallied from three games to one down and make the Magic disappear.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rather cool and coincidental that the giveaway at Sunday's Astros-White Sox game is a Father's Day Carlos Correa jersey. Carlos and wife Daniella announced this week that they are expecting their first child.

2. If the Hawks eliminate the 76ers Clint Capela would be entitled to a hearty chuckle at Daryl Morey's expense.

3. With apologies to Starburst, Best fruit candies: Bronze-Chuckles Silver-Skittles Gold-Fruit Slices

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