PLAYING THE PONIES

Sam Houston Race Park selections for Saturday, April 13 (with bonus selections on the Arkansas Derby card at Oaklawn and Lexington at Keeneland)

Trump My Record runs at Sam Houston Race Park Saturday night. Hodges Photography

Here are my selections for Saturday. 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). Also, it is Arkansas Derby Day at Oaklawn, and if you are looking for some simulcast action before Sam starts, we have a few plays for you...As to SHRP, these are all 2-year-old races and most have never run, so we are basically making our best guess by looking a breeding, trainers and works. It is not a card I have a lot of confidence in, but good luck today! We also have bonus picks on the cards for the final major Derby preps - the Arkansas Derby and Lexington:

OAKLAWN PARK

Race 4: The Count Fleet features one of the best sprinters in America in No. 4 Whitmore. But we like No. 1 Mitole to pull a mild upset. Straight exacta 1-4.

Race 9: The Oaklawn Handicap. Rain is expected and it should be a sloppy track. If so, we will bet No. 3 Chris and Dave across the board. If the track is fast, we will pass.

Race 11: Arkansas Derby. This one should come down to four horses to win the race - No. 1 Improbable, No. 3 Omaha Beach, No. 8 Country House an No. 11 Long Range Toddy (terrible name by the way). We will play the trifecta with 1-3-8-11 on top with 1-2-3-5-6-8-11 with 1-2-3-5-6-8-11. I like this play on a fast or wt track and you can play it for .50 if you don't want to spend more than $60.

KEENELAND

Race 9: The Lexington Stakes. I like No. 3 Sueno off an OK third in the Louisiana Derby. If he returns a stalking trip, I like his chances a lot. Will play across the board and wheel first and second in exactas with the 1-2-4-5-6-9-10. I will also double dip and take long shot Senden, who hung in there against probable Derby favorite Tacitus in his last start. So bet the 9 across and go 9 with 1-2-3-4-5-6-10 and 1-2-3-4-5-6-10 with 9. I will also hit the 3-9 box a couple extra times.

SHRP

FIRST
10-7-4-1
AGAVERO CARTEL has harp works for the career debut


SECOND
8-1-6-10
CANELO ALVAREZ might pack a...punch at first asking?

THIRD
1-8-2-5
BABY LICIOUS just missed in a big race in Louisiana

FOURTH
6-2-1-5
TRS HOMBRE looks as good as any in a wide open affair

FIFTH
2-4-6-3
TRUMP MY RECORD is already a stakes winner after two starts

SIXTH
7-2-5-6
KOMMANDER just missed in debut and should improve here

SEVENTH
8-1-10-3
DIAMOND DOMINATION could surprise at a nice price

EIGHTH
9-1-3-5
GBH STREAKINFORGIRLS is bred to run early and has solid works

NINTH
1-10-2-4
DOC HOCKADAY has fired off a pair of bullet works for this

TENTH
4-7-8-3
J RODS MACHO MAN has a nice win under his belt, which should give him an edge

11TH
5-6-2-7
NSM ICE STORM has nice works and is bred to run early

12TH
5-2-7-9
CLICK CLICK BANG has solid works for good connections

13TH
5-8-6-1
CY ME AND YOU PROSPECT was OK in debut and should improve in start No. 2

14TH
7-3-6-2
HES EL MARTILLO was close in debut in Oklahoma; should move forward

15TH
8-9-5-3
QUEEN CORONADA has a couple nice works and is bred to be quick

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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